(9) Wichita State (30-8) vs. (1) Louisville (33-5)
Offense: There is not a more dynamic backcourt in the country than Louisville’s Russ Smith and Peyton Siva. Siva’s vision and Smith’s spectacular, gutsy play make them a duo worth paying to see. Smith averages 18.9 points and Siva 5.8 assists. Center Gorgui Dieng’s development has been critical. The Shockers average about five points fewer scoring than Louisville and simply don’t have the firepower to keep up with the quick Cardinals. Advantage: Louisville.
Defense: Both teams pride themselves on defense. Wichita State’s physical style, dubbed “play angry,” and Louisville’s famous press have helped get the teams to the Final Four. The Shockers outrebound opponents by eight per game. Nobody in the tournament has survived Louisville’s press, which has produced an average of 19 turnovers per game this season and 17.6 in the tournament. Advantage: Louisville.
Coaching: Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall deserves credit for being a program builder. He helped make Winthrop into a perennial NCAA tournament team and has the Shockers in the Final Four for the first time since 1965. But Louisville’s Rick Pitino is a future Hall of Famer and understands competition at this stage. This is his seventh Final Four. Advantage: Louisville.
Intangibles: The Shockers obviously are out to make history and will be motivated as underdogs. But the Cardinals are playing for a greater cause. #WinForWare, anyone? Not only would a championship cap a stellar season, but they are competing for injured teammate Kevin Ware, who has returned home to Atlanta and will be on the sideline. Advantage: Louisville.
The winner: Louisville.