Best of Saturday at the Final Four
Wichita State, making its second trip to the Final Four and first in 65 years, shocked everyone by playing like a power against an inspired top-seeded Louisville team. But the Cards turned it on late to win 72-68 and reach the championship game for injured guard Kevin Ware.
Whew! Anyone else soaked with sweat after that one? Apparently Phil Jackson, who was live-tweeting during the games and sounds like he needs a cigarette, too — and a dictionary.
Well-well it's over and so am I...thanks for the intercourse all you bball fans.— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) April 7, 2013
Michigan shredded the Syracuse zone in the first half and held on in the second. Trey Burke overcame a nightmare night and made a clutch free throw, then Jordan Morgan drew a big charge to preserve a 58-56 lead.
CJ Fair kept Syracuse in it, scoring almost half of the team's points. Surprisingly, the star guards struggled: Both Burke, the AP's player of the year, and Michael Carter-Williams went scoreless until the final two minutes of the first half and didn't scratch in the second until Buke made a free throw with six minutes left.
Michigan freshman Mitch McGary, who's been a breakout star in the tournament, had back-to-back blocks at the hoop in the opening minutes to set the tone and a big first half as the Wolverines led 36-25 at the break — Syracuse's biggest deficit of the season. Charles Barkley said Syracuse had to switch up the zone.
Does @cuse come out of zone? I doubt it, they live and die by their zone, but they can make adjustments...move zone back 5'— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) April 7, 2013
Michigan's Caris Levert, a freshman who averages two points, had a pair of 3's in the first half. Freshman Spike Albrecht also nailed a pair as Michigan's bench helped open up a double-digit lead.
McGary is as good and decisive from the high post against Syr zone as Zeller was hesitant and tentative. He's doing exactly the right things— David Jones (@djoneshoop) April 7, 2013
Mitch McGary might be top 5 in this years draft— Braylon Edwards (@OfficialBraylon) April 7, 2013
The Wolverines are 6-1 all-time in national semifinal games.
That's why they call the crowd the 12th man in football:
In the opener, Wichita State controlled the first 25 minutes and opened a double-digit lead. But the Cards cut into it and regained the lead, even as the Shockers were in the bonus with 12 minutes left. Luke Hancock came off the bench to score 20 points and Russ Smith led the way with 21.
It was a back-and-forth battle into the final minutes. But the Shockers came unglued like they did late against Ohio State in the Elite Eight and couldn't survive.
They had a last chance in the final seconds as the Cards missed the second of two free throws that would have made it a four-point game. Ron Baker rebounded but got tied up for a jump ball, and the possession arrow favored Louisville.
Yay college hoops! RT @slmandel The best Final Four upset bid in recent memory going to be decided by a quick jump-ball call? Terrific.— Reid Forgrave (@ReidForgrave) April 7, 2013
As the final buzzer sounded, a Louisville player tossed the ball high into the air and Ware stood up, thrusting his arms above his head.
It was the 15th straight victory for the top-seeded Cardinals (34-5), who will make their first trip to the title game since they won it all in 1986.
Did the Cards miss Ware? They strugged to cover the Shockers on the perimeter and couldn't muster their usual energy in the first half.
Kevin Ware just crutched himself into the Louisville huddle. Louisville needs the emotion...— Reid Forgrave (@ReidForgrave) April 6, 2013
Louisville's Peyton Siva hit his first shot with eight minutes left. But walk-on Tim Henderson came through with a couple 3's to keep the Cards in it, stepping up in Ware's absence, and the defense finally started to force turnovers.
Louisville had come back to win five games after trailing by nine points or more already this year, including rallying from a 16-point deficit in the title game at the Big East tournament.
This one trumped them all.
Wichita State wingman Cleanthony Early led the way with 24 points and had the game's first five as the Shockers scored the first eight, giving the Cards their biggest deficit of the tournament. But Cards come back with nine straight as the Shockers went almost four minutes without a point.
Early threw down a fast-break dunk for the first highlight-reel play of the game. Louisville went almost five minutes without a bucket and trailed 26-25 at the break.
They didn't read your press clipping Louisville— Warren Sapp (@WarrenSapp) April 6, 2013
Pitino's horse Golden Cents just won Santa Anita Derby, a key lead-up for 3-yr-olds to Ky Derby. Actually hpnd during intermission. Omen?— David Jones (@djoneshoop) April 6, 2013
Ware's in the house in Atlanta. The sophomore guard, who played his high school ball here, said he's doing well and has 8 to 12 weeks on crutches, then begins his rehab.
The fans are out in full force and showing lots of love for Ware. Check out more great shots from the Final Four.
The fans certainly are on their game:
Phil Jackson is watching and analyzing ("I like the aggressive play by both teams..mistakes are going to be the key to who wins the game.") and having a Final Four party with some familiar friends. He tweeted a pic that will make Lakers fans feel sentimental:
What is Jeannie Buss looking at? Scouting the Serengeti for a backup center?
The Zen Master is even dropping some knowledge. Can't wait 'til he starts tweeting books for each of us to read.
How many people know what a wheat shock really is? @krambis when I was a kid I helped my uncle bring in the harvest-he used a threasher.— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) April 6, 2013
first you had to cut the grain and put in in a shock and then transport it to the threasher. the combine did all the jobs at one time.— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) April 6, 2013
the Cardinals will have their full court press in front of their bench the 2nd half. Let's see if the press becomes a bigger issue— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) April 6, 2013
CBS just ran a commercial for something called "The Great American Baking Show". Clearly there's not enough sports on TV.
CAN MICHIGAN SOLVE SYRACUSE'S ZONE?
Louisville isn't the only team with tough-as-nails defense. Syracuse has stymied teams with its zone, and now a Michigan team with a ton of weapons will try to shoot it apart. (How do you beat it? Coaches weigh in)
Can the Wolverines stop Syracuse? Here are three reasons they will ... and three they won't.
Is this Michigan team better than the Fab Five? We break it down.
GOT ALL THE ANSWERS?
Then take our Final Four quiz, and see just how much you really know.
IF YOU MISSED IT ...
The week was dominated by Ware's recovery from the most gruesome injury ever suffered at the NCAA Tournament, and the Rutgers scandal that led to the firing of Coach Rice and the resignation of AD Tim Pernetti.
Jason Whitlock wrote that this was another example of how NCAA power corrupts. Meanwhile, Pac-12 ref boss Ed Rush also resigned after a report that he offered a $5,000 bounty to anyone who gave Arizona coach Sean Miller a technical or ejected him.
While Rutgers went through hell, Ware had a much more comfortable spotlight, even chatting with David Letterman and doing the Top 10 List.
Ware also got a new puppy, appropriately named Scar: