Finding a chink in the oddsmakers’ armor is tough come tournament time. We peel back Monday’s National Championship Game in search of some underlying mismatches that could make or break your college basketball bets.
Michigan Wolverines vs. Louisville Cardinals (-3.5, 138.5)
Wolverines’ deep threat vs. Cardinals’ poor perimeter game
Michigan is a threat to score the second it crosses halfcourt. The Wolverines knocked down 11 3-pointers in their close win over Syracuse, including a couple from just inside the “F” in the Final Four midcourt decal. Each time the Orange clawed their way into striking distance, Michigan was able to put distance between them from distance. On the year, the Wolverines shot 37.7 percent from beyond the arc which accounted for 30 percent of their 25th-ranked 75.2 points per game.
Louisville’s biggest weakness is its lack of reliable scoring from outside. The Cardinals shoot just 32.9 percent from 3-point range on the year and are slightly below that during the tournament (24 for 76 – 31.5 percent). The nine 3-pointers made in the win over Wichita State were the most Louisville has made since sinking 10 versus Villanova in the Big East tournament. In fact, looking back at the Final Four matchup with WSU, those 3-pointers – especially the trio of treys from Luke Hancock – are the reason UL is still dancing.
Louisville’s late fouls vs. Michigan’s misses from the stripe
The Cardinals carry a reputation as a hard-nosed defense but that gets amplified in the final minutes of games. Louisville isn’t giving away anything easy down the stretch and will happily hand out a hard foul and send its opponent to the charity stripe with the game in the balance. It comes with the territory when you press like UL. They took 23 personal fouls versus Wichita State and Duke and average just over 18 per game on the season.
The Wolverines’ foul line woes nearly cost them a shot at the national title. Michigan, which normally hits 70 percent of its free throws, let late-game nerves get the best of it against Syracuse. The Wolverines missed four of their six freebies in the final 48 seconds, allowing the Orange to climb to within one point. Even Player of the Year Trey Burke – an 80 percent shooter from the stripe - couldn’t escape the foul line freeze, going 4 for 6 and missing a key foul shot in the final seconds.