For two athletic programs that are among the most successful in the country, the 2013 national title game will end droughts for both.
Louisville is playing in the national championship game for the first time since winning the title in 1986, a span that has included three Final Four appearances that came up empty. Meanwhile, Michigan is playing in its first title game since the end of the Fab Five era in 1993.
The Cardinals and Wolverines were among the top teams in the country for most of the regular season, but the route to Monday night has been full of surprises. Take a look at all-conference teams. Sure, Russ Smith and Trey Burke are there, but Mitch McGary? Luke Hancock? Tim Henderson?
The regionals were uneventful last week, but the national semifinal games delivered in drama thanks to the names listed above.
Here’s a look at the key numbers from the Final Four going into Monday’s championship game.
13.5. Points per game for Luke Hancock, Montrezl Harrell and Tim Henderson as of Friday
Though he was named a team captain before the season began, Hancock started the season in a shooting funk, making 4 of 29 three-pointers in the first four games and 9 of 41 in the first eight. Before a 20-point breakout against Syracuse in the Big East final, Harrell was an afterthought. The walk-on Henderson had made four three-pointers in 63 minutes all season. And then this happened...
34. Bench points for Louisville against Wichita State
Led by Hancock, the Cardinals’ bench may never pay for a meal in Louisville again. Louisville’s starting five went 10 of 33, and minus Russ Smith, the other four went 4 of 16. Enter the Louisville bench. Hancock’s 20 points and 3-of-5 performance from three-point range made him the hero of Louisville’s 72-68 win over Wichita State. And keep in mind, this isn’t the first time or first program where Hancock has been the tournament star. For George Mason in 2011, Hancock scored 18 points and a game-winning three with 21 seconds left to defeat ninth-seeded Villanova in the first round of the NCAA Tournament that year. Beyond Hancock on Saturday, the walk-on Henderson hit back-to-back threes in the second half, and Harrell went 4-for-4 from the field for eight points. And this doesn’t count Stephan Van Treese, who played key minutes and set screens when Gorgui Dieng sat with foul trouble. Not a bad performance for a bench that was down a man due to the Kevin Ware injury.
2. Double-doubles for Mitch McGary during the regular season
How much of a breakout has Mitch McGary been in the NCAA Tournament? Consider that he had two double-doubles during the regular season against Eastern Michigan and Penn State. He wasn’t even on the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team. And now...
3. Double-doubles for McGary during the NCAA Tournament
McGary has a legitimate chance to be the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. His performance against Syracuse may have been his best of the tournament. He scored 10 points and added 12 rebounds and four blocked shots.
10 of 21. Field goals McGary was responsible for against Syracuse
Perhaps belaboring the point in McGary, the most impressive aspect of his game was his passing out of the high post. McGary finished with six assists -- after having 18 all season before Saturday. Between four baskets and six assists, McGary contributed to 10 of Michigan’s 21 field goals. In comparison, point guard Trey Burke contributed to five.
71.7. Collective winning percentage of coaches John Beilein faced on the way to the title game
Beilein hasn’t taken the easiest path to his first Final Four and now his first title game, especially in terms of the coaches he’s faced to get to Monday night. The coaches he’s faced to get here have won a combined 71.7 percent of the games in their career. This includes: South Dakota State’s Scott Nagy (121-131), VCU’s Shaka Smart (111-37), Kansas’ Bill Self (507-164), Florida’s Billy Donovan (450-186) and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim (920-314). Altogether, that’s 10 Final Fours and four national championships. And now Beilein will face Rick Pitino (661-235, 73.8 career win percentage), who is about to be selected for the Basketball Hall of Fame. By comparison, Pitino’s coaching opponents on the way to the title game have won a combined 66 percent of their games.
26:21. Time without a turnover for Wichita State against Louisville
Louisville’s opponents had 47 turnovers in the first weekend of the tournament, then 24 in the second weekend. Wichita State, though, had the most sure-handed offense against Louisville in the tournament -- at least for a stretch. The Shockers went 26 minutes and 21 seconds of game time without a turnover against Louisville, during which Wichita State built a 12-point lead. That lead eroded to a two-point deficit by the 6:43 mark when the turnover-free streak ended, but things got worse...
7. Turnovers in the following 6:43 for Wichita State
Wichita State made up for lost time in the turnover department in the final seven minutes. After not committing a turnover for more than 26 minutes, the Shockers coughed up the ball three times in a minute and seven in the final six minutes and 43 seconds. Louisville ended up with a 17-10 edge in points off turnovers.
1.13. Michigan’s points per possession
The numbers are deflated a bit in the NCAA Tournament, but Michigan remains one of the most efficient teams in the offensive end. The Wolverines average 1.13 points per possession, good for No. 3 in the country after Gonzaga and Indiana.
0.847. Louisville’s points allowed per possession
Louisville will match Michigan’s offensive prowess with one of the best defensive teams this season. The Cardinals allow 0.847 points per possession, ranking third in the country after Stephen F. Austin and Florida.
33.6. Combined shooting percentage for Trey Burke and Peyton Siva in the NCAA Tournament
Outside of his second-half explosion and game-tying three-pointer against Kansas, Michigan point guard Trey Burke has been quiet in the Tournament, at least in terms of efficiency. He bottomed out with one field goal on nine attempts against Syracuse. He’s shooting 32.4 percent from the field in the Tournament so far (23 of 71). And Burke isn't alone. Though Russ Smith is Louisville’s best offensive threat, Cardinals point guard Peyton Siva hasn’t had the smoothest ride in the tourney. He shot 1 of 9 against Wichita State. He’s shooting 35.6 percent from the field in the tournament (16 of 45). These are two point guards who shot better than 40 percent from the field for the season, making just better than a third of their shots (33.6) in the NCAA Tournament.