Final Four: Louisville looms large as championship chalk
What was once a bulging field of 68 teams has been whittled down to the Final Four, and this Saturday they'll narrow it down to two before college basketball crowns its champion for this 2012-13 season on Monday night.
The Louisville Cardinals, playing the heavy, open Saturday's action at the Georgia Dome when they run with the upstart Shockers of Wichita State in the first of two national semifinals (6:09 pm ET, CBS). Then the Michigan Wolverines, bearing the banner of the Big Ten, match up with the Syracuse Orange in the second semifinal (8:49 pm ET, CBS).
How did these teams get to this point?
Top-seeded Louisville (33-5 SU, 23-15 ATS) won the Midwest Regional by beating North Carolina A&T, Colorado State, Oregon and Duke by an average of 22 points. The Cardinals actually led the Ducks by 18 halfway through the second half before allowing UO to make the final score respectable, then broke open a close game against the Blue Devils with a 17-2 second-half run.
Wichita State (30-8 SU, 19-14 ATS) won the West by beating Pitt, top-seeded Gonzaga, LaSalle and Ohio State. The Shockers pulled away late from the Panthers, toughed one out versus the Bulldogs, then basically dominated the Explorers and Buckeyes. WSU led Ohio State by 20 points with 12 minutes to go before the Buckeyes rallied to make the final score close.
Michigan (30-7 SU, 18-16 ATS) won the South by beating South Dakota State, VCU, Kansas and Florida. The Wolverines surprised many the way they rolled over the Rams, then pulled off a minor miracle in stunning the top-seeded Jayhawks in overtime. Big Blue then jumped all over the Gators early and breezed to victory.
Syracuse (30-9 SU, 20-15 ATS) won the East by bombing Montana, beating Cal, knocking off top-seeded Indiana and mugging Marquette. Over their last two games the Orange held the high-scoring Hoosiers to 50 points, then limited the Golden Eagles to a paltry 39 points.
On the updated NCAA championship board Louisville was listed at -150 to cut down the nets Monday night, with Michigan getting +300, Syracuse +425 and Wichita State +1200.