The Louisville Cardinals are the 2013 NCAA champions, beating Michigan Monday 82-76. The women's team was also in the finals, however they suffered the largest championship loss in tournament history, falling to UConn 93-60 on Tuesday.
Well, the Louisville Cardinals are officially the best team in College basketball. They beat the Michigan Wolverines 82-76 in a thrilling back and forth game Monday night. This is Louisville’s first national title in 27 years and Michigan’s first championship appearance since Chris Webber called a timeout he didn’t have in the championship game in 1993 against UNC, forever putting him at the top of sports blunders lists. The fab 5 from that team were all in attendance Monday night, cheering on the Maize and Blue who, despite losing, battled hard the entire night and made Louisville work for their third title.
The Cardinals have proven themselves to be a relentless, deep, well-rounded team the entire tournament, starting with the Big East finals in which they overcame a 16 point deficit to win by 17 over Syracuse. Against Wichita State on Saturday they once again found themselves down by double digits in the second half but ultimately won by 4. Monday night was no different when they were down by 12 in the middle of the first half. They stormed all the way back to trail by only 1 at the half and ultimately nabbed the 6 point victory.
Much of the back and forth first half was led by standout performances by reserves from both teams. Spike Albrecht of Michigan had a career night, scoring 17 points and hitting 4 threes to lead the Wolverines to a 1 point half time lead. He had previously averaged 1.8 points a game and his career high was 7. He was put in when Wooden award winner Trey Burke had to take a seat with 2 early fouls. Despite playing only 26 total minutes, Burke finished with a team high 24. While Albrecht was lighting it up, Louisville junior Luke Hancock was gaining momentum off the bench. Even though he’s a non-starter and was seeing extra time as the 6th man in place of the injured Kevin Ware, he had 22 points and became the first non-starter to be named the game’s most outstanding player. After Albrecht led Michigan to a double digit first half lead, Hancock played a role in the 14-3 Cardinal run to end the half. Louisville star Peyton Siva took over after the break, scoring 14 points for a total of 18 to help the Cardinals push to victory.
Louisville Coach Rick Pitino is having quite a week. He was elected into the Basketball hall of fame Monday morning, only 12 hours before winning his second national championship. Pitino is the also the first coach to win a national championship at 2 different schools; the first was with Kentucky in 1996. To top it off, if he makes good on his word, he’ll be getting a tattoo soon. It was a preseason promise to the team if they won a national championship, and after the game Siva said, “our biggest motivation was to get coach a tattoo,” and Hancok ominously added, “I have a few ideas.” As if that weren’t enough, a horse he has an ownership stake in won a qualifying meet and will be racing in the Kentucky Derby in May, and his son Richard got the head coaching job at the University of Minnesota.
Congratulations to Hancock, Siva, Ware, and all of Louisville who got to cut down the nets on Monday night and keep the national title in the bluegrass state for at least another year. Unfortunately, the women’s team who made an epic run and became the lowest seed in the championship game at a 5 couldn’t pull off the final upset over UConn last night, but 1 championship and 1 runner up is still pretty good. They are now enjoying riding out the celebration, and I’m kicking myself for expertly picking Indiana to beat Louisville in the finals. I’ll have to wait until next season to fill out a new bracket and enjoy another bout of March Madness.
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