Apr 5, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; NCAA Mens Final Four logo at center court during practice at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Basketball: NCAA Championship -- Michigan vs. Louisville -- Preview

Posted at 7:00am — 4/8/2013

Michigan Basketball: NCAA Championship — Michigan vs. Louisville — Preview

Let It All Hang Out- Play With No Fear, But Play Smart

First off, here is one single multiple-choice question:

Choice A-Will Michigan play a team that uses a zone, like Syracuse?

Choice B- Will Michigan play a team that likes to run, like Kansas can?

Choice C- Will Michigan play a team that loves to press, like VCU?

Choice D- All of the above apply.

Louisville, of course, is indeed all of the above, and throw in one really good shot blocker like Kansas has inside.

Apr 7, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach John Beilein during a press conference the day before the championship game of the 2013 Final Four of the NCAA men

That question was simple and the answer obvious, but the next game against Louisville for the national title will be the toughest of final exams for the Wolverines. But plenty of folks have passed tough final exams.

The preparation time is short, but fear not, for much of what Michigan needs to prepare for has been addressed in the past three weeks. Coach Beilein may prefer rest time to preparation at this point.

Louisville is the prohibitive favorite and already the ascending intellectuals have pronounced the title to the Cardinals. Fine, Michigan’s players would probably be disappointed in anything else. This young bunch seems to relish the Rodney Dangerfield image.

One good thing about not having much preparation time is a team does not have much time to go on mental journeys, but instead must focus on reality and the task at hand. Both teams had tough games Saturday and both teams have had to fight to survive.

The Cardinals deserve the moniker as the number one seed in the entire field. Six weeks ago, the conversation was that this year there was no one dominate team, then the Cardinals took off.

Apr 7, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino during a press conference the day before the championship game of the 2013 Final Four of the NCAA men

There is talent, there is coaching, there is a system, and there is hard play. Coach Pitino has poor mouthed his available talent level some by continuing to bring up how tough it is to find subs and how he has had to rely on walk-ons. He knows better, he knows his players are well schooled and talented enough to run the Louisville system.

Michigan may get beat, but the Wolverines will likely show their claws and fight hard. This team is literally playing with house money and is one card short of a Royal Flush. This team has already won considering initial expectations and should not feel pressure from the big stage event. Now the Louisville press may be a different matter.

Coach Beilein is playing the father, the coach, and the calming influence. This group remains calm, undistracted, and confident. At the Sunday press event, Coach waxed with the insight of a dedicated philosopher. He has always done things differently, his way, and his way for certain reasons, grounded in the fundamentals of traditional values and fatherly care.

On paper, Louisville has numerous advantages, foremost earlier final four experience. But some of that advantage was cancelled out Saturday with Michigan’s win. Many harp that Louisville is too deep and the press too lethal for Michigan to survive. But if Michigan can attack successfully and break the press, Coach Pitino is smart enough to pull the press, at least for a while. Michigan players may have to reach deep but every player knows there are months to rest.

Apr 7, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Trey Burke (left) during a press conference the day before the championship game of the 2013 Final Four of the NCAA men

The Louisville press is really good. It employs long-armed, quick, talented, players. The press is more aggressive than VCU’s on the entry of the ball. Like all presses the intent is to steal, panic, and confuse. To do this, Louisville puts two men on the ball almost immediately, and simply reversing the ball is not as easy as with VCU. In the background is a shot blocking safety valve named Gorgul Dieng.

The Louisville attack starts with two of the best guards in the country, Russ Smith and Peyton Siva. Both players will probe Michigan for weaknesses, and perhaps the number one mission of the defensive game plan is to throw up some roadblocks and break up the easy flow to the basket. Dieng averages about 10 rebounds and points a game. The rest of Louisville utilizes the wave approach. The hero of the day theme applies to Louisville. Last Saturday night, Wichita State made the mistake of ignoring Luke Hancock, and the reserve made the Shockers pay up with a game changing twenty points.

Monday, Michigan will not change much of anything, if anything. The Wolverines, under the direction of Father Beilein, will tee it up, let it all hang out, and go for the big prize. It could be a great one, we will soon see. If the poise holds up the game could be a great one to watch.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff

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