Michigan v Syracuse

Hold on to your hats, it’s Louisville vs. Michigan on Monday!


No Cinderellas in the title game this year. It’s going to be all Big Time, all the way.

Let’s recap:

Rick Pitino is one of the most well-known college basketball coaches in the nation. He’s on his way into the hall of fame, his horse just punched its ticket to the Kentucky Derby, and his son was just hired to be the head coach at Minnesota. If it weren’t for that whole “player suffering a horrifying leg injury on live TV” thing, you’d think the elder Coach Pitino is living a truly charmed life right now.

John Beilein may not have as much obvious personal success going for him as Pitino, but check out his roster and you know fortune has smiled on him. He’s got the sons of NBA players like Tim Hardaway, Tito Horford and Glenn Robinson ready to go, alongside Player of the Year Trey Burke and some tall guy named Mitch McGary who seems to have blossomed of late.

MORE: The agony of Wichita State’s missed chance

Finding storylines in Atlanta will be like shooting fish in a barrel, so let’s take a brief look at the down and dirty of the matchups.

Frontcourt: Louisville has Gorgui Dieng (10.2 points, 2.5 blocks per game), Chane Behanan (9.6 ppg) and Wayne Blackshear (7.6 ppg) going up against Glenn Robinson III (11 ppg) and Mitch McGary (7.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg). In the Final Four, Michigan’s starting frontcourt showed a more deft scoring touch, and if McGary keeps playing the way he has over the past two games, this matchup tilts easily in Michigan’s favor. Dieng’s shot-blocking prowess would seem to be a factor until you consider that McGary handled Jeff Withey just fine in the Sweet Sixteen.

MORE: How McGary moved Michigan to the title game

Backcourt: Here’s where the real fireworks happen. Burke vs. Siva is an intriguing point guard matchup, as we all will watch breathlessly to see if the basket-challenged Siva can put the clamps on premium scorer Burke. Tim Hardaway, Jr. going up against the lightning-quick Russ Smith will be something to see, as well. Things get a bit murkier on the wing, where Nik Stauskas may see more of Luke Hancock instead of Blackshear. If Smith can keep from doing anything too Russdiculous, this one is close.

Bench: Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert have put in important minutes for Michigan, and held their own pretty well. Louisville, on the other hand, has a couple of guys who have gone off recently, in Montrezl Harrell and Luke Hancock. Now, Hancock played 31 minutes in Atlanta already, so his bench status is a bit of a technicality on some nights, but we have to give the edge to the Cards.

On sheer talent, this is Michigan’s game. On experience and coaching savvy, it’s Louisville all the way.

MORE: Louisville’s unsung heroes thwart Shockers

In terms of style, Michigan has shown an ability to play at any speed. The Wolverines wrecked VCU, which plays a style very similar to what Louisville does, and they’ve run with Kansas, banged with Florida and carved up the Syracuse zone. Louisville has won 15 straight and seems to be able to force the tempo of the game to their own pace. That’s where the true yin-yang of this whole final coalesces. Fortunately, I don’t know which style will win – not knowing is what makes it so intriguing.

Hold on to your hats (especially you, Tim Hardaway, Sr.!) this is going to be an epic title game.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

[RELATED: Can WSU still make tourney?]

“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.