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.
Who ya got?
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Last week, after the NBA draft officially concluded, we posted a mock draft for the lottery in 2019.
At the top of that list was R.J. Barrett, a Duke-commit and Canadian-native that has NBA scouts wowed and intrigued. This mixtape should give you a good feel for why.
Texas Southern guard and NCAA tournament darling Trae Jefferson announced on Saturday that he’s leaving the school.
The 5-foot-7 Jefferson was sensational at times during his sophomore season with the Tigers as he put up 23.1 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, helping lead Texas Southern to a victory in the 2018 NCAA Tournament’s First Four in Dayton over North Carolina Central. One of the most entertaining talents in college basketball, Jefferson is leaving Texas Southern in-part because former head coach Mike Davis took the job at Detroit this offseason.
While Detroit is going to be the favorite to land Jefferson, because of his connection to Davis, it’ll be interesting to see what his transfer market looks like. Jefferson also made it clear on his Twitter page that he would like to be closer to his hometown of Milwaukee so that he can be closer to his ailing grandfather.
Given NCAA transfer rules, Jefferson would likely have to sit out next season before getting two more years of eligibility. But he could be applying for a waiver if he’s trying to be closer to home to deal with his family situation.
Nevada lost a talented player from last season’s team as rising junior Josh Hall opted to transfer to Missouri State on Friday night.
The 6-foot-7 Hall is a former top-150 recruit who played a key part in the Wolf Pack’s postseason run as he elevated his play to average 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game during the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Hall also made the game-winning bucket to lift Nevada past No. 2 seed Cincinnati in the second round.
Although Hall picked up his play late in the year, he was coming off the bench most of his sophomore campaign as he averaged 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season.
Since Nevada took in some talented transfers, while players like Jordan Caroline and the Martin twins opted not to turn pro, it left head coach Eric Musselman with too many scholarship players for the 2018-19 season. It looks like some of those issues are now going away as Hall is leaving for Missouri State and graduate transfer guard Ehab Amin opted to decommit from the school.
Nevada is expected to be a preseason top-10 team next season with all of the talent they have returning to the roster, along with the addition of some new pieces like McDonald’s All-American big man Jordan Brown.
Hall will likely have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules as he still has two years of eligibility remaining.
The frosty relationship between Chris Webber and the University of Michigan could be thawing — thanks to an invitation from football head coach Jim Harbaugh.
On Friday, Harbaugh called in to WTKA’s “The M Zone” as show host Jamie Morris had Webber on the show. Harbaugh offered Webber the opportunity to be an honorary captain for the Michigan football team next season, to which Webber replied that he would love the opportunity.
Webber, a former member of the “Fab Five” who helped the Wolverines to two consecutive NCAA tournament title-game appearances in 1992 and 1993, has not associated directly with the school, or with other members of the Fab Five, for many years.
The NCAA mandated that Webber and Michigan not associate with one another for 10 years after the Ed Martin booster scandal. Webber has always been reluctant to participate in anything Michigan or Fab Five related. When the famous Fab Five documentary was made a few years ago, Webber was the only member of the quintet not to participate in the making of the film. Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson all have a solid relationship with the University of Michigan at this point.
Webber later criticized the film during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, as King and Rose fired back with responses to reignite the feud. In the past, Rose has also been vocal in his belief that Webber should apologize for what happened at Michigan, as the group is hoping to move forward.
Although Webber still isn’t mending fences with the other Fab Five members, or the basketball program, returning to Michigan in some kind of official capacity is a big deal considering his past with the school.
Harbaugh and Webber haven’t decided on a game for next season yet as that will be something to watch for over the next several months.
Louisville received a boost to its frontcourt rotation on Friday as former big man Akoy Agau will return to the Cardinals as a graduate transfer.
The 6-foot-8 Agau originally committed and enrolled at Louisville for a season and a half to begin his college hoops career before transferring to Georgetown. After leaving the Hoyas to play at SMU last season, Agau received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after battling injury for much of his career.
Agau gives Louisville an experienced forward who should earn some solid minutes next season. With the Mustangs during the 2017-18 season, Agau averaged 5.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in 16.1 minutes per contest.
While this isn’t the biggest splash for the Cardinals, they have plenty of scholarships to use for next season as new head coach Chris Mack tries to find a stable rotation. Getting a graduate transfer like Agau, who should be familiar with the school and the conference at the very least, is a nice step for a one-year placeholder.