NCAA tournament championship game: Louisville vs. Michigan

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Keys to a Louisville victory

1 Relentless pressure » Louisville's success is predicated on its fullcourt press, which rattles foes and provides instant offense. The Cardinals force turnovers on 27.3 percent of their opponents' possessions, second best in the nation. But Michigan commits turnovers on only 14.5 percent of its possessions, the best figure in the country, as point guard Trey Burke takes extraordinary care of the ball. Louisville's pressure has a cumulative effect. In the semifinals, Wichita State went more than 26 minutes without a turnover but surrendered seven in the final 6:45, two of which Louisville converted into 3-pointers as the Cardinals turned a deficit into a lead.

2 Three-pointers » Louisville makes 61.9 percent of its 2-point shots, third best in the nation, but only 32.9 percent of its 3-pointers, ranking 228th. Wichita State exploited the weakness, playing a sagging man-to-man to encourage shots from the perimeter and prevent drives to the hoop. The strategy was a success as Louisville made only four of its first 17 tries, falling behind by 11 points. Expect Michigan to employ the same tactics, especially when Louisville's starting guards are on the floor. On Saturday they went 4-for-17 from beyond the arc. Reserves Luke Hancock and Tim Henderson saved the Cardinals, hitting five of their eight 3-point tries.

Keys to a Michigan victory

When » Monday, 9:23 p.m.

Where » Georgia Dome, Atlanta

TV » CBS

NCAA championship game
Louisville vs. Michigan

1 Handle the press » In the tournament, Michigan has solved four of the nation's best defenses. VCU led the nation in turnovers forced, but Michigan rolled to a 78-53 victory. Kansas topped the nation in field goal defense (36.1 percent), but Michigan shot 49.3 percent and scored 87 points in the overtime win. In the last two rounds, the Wolverines handled the vaunted defenses of Florida and Syracuse. The key for Michigan dealing with pressure has been the composed play of point guard Trey Burke and the ball-handling ability of the rest of the Wolverines starters, including 6-foot-10 freshman Mitch McGary.

2 Get Burke going » Burke, the Associated Press player of the year and Wooden Award winner, has been oddly inconsistent in the tournament. After scoring in double figures in every game this year, Burke had six points in an NCAA-opening win over South Dakota State and seven points Saturday against Syracuse, hitting only one of eight shots. Burke's stellar on-ball defense and playmaking have not deserted him in the tournament. The 6-foot sophomore typically defers to his teammates early in games, but to be at their best in their most important game, the Wolverines need their top scorer to fill that role.

Key matchup

Gorgui Dieng (Louisville) vs. Mitch McGary (Michigan)

The long and agile presence of the 6-foot-11 Dieng (9.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.5 bpg) in the back allows Louisville to gamble for steals and create havoc with its fullcourt press. But Dieng's attention will be divided going against the 6-10 McGary. The freshman has been brilliant in the tournament, averaging 16.0 points and 11.6 rebounds and hitting 69.8 percent of his shots. Dieng took only one shot Saturday, failing to score for the first time in two years.

By the numbers

0 Coaches who have won the NCAA tournament with two different teams. Louisville's Rick Pitino has a chance to become the first. He led Kentucky to the title in 1996.

15 Consecutive games won by Louisville. The last time a team finished with a longer streak en route to the NCAA title was UCLA with 19 straight (1995).

13 Years, the longest gap between NCAA titles for a coach, which Pitino can top. Indiana's Branch McCracken won in 1940 and 1953, both times over Phog Allen of Kansas.

13 Years since a Big Ten team won the NCAA title (Michigan State). Since then five winners have come from the ACC and three each from the Big East and SEC.

Road to Final Four

Louisville

Defeated N.C. A&T in second round 79-48

Defeated Colorado State in third round 82-56

Defeated Oregon in regional semifinal 77-69

Defeated Duke in regional final 85-63

Defeated Wichita State in national semifinal 72-68

Michigan

Defeated South Dakota State in second round 71-56

Defeated VCU in third round 78-53

Defeated Kansas in regional semifinal 87-85 (OT)

Defeated Florida in regional final 79-59

Defeated Syracuse in national semifinal 61-56

The Examiner predicts

The rapid ascent of 6-foot-10 freshman Mitch McGary has been the story of the tournament, giving Michigan the one element it lacked in the regular season -- an inside player who can score, rebound and handle the ball. He has another tough matchup in the final, but against Kansas 7-footer Jeff Withey, McGary had 25 points, 14 rebounds and three steals. With this McGary, Michigan isn't a No. 4 seed and will show it Monday night.

Michigan 77, Louisville 75

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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