First half of the NCAA championship game showcased college basketball at its most exciting. Maybe it can’t be what it once was, not with the one-and-dones, but Michigan and Louisville provided high-wire thrills and hard-to-believe story-lines.
Michigan true freshman Spike Albrecht looked like he wandered into the game straight out of a suburban high school, or boy band. Spike couldn’t miss. He scored 17 points in the first half–10 more than his career high–but Louisville kept him scoreless after the break.
As impressive as Spike, though not as surprising, was Louisville’s Luke Hancock. He scored 16 in the first half, including 4 for 4 from three, and kept Michigan from getting away. Without Hancock, Michigan cuts down the nets. Hancock wins Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
I think Michigan coach John Beilein left Trey Burke on the bench too long in the first half. Burke had two fouls, and Spike briefly took over the game, but you could see momentum swinging back to Louisville. (Beilein also waited too long to foul at the end.) Hard to second guess Beilein much. He mostly made all the right moves with such a young team.
When not on the bench, national player of the year Burke showed his immense skill set. Burke also showed a tendency to force shots. He has room for growth, but these days, that almost certainly happens in the NBA.
Louisville’s Chane Behanan put on a clinic of effort and determination. Behanan was a beast.
Louisville wins its third title (2013, 1986, 1980), and keeps the championship in Kentucky for a second straight year. You know Wildcat fans hate seeing Rick Pitino win, but Pitino can flat-out coach (as long as he’s not in the NBA). On the day Pitino learns he’s a hall-of-famer, he showed why.
One Michigan fan held up a sign in the first half that read, “Shock the World!”. Shock the world? Michigan winning would not “shock the world”. Liberty winning the national championship would shock the world.
CBS mostly showed restraint in the inspiring Kevin Ware story. We didn’t see Ware repeatedly, as many predicted. We did see the basket lowered so Ware could cut down the final string of the net. That was cool.
The CBS post-game had all kinds of issues with Greg Gumble jumping in and talking over the analysts several times. One Shining Moment needed to start sooner, but once it did, all was okay. Cyclone fans got another dose of Aaron Craft’s clutch shot, but if your team is in the Moment, you had memories.
Now we’ll find out if the Louisville women can also win the championship. I doubt it. Geno Auriemma is 7-0 in title games. Maybe the Cardinals can “shock the world”…