Gorgui Dieng

Previewing the National Title game: Louisville vs. Michigan

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The last day of the college basketball season.

Hard to believe it’s been five months already.

And I couldn’t be more excited about the national title game.

Key Player: Gorgui Dieng, Louisville

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.

Who Wins?: Louisville, 68-66.

So.

Who ya got?

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: