Mitch McGary has played the best basketball of his career during this tournament. He’s averaging 16.0 points and 11.6 boards in these five games, and the six assists he handed out against Syracuse were the biggest reason that Michigan was able to advance past Syracuse on Saturday night. Dieng is going to be the guy that matches up with McGary. Can Dieng keep him off of the offensive glass? Can he slow down McGary when Michigan run their pick-and-roll? Can he matchup with McGary at the high-post on the possessions that the Cardinals are in their 2-3 zone?
Perhaps just as important is the fact that Dieng is also Louisville’s rim protector. With shooters like Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III on the perimeter, Louisville isn’t going to be able to provide help on Burke. Dieng will have to be the eraser. If Dieng can give him trouble when he tries to get all the way to the rim, it will be a major boost for the Cardianls as they try to slow down the nation’s No. 1 offense.
Key Matchup: Michigan guarding Russ Smith and Peyton Siva
Much has been made of the matchup between Trey Burke and Louisville’s talented back court of Smith and Siva, but most of the attention has focused on whether or not the combination of Smith and Siva can slow down the National Player of the Year. But that’s not the biggest question: how will Michigan slow down Smith and Siva? Think about it. Those two make up the quickest back court in the country. Trey Burke is a better defender than he is given credit for, but trying to keep Siva out of the paint is not an easy thing to do. Can Tim Hardaway Jr. or Nik Stauskas defend Smith?
It puts John Beilein in an interesting position. Does he stick with his man-to-man if it’s getting carved up? Does he play Spike Albrecht more minutes? Will we see an appearance of Michigan’s 1-3-1 zone?
Key Stat: Turnovers
Everyone knows this by now. Louisville’s press is devastating, but Michigan may be the best team in the country when it comes to breaking the press.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.