Louisville outraces Michigan
by Dan Wolken, USA TODAY Sports
ATLANTA – All season, the narrative in college basketball was parity; a year allegedly defined by the lack of a dominant team. But it was only noise Monday night, drowned out by a Georgia Dome celebration that confirmed one program was indeed a cut above the rest.
Louisville stamped its greatness with a 82-76 victory against Michigan in an entertaining national championship game that busted all kinds of myths and made plenty of history.
For Louisville coach Rick Pitino, a New Yorker who grew up in the shadow of Madison Square Garden and twice left college basketball for the allure of the NBA, it was a crowning achievement as one of the game’s all-time greats. Monday night, about 12 hours after he was officially selected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, he became the first coach in history to win national titles at two different schools, joining his 1996 championship at Kentucky.
For the Cardinals (35-5), who won their third national title but first since 1986, it was affirmation that supremacy is not limited to their rivals in Lexington. This team, short on surefire NBA prospects but full of players who were either under-recruited, on their second college stop or had signed elsewhere before landing at Louisville, finished the season on a 16-game winning streak and overcame the emotional drain of backup guard Kevin Ware shattering his tibia in the middle of an Elite Eight victory over Duke.
And for college basketball, which had been heavily criticized this season for low scoring and physical play, its rebuttal featured 40 minutes of skill and shot-making worthy of the championship-record 74,326 fans in attendance.
All season, Louisville relied on its deep bench and ability to wear teams down, and it happened again after a flurry of 17 points by little-known freshman Spike Albrecht staked the Wolverines (31-8) to an early 35-23 lead. But just like their comeback against Wichita State in the semifinals, the Cardinals responded with a trio of 3-pointers by Luke Hancock in a span of 69 seconds, setting the stage for senior point guard Peyton Siva to close his career … [For more on Louisville outraces Michigan to win amazing NCAA final, click here.]