March Madness: What Makes a Champion + Championship Predictions

This is it. It’s the NCAA Tournament Championship Game. On one side, there’s the Louisville Cardinals, a known contender and the number one overall seed. No one is surprised about how far they’ve gotten. On the other side, there’s the Michigan Wolverines, a good team that no one expected to get this far. The Wolverines have showed their true talent in the tournament, and have proved that they have deserved to get to the Championship. These are two very different stories of two extremely talented teams, so who will prevail, and what really makes a Champion?

Louisville

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The Cardinals, as I said before, are a team whose talent is well known. They are certainly known for their defense, but they can also produce extremely well on offense as shown by their comeback against Wichita State. They easily dominated lesser teams, and played with an unmatched intensity when it was needed.

Louisville averaged 30.4 rebounds in their all of their tourney games, and only trailed opponents in rebounds in two games (Wichita State and Oregon). This ability to take control of the ball gives Louisville the upper hand when it comes to offensive opportunities and momentum. Louisville also proved that they could control the ball in other ways such as their high number of steals (11.2 per tourney game, including 20 against North Carolina A&T). They always had less turnovers than their opponents except in only 2 games (again, Wichita State and Oregon).

The Cardinals had many impressive victories, including their emotional domination of Duke. But no Louisville game was more impressive than their defeat of the Wichita State Shockers in the Final Four. For most of the game, Wichita State dominated. Louisville couldn’t produce inside the paint, they couldn’t get into the lane, and they couldn’t force turnovers. With 13 minutes left in the game, the Shockers were leading the Cardinals by 13 points, 47-35. It seemed hopeless for Louisville until an unexpected savior sparked a comeback. Tim Henderson, a walk-on to the team, hit a three pointer twice in a row to cut the deficit 47-41. Another bench player, Luke Hancock, hit a three pointer to give Louisville the first lead of the game. It wasn’t done there, Louisville still had to play hard to keep the lead, and after finally being able to force some turnovers and score, Louisville won the game.

The Louisville Cardinals have an impressive ability to dominate when their opponents aren’t playing at their best, and keep the lead. They have an even more stunning ability to amp up their level of play when they need it the most, and play hard with an extremely high intensity. If Louisville can force turnovers, attack the basket, play great defense, and allow their bench players to have great plays, the win is guaranteed for them.

Michigan

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The Wolverines are a strong team out of the Big Ten that were not expected in any way to reach the Championship. They were seeded number 4 in the Southern region and were not expected to get past the big powerhouse in the region, Kansas. They dominated the rest of their opponents with their strong defense, and with the outstanding play of their star player, Trey Burke.

Michigan’s strength of rebounding allows them to take control of the game and create offensive opportunities. They average 33.4 rebounds per game, which gives them a statistical advantage over their opponents in getting the ball. The Wolverines use their rebounding capabilities to make up for their lack of steals (7.6 steals per game), and their turnover differential. Even while these statistics are lower than any other excellent team, Michigan plays hard and capitalizes on their high number of rebounds, which gives them momentum and the upper hand in possession.

The Michigan Wolverine’s overtime win over the Kansas Jayhawks was perhaps the most exciting game of the tournament. In this Sweet Sixteen game, Michigan was down by 14 with only 7 minutes left in the game. They cut Kansas’s lead to 5 with only 21 seconds left but even then they needed a miracle, and that’s what they got. Trey Burke drained a 3 pointer from far behind the arc to cut the Jayhawks lead to two, and afterwards, the Wolverines tied the game up. During overtime, Michigan gained momentum, and outscored Kansas for an exciting and miraculous win. This game showed the determination and talent of the Michigan squad, especially Trey Burke.

Michigan wins every time they gain control early, and they showed that they can still win when things seem hopeless. They have an amazing defense, and an underrated offense, both of which take the game from the hands of the opponent.If Michigan takes control of the game early  and allows Trey Burke to roll, then a win should be easy for the Wolverines.

Prediction

Louisville’s escaped closely one too many times, and Michigan has proved that they can control a game. If Michigan controls the game from the start, Louisville may be able to spark a comeback, but Michigan has the skill to cool the Cardinals down, as long as they remain composed. If Louisville controls the game from the start, Michigan could have another miraculous Trey Burke comeback, but the possibilities are unlikely. These are two extremely talented teams, and the game could go either way, but when everything is said and done, everything points to Michigan coming out with the win and the Championship.

My Picks (1-1):
Michigan def. Louisville 73-70

Ricky’s Picks (2-0):
Michigan def. Louisville 71-65

Shaaz’s Picks (1-1):
LouisVille def. Michigan 72-68

Side Note: Did any of you happen to see that my score prediction for the Louisville vs. Wichita State game was correct? I don’t even know how it happened. See it here.

-Preston
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