By Andrew Kahn
The preseason No. 2 team finishes 35-5 and wins 16 in a row to close the season, culminating with a national championship. No dominant team in college basketball this year? Maybe not like Kentucky last season, but Louisville is certainly a worthy champion. On Monday, the Cardinals beat Michigan 82-76 for their third title in school history.
Hancock saves Cards, again
In going with the theme of a wild, unpredictable season, Luke Hancock became the first substitute to win the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player. After scoring 20 points to save Louisville against Wichita State in the semifinals, Hancock came off the bench in the first half with his team down 12 and drained four straight three-pointers. The junior transfer from George Mason finished 5-for-5 from deep and scored 22.
If Hancock’s performance was unexpected, Spike Albrecht’s was downright shocking. With Trey Burke on the bench with two fouls, Albrecht, whose previous career high was 7 points, scored 17 in the first half. He nailed all four of his three-point attempts in the half, including one from several steps beyond the line. Whether Burke should have been on the bench is a different story. He picked up his second foul with 11:09 left in the first half and sat until halftime. Albrecht ended up with 28 minutes to Burke’s 26.
The emergence of Mitch McGary—his first start came in the Tournament opener—gave Michigan the inside scoring presence it had been lacking all season. He scored in double digits in each of the previous five Tournament games, including two 20+ point efforts. On Monday night, however, he was limited to just 6 points. Like Burke, McGary had to sit with some foul trouble, but he never looked as comfortable as he had in previous Tourney games.
The King of Kentuckys
Rick Pitino became the first coach to win national titles at two schools (he also won at Kentucky in 1996). The championship capped off an unbelievable week for Pitino, who was elected to the Hall of Fame, had a horse qualify for the Kentucky Derby, and saw his son get a Big Ten head coaching job. Next order of business might be a tattoo for the 60-year-old, who was coaxed into promising to get one should Louisville win it all.
Louisville’s loses a critical player, point guard Peyton Siva, and it’s possible that juniors Gorgui Dieng and Russ Smith declare for the NBA draft. If they return, Louisville will be dangerous again. Michigan would certainly be the preseason No. 1 if everybody comes back. None of Michigan’s rotation players are seniors, but sophomore Trey Burke is expected to leave, and Tim Hardaway, Jr., Glenn Robinson III, and even McGary could join him. It will be an anxious time for Michigan fans as the draft deadline approaches.
Andrew Kahn is a contributor to CBS Local who has written for ESPN the Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about college basketball and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.