Louisville Cardinals head coach Pitino sits with Michigan Wolverines head coach Beilein ahead of the NCAA men's Final Four basketball championship in Atlanta

We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect National Title game


ATLANTA — On Monday night at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Michigan will be taking on Louisville for the right to call themselves the 2013 national champions.

All things considered, the way that the NCAA tournament and the Final Four has played out could not have been more perfect, because this national title game should be thrilling. I think there’s an argument to be made that this is the most anticipated national title game since 2005, when North Carolina and Illinois squared off as the nation’s two best teams. (To be fair, the finals in 2007, between Greg Oden’s Ohio State and defending champion Florida, and 2008, when Bill Self and John Calipari squared off for a ring, can make a case as well.)

Think about it.

Louisville has been dominant for pretty much this entire season. They were picked, along with Indiana, as the favorite to win the national title way back in October, and with the exception of one three-game stretch in the middle of January, they really haven’t faltered. They were the favorite prior to the start of the Big East tournament, and they became an overwhelming favorite entering the NCAA tournament after using a 44-10 second half run to erase a 16 point deficit against Syracuse in the title game.

And Michigan?

They were a preseason top five team. They were ranked No. 1 in the country at one point during the season. They entered the NCAA tournament having lost five of their last 10 games, which isn’t exactly an impressive achievement, but that came while the Wolverines weren’t getting much of anything out of their supporting cast. But with Mitch McGary playing like a guy that could end up being a first round pick if he decided to leave school this season, the Wolverines look like that team that was ranked No. 1 in the country again.

Louisville may be the best team in the country, but with this version of McGary, Michigan isn’t all that far behind.

But that’s not the only intriguing aspect of this game.

Louisville’s strength just so happens to match up perfectly with Michigan’s strength.

The reason that Louisville is so good is that their defense is just a night mare to try and play against. In fact, the Cardinals actually have the most efficient defense of the Kenpom era, which spans the last decade, and the reason that they are so efficient on the defensive end is their ability to force turnovers. They are second in the country in turnover percentage, a fact that is the direct result of how nightmarish guards Russ Smith and Peyton Siva are to dribble the ball against.

Michigan? They have the most efficient offense in the country, and while a lot of that has to do with a fella by the name of Trey Burke and the Wolverine’s ability to consistently shoot the ball from three, they are also the best in the country when it comes to protecting the ball. That’s right. The team that leads the country in forcing turnovers is going up against a team that doesn’t turn the ball over.

It gets better.

Michigan’s best player is Burke. In fact, he’s the best point guard in the country and has swept the National Player of the Year awards. Louisville’s best players? Smith and Siva, who just so happen to be two of the best perimeter defenders in the country and who will harass Burke up and down the floor for 40 minutes.

Oh, and Pitino is as big of a name and as much of a coaching celebrity as you’ll find at this level. If he hadn’t left for the NBA, he might be the best college basketball coach of all-time right now. John Beilein is an unassuming x’s-and-o’s guru that began as a community college coach in Upstate NY.

I cannot wait for this game. You should feel the same way.

Which, of course, probably means that it will end up being a 30 point blowout.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Tom Izzo’s point is valid, but he’s wrong about the new fouling rules

Eron Harris, Tom Izzo
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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On Sunday night, after No. 3 Michigan State knocked off No. 23 Providence in the final of the Wooden Legacy, Spartans head coach Tom Izzo made sure to make his feelings known about the new college basketball officiating mandates.

He doesn’t like them.

At all.

“I just think we’re taking the flow of the game away,” Izzo said. “Maybe it’ll change. We’ll play by the same rules everybody else does. But I think I can voice my opinion to say that I don’t agree with it.”

Part of what frustrated Izzo was that, in a matchup between the two best players in college basketball, both Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn were sent to the bench with foul trouble.

“I didn’t like it either way,” Izzo said. “I didn’t like having Denzel on the bench, and I didn’t even like watching Dunn on the bench.”

“Don’t tweet this now and leave out the officials,” he added, according to CBSSports.com. “It’s not their fault. Because that’s the way they’re mandated to call them. So I am really either blaming the rules committee, which ends up on the coaches somewhat. So I’m looking in the mirror and blaming myself because I should have argued it more maybe. I just don’t think it’s fun to have these guys sitting.”

This is nothing new for Izzo. This was calculated. He basically said the same thing after Michigan State, then No. 1 in the country, beat Oklahoma in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic two seasons ago, when the rules committee tried to implement these same rules. It was his pushback that started the campaign to get rid of the freedom of movement rules.

But here’s the thing: we all knew this was going to happen. We knew there was going to be an adjustment period, for coaches and players and referees alike. In the long run, freedom of movement is good for basketball. It’s part of the reason the NBA is so much fun to watch these days, as their emphasis on the freedom of movement got us out of the days where the Detroit Pistons were¬†winning titles without scoring 80 points.

Physicality is ingrained in college basketball. Coaches teach defense a certain way. Players play defense a certain way. The guys in the NBA are stronger, but the style of play is much more physical in the college game than the pro game. That doesn’t change overnight.

It changes when those rules are enforced and those fouls are called, and, as a result, the players and coaches learn to adjust to them.

Kennesaw State blows eight-point lead in 16 seconds, loses to Elon

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Kennesaw State entered Monday night at 1-6 on the season, but with 19 seconds left, it looked like the Owls have their second of the season locked up. Kendrick Ray made a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left to put KSU up 89-81, and all they had to do was avoid a complete meltdown to get out with a win.

They couldn’t.

A Luke Eddy layup with 16 seconds left cut the lead to six, and after KSU’s Nigel Pruitt missed two free throws, Dainan Swoope his a three with seven seconds left to make the score 89-86.

On the ensuing inbounds, Kennesaw State threw the ball away … and then proceeded to foul Eddy when he was shooting a three. This is what that disaster looked like:

Eddy would hit all three threes before, shockingly, KSU turned the ball over again. Elon could not capitalize this time, sending the game to overtime, where the Phoenix outscored the Owls 14-4.

Elon won 104-94.

Here’s what the comeback looked like on the play-by-play:

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