College Basketball National Championship Betting Picks: #1 Louisville Cardinals vs #4 Michigan Wolverines

2013 NCAA Tournament – National Championship Game
#1 Louisville Cardinals vs #4 Michigan Wolverines
Monday, April 8, 2013, 9:23 pm Eastern, TV: CBS
Georgia Dome – Atlanta, Georgia
Opening Line: Louisville -3 1/2
Current Line: Louisville -4
Opening Total: 137
Current Total: 138
Opening Money Line: Louisville -190 / Michigan +160
Current Money Line: Louisville -195 / Michigan +165

Louisville is a 4 point favorite against Michigan in Monday's national championship game in Atlanta.
Louisville is a 4 point favorite against Michigan in Monday’s national championship game in Atlanta.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino is having quite a week. His son Richard Pitino was named head coach at Minnesota earlier this week. As the Louisville Cardinals came back from a 12 point deficit against Wichita St Saturday in the Final Four, one of Rick piton’s horses that owns won the Santa Anita Derby and qualified for the Kentucky Derby next month. Pitino was also announced as a member of the 2013 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2013. Oh yeah, and the Cardinals are playing for their third national championship in school history Monday night in Atlanta. The 34-5 Cardinals will take on the 31-7 Michigan Wolverines, coached by John Beilein.

The Louisville Cardinals have won 15 straight games. The last loss for the Cardinals came February 9th at Notre Dame 104-101 in 5 overtimes. The Cardinals went 14-4 in the Big East and tied with Marquette and Georgetown for the regular season title. Louisville beat Syracuse in the Big East Championship game 78-61. The Cardinals were the #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, and were the only #1 seed to advance to the Final Four in Atlanta. It is the second straight year the Cardinals are in the Final Four, and the 10th overall. Louisville hasn’t won the national championship since 1986. Pitino is looking to become the first coach to win national championships at two different schools as he also won one at rival Kentucky in 1996.

As if the powerful Cardinals needed more motivation, they got it when Guard Kevin Ware suffered a gruesome broken leg in the first half of the Cardinals’ 85-63 win over Duke in the Midwest regional final Sunday in Indianapolis. The reserve guard averaged 16.6 minutes a game.

The Michigan Wolverines finished 12-6 in the Big Ten, widely considered to be the best conference in the country. The Wolverines tied for fourth with Wisconsin behind 14-4 Indiana and 13-5 Ohio St & Michigan St. The Wolverines were seeded fifth in the Big Tournament and lost to Wisconsin 68-59 in the quarterfinals. Michigan returns to the national championship game for the first time since the infamous Chris Webber timeout game 20 years ago. The Wolverines haven’t won the national title since 1989, the only one in program history. Louisville leads the series 2-0 against Michigan. The Cardinals swept a home and home against the Wolverines in 1977 and 1978.

In the NCAA Tournament, Louisville beat #16 North Carolina A&T 79-48 in the second round and #8 Colorado St 82-56 in the third round, both in Lexington, Kentucky. In the Midwest regionals in Indy, Louisville beat #12 Oregon 77-69 in the semifinals before routing Duke in the Elite 8. Louisville took control of a close game against Duke with a 13-2 run midway through the second half.

In the national semifinals Saturday, Louisville was down 12 points with 13:35 to play against #9 seed Wichita St. The Shockers had gone 26 minutes without a turnover against the vaunted Louisville defense. The Cardinals got a spark from two unlikely sources. Reserve guard Tim Henderson buried two 3’s in a row after averaging less than a point a game in the regular season. Another reserve Luke Hancock scored 20 points off the bench after averaging around 8 points a game. Both Henderson and Hancock only played as many minutes as they did because of the Ware injury. Louisville forced 5 turnovers in 3 minutes and took control of the game. The Cardinals would hold on for a 72-68 win. Wichita St had a chance to tie with under 20 seconds left but referees called a controversial held ball that gave possession to Louisville.

The Wolverines were the #4 seed in the South Region. They beat #13 seed South Dakota St 71-56 in the second round in nearby Auburn Hills, Michigan. Michigan took a narrow 30-26 into halftime. The Wolverines pulled away in the second half. Michigan took the 71-56 win to advance to the third round. In the third round, Michigan crushed #5 Virginia Commonwealth 78-53. Many thought the Rams could pull off the upset thanks to their pressure defense. However VCU was never in the game.

Michigan played #1 Kansas in the South regional semifinals in Arlington, Texas. Kansas was up 68-54 with just under 7 minutes to go, and looked well on their way to returning to the elite 8. However, Michigan forced overtime with a 22-8 run to end regulation. Michigan would go on to win 87-85 in overtime. It was the only overtime game in the tournament so far.

In the South Regional Final last Sunday, Michigan crushed #3 seed Florida 79-59. The Wolverines shot 46.2% from the field and held the Gators to 2/10 shooting from 3 point range. The Wolverines also forced 15 Gator turnovers. The win allowed Michigan to return to the Final Four for the seventh time in program history. It also set up the first ever meeting between two #4 seeds in tournament history against the Syracuse Orange in the Final Four. Michigan jumped out to a 36-25 lead at halftime despite an off night from from point guard  Trey Burke, the national player of the year. Burke would finish with 7 points on 1/8 shooting.  Syracuse fought back in the second half and was down only 58-56 with 19 seconds left. Syracuse guard Brandon Triche was called for a controversial charge and Michigan would make their free throws to hold on for the 61-56 win.

Louisville has losses to Duke in a tournament in the Bahamas, at home to Syracuse, and at Villanova, Georgetown, and Notre Dame. The Cardinals have key wins over Northern Iowa & Missouri in the Bahamas, Illinois St, College of Charleston, at Memphis, Western Kentucky, at Kentucky, Providence, South Florida twice, Seton Hall twice, at UConn, Pitt, Marquette, at Rutgers, St. John’s, at Depaul, and at Syracuse and Cincinnati,  Villanova and Notre Dame twice. The Cardinals are 23-16 ATS and the total is 19-14 this season.

Louisville is outscoring teams 74-58 this season. The Cardinals are 32nd or better in both categories. Louisville is shooting 45.6% from the field and 32.8% from 3 point range. The Cardinals make 70.9% of their free throws. Louisville averages 37 rebounds per game and allows 30.2. Cardinal opponents are shooting 39.2% from the field and 31.5% from 3 point range. The Cardinals are #27 in opponent’s field goal percentage. Louisville averages 15 assists, 11 steals, 4 blocks and 13 turnovers.

Guard Russ Smith averages 18.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 2.1 steals per game. Center Gorgui Dieng averages 10.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.4 steals, and 2.5 blocks per game. Guard Peyton Siva averages 9.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 2.2 steals per game.Forward Chane Behanan averages 9.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 1.4 steals per game.  Guard /forward Wayne Blackshear averages 7.8 points, and 3.2 rebounds. Luke Hancock averages 7.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1 steal per game. Montrezi Harrell and Stephan Van Treese make up the rest of the rotation without Ware. Ware scored less than 5 points a game, but he was the primary reserve to spell Smith and Siva. Center Mangok Mathiang and guard Mike Marra have missed the entire season.

Michigan has losses at Ohio St, Indiana twice, Wisconsin twice, Michigan St, and Penn State.  All of the Wolverine losses came to the 4 other conference leaders except for last place Penn State. Michigan has key home wins over Cleveland State, North Carolina State, Arkansas, Western, Central, and Eastern Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, Purdue twice, Northwestern, Ohio St, Penn St, Illinois and Michigan St, . The Wolverines also have wins over Pittsburgh and Kansas St in a tournament in New York City, West Virginia in Brooklyn, and at Bradley, Northwestern, Minnesota, and Illinois. Michigan is 19-16-1 ATS this season and total is 21-15 this season.

Michigan is outscoring teams 76-63 this season. The Wolverines are #23 in scoring. Michigan is shooting 48.5% from the field and 38.5% from 3 point range. The Wolverines are in the top 20 nationally in both categories. Michigan makes 70.5% from the free throw line. Michigan averages 35.2 rebounds per game and gives up 29.7 per game. Michigan opponents are shooting 42.3% from the field and 32.3% from 3 point range. The Wolverines are averaging 14 assists, 6 steals, 3 blocks and 9 turnovers.

Michigan guards Trey Burke averages 18.8 points, 6.8 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game. He won both the Wooden award and AP player of the year. Guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. averages 14.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists. Guard Nik Stauskas averages 11.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.4 assists. Forward Glenn Robinson III averages 11 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game. Forward Mitch McGary averages 7.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 0.7 blocks a game to lead the team. Forward Jordan Morgan averages 5 points and 4.5 rebounds.  Caris LaVert and Jon Horford also get significant minutes.

Michigan is 5-0 ATS in NCAA tournament games, against teams with winning records, and overall, 4-0 after a straight up win and a cover, and against Big East teams, 16-5 in neutral site games, and 27-11-1 in non-conference games.

Louisville is 10-2 ATS overall, 9-2 against teams with winning records, 4-1 after failing to cover, 8-2 in NCAA tournament games, 15-5-1 in Monday games,  19-7 in neutral site games, 36-15 after a straight up win, and 1-6 against Big Ten teams.

Both Louisville and Michigan have two of the best back courts in the country with Burke, Hardaway, Smith and Siva. This should be a highly entertaining game as both teams score in the 70’s. They are both good on defense as well. Michigan certainly has a chance but Louisville is playing on another level right now. I like the Cardinals to win a close game, by pulling away late.

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