Three weeks have dwindled 68 teams down to two, with the Louisville Cardinals facing the Michigan Wolverines in the 2013 NCAA Championship Monday night in Atlanta.
Louisville reduced a 12-point deficit and survived an upset bid from Wichita State, and the Wolverines stymied a late surge by Syracuse on Saturday to each earn long awaited berths in the title game.
It is the first championship game for Louisville since they won it all in 1986 and the first for head coach Rick Pitino since 1997 when his then-Kentucky Wildcats fell to Arizona.
Michigan’s last championship was in 1989, but it did also lose in back-to-back national finals in 1992 and 1993. Wolverines head coach John Beilein had never brought any team to past the Elite Eight until this season, and Pitino is the only coach to take three different schools to the Final Four.
The Cardinals were the only No. 1 seed to make the Elite Eight this season, and played inspired basketball after guard Kevin Ware went down with one of the more gruesome injuries in recent sports memory against Duke in the Midwest Region final
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Against Wichita State, Louisville extended its winning streak to 15 games thanks to 20 points off the bench from Luke Hancock, and timely three-point shooting from Tim Henderson in the second half.
Team leading scoring Russ Smith ended with 21 points, but converted just five on his 12 free throws, which was well below the 80 percent mark he’s hit all season.
This year’s Wooden Award recipient Trey Burke took a backseat to Michigan forward Mitch McGary, who powered the Wolverines with 10 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists in their win over Syracuse.
Burke has averaged more than 19 points per game this season, but went 1-for-8 from the field for seven points, while Tim Hardaway Jr. was 3-for-10 from three-point range with 13 points, six rebounds, five assists.
The game is scheduled for Monday night at 9:23 p.m. Eastern time, and will be broadcast by CBS, or watch their free live online stream at the NCAA March Madness official site here.