Louisville vs. Wichita State. Michigan vs. Syracuse. American-Statesman columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden weigh in on this weekend’s Final Four matchups:
1. What advice would you give to the opponents of these four teams?
Bohls: Wichita State, milk the clock. Syracuse, make the Wolverines call a timeout they don’t have. Michigan, stretch Syracuse’s zone to find creases. Louisville, call Southern Illinois, which beat Wichita State in the season finale.
Golden: Wichita State, make Russ Smith work to get the ball. Syracuse, chase the Wolverines off the 3-point line. Michigan, knock down some threes early to loosen up Syracuse’s zone. Louisville, change the game time to midnight.
2. In retrospect, what does the end of the regular season foretell for the NCAA tournament?
Bohls: Absolutely nothing. Of the four, only Louisville won its conference tournament, becoming the fourth straight Big East team to do that and reach the Final Four. None of the other three won their league tournaments.
Golden: It says the regular season basically has no bearing on what happens. I did manage to place Louisville and Michigan in my Final Four, though my title pick — Miami — passed by the wayside in the East Regional semis. We would probably get a better tourney picture if they got rid of those useless conference tournaments.
3. How will Kevin Ware’s tragic injury affect Louisville?
Bohls: Maybe for the positive, given the emotional inspiration his absence will have on the Cardinals. But more likely for the negative, because Rick Pitino’s club will already be jacked up by just being in the Final Four, and emotion tends to wear off. It could have the biggest effect on the game if either of the two starting guards Ware backs up — Peyton Siva and Russ Smith — get into early foul trouble. It really hurts Louisville’s depth.
Golden: It can only help the team, but as far as him not being in the lineup, it won’t be as huge since he was merely a reserve guard averaging 16.6 minutes per game. Pitino will have the Cardinals ready to roll and has already used Ware’s injury as a rallying point for the favorite to win this thing.
4. Who’s your favorite point guard in this foursome?
Bohls: Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams has really grown on me. And NBA scouts as well. He clearly doesn’t have Trey Burke’s press clippings. Burke’s the best playmaker in this tournament, but Carter-Williams has been as key to Syracuse’s advance through the tournament as anyone.
Golden: Michigan’s Trey Burke is the funnest player to watch because he has the sixth sense that most point guards must have — knowing when it’s time to get his teammates involved and knowing when it’s time to take over the game offensively.
5. Pick two teams for next year’s national title game, at Cowboys Stadium.
Bohls: Duke, which loses some rich experience but returns top backcourt players Quinn Cook and Rasheed Salaimon and McDonald’s All-American wing Jabari Parker, will beat Arizona, which picked up five-star power forward Aaron Gordon and gets Duquette transfer T.J. McConnell at point guard.
Golden: Kentucky and Arizona. Kentucky will pair Nerlens Noel with Julius Randle, while Arizona will pair returning players Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and center Kaleb Tarczewski, with the 6-8 Gordon, a McDonald’s All-American who’s drawing comparisons to Blake Griffin.
6. Which lesser-known player could play a key Final Four role?
Bohls: Mitch McGary, the Michigan freshman who’s found his offensive game with a pair of tourney double-doubles. The big man is averaging more than 17 points and 11.5 rebounds a game, and could play a big role if Syracuse has to extend its defense on Michigan’s deep 3-point specialists.
Golden: Wichita State guard Ron Baker is streakier than Frank the Tank of “Old School” fame, but when he’s cooking, he can make 3-pointers in bunches.
7. Which Final Four coach has done the best job?
Bohls: Easy. Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall took a team that lost all of its top five scorers to only two games away from the school’s first national championship. Remember, the Shockers are the only team in this Final Four to have beaten both a No. 1 seed and a No. 2 seed.
Golden: Marshall. Knocking out Gonzaga wasn’t as big of a surprise as was the elimination of surging Ohio State. A national title would be big for the school that’s most known for its 1981 team that sent four starters — Xavier McDaniel, Greg Dreiling, Cliff Levingston and Antoine Carr — to the NBA.
8. Who’ll win it all?
Bohls: I like Michigan’s intensity, and I love their point guard, but I absolutely worship their offense. Not sure how they ended up as a 4 seed. Hail to these victors as they take down Louisville 83-81 in the best game of the tournament on Monday night.
Golden: The Cardinals. They have lived up to their No. 1 seeding throughout the tourney.