Michigan v Syracuse

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

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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.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

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Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.