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Updated: May 7, 2013 6:15AM
LOUISVILLE vs. WICHITA STATE
Something has to give. Louisville’s fast-paced offense is averaging 80.8 points in the NCAA tournament. Wichita State’s smothering defense is allowing 62.2 points.
The Cardinals, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest and overall, are led by standout guards Russ Smith (26 ppg in the NCAA tourney) and Peyton Siva (9 ppg, 5 assists a game) and 6-11 center Gorgui Dieng (11 ppg, 7.5 rebounds a game).
The Shockers, who were the No. 9 seed in the West, are the first Missouri Valley team to reach the Final Four since Larry Bird’s 1979 Indiana State team. They have four players in double figures during the tournament, topped by Malcolm Armstead (15.5 ppg) and Cleanthony Early (14.3 ppg, 7 rebounds a game).
The tiebreaker figures to be Louisville’s outstanding pressure defense, which creates turnovers that lead to easy baskets.
That’s where Louisville, which won the Big East regular season and the conference tournament, excels. And that’s why the Cardinals are favored to give Rick Pitino, who cut down the nets with Kentucky in 1996, his second national championship.
Gould’s pick: Louisville, 80-71.
SYRACUSE vs. MICHIGAN
The Orange, which has demolished its first four NCAA opponents by an average of 20 points with its suffocating 2-3 zone, sounds confident to the point of cockiness.
Of Michigan’s Trey Burke, the national player of the year, Syracuse guard Michael Carter-Williams said, ‘‘He hasn’t even seen our zone. And it’s going to be tough for him.’’
Asked about Syracuse’s size advantage, guard Brandon Triche said, ‘‘That’ll be true tomorrow and for games to come.’’
The young Wolverines aren’t intimidated.
‘‘That just humbles us and makes us want to win even more,’’ Michigan freshman Glenn Robinson III said. ‘‘That’s fine for them to talk. If they’re going to talk, they have to back it up, same as us.’’
The big key is whether Michigan can find a hot hand such as freshman Nik Stauskas, who was 7-for-8 from three-point range against Florida. Burke, a sophomore, will need to dodge the zone perils, and 6-10 freshman Mitch McGary will need to be a paint presence.
It’s a big to-do list, but Michigan figures to adjust better than Indiana. It also has bigger guards than IU. And a Michigan that’s on its game would be Syracuse’s biggest tournament test.
Gould’s pick: Michigan, 73-71.