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Final Four Begins In Atlanta With Shockers And Cardinals

Posted by Washington Tucker on 4/1/2013 7:46:00 PM

The Wichita State Shockers were not supposed to be here. The Louisville Cardinals are the best team in the NCAA tournament right now. Will we see a surprise on Saturday?

Wichita State Shockers vs. Louisville Cardinals – Saturday, April 6
Betting line: Louisville -10.5

Why Wichita State Will Win

Even an online horse betting guru with a limited awareness of college basketball's finer points would say that Wichita State has a chance here. One thing to realize about college basketball at this time of the season is that seeds are just numbers and little else. Wichita State might be a number nine seed, but it is playing like a top-four seed. It beat top-seeded Gonzaga and second-seeded Ohio State to win the West Region. It is not here as a fluke team that got lucky. It has endured a hard path in order to get to Atlanta.

The Shockers are not playing like a Cinderella, even though they’re wearing that label in this tournament. The biggest point to realize about coach Gregg Marshall’s well-schooled team is that it is playing physical, rugged defense and is pounding most opponents on the glass. Wichita State was beaten on the boards in the second half of its win over Gonzaga in the round of 32 on March 23, but for the most part, it has been the superior team on the backboard in its run to the Final Four.

Wichita State hammered Ohio State in the West Regional final for the first 30 minutes, beating the Buckeyes to most rebounds and most 50-50 balls that were up for grabs. In the frontcourt and the backcourt, Wichita State players hustled and threw their bodies into the fray. Ohio State didn’t begin to match the Shockers’ energy until the final 10 minutes of play, and the Buckeyes’ reactions were too little and too late.

Louisville has clearly displayed more energy than any other team in the NCAA tournament, but Wichita State does figure to match the Cardinals’ effort level on the court. As long as Wichita State can contain Louisville’s dribble penetration, it can make it hard for the Cardinals to score. If this game is played in the high 50s or low 60s, Wichita State can definitely pull off the upset.

Why Louisville Will Win

Elite poker players know how to keep their cool and manage their emotions in difficult situations, and this is Louisville's foremost basketball virtue at the moment.

Everyone wondered how Louisville would respond to the gruesome on-court injury suffered by guard Kevin Ware on Sunday in the Midwest Regional final against Duke. Louisville players were overwhelmed by the incident, brought to the floor in tears while reserves vomited on the bench. This was a dizzying,

disorienting, shattering occurrence, one that turned a thrilling first half into a very abnormal situation, one that could not be judged in a conventional way. Louisville was either going to handle the situation superbly, or it was going to crumble in the face of an enormous distraction. No one would have held it against the Cardinals if they had failed to play well after such a physically sickening scene, but the point remained: Louisville faced one of the great psychological tests in all of sports. The Cardinals responded by rallying around the Ware injury, using it as a galvanizing moment instead of a deflating one. Ware happens to be a native of Atlanta, so when the Cardinals go there for the Final Four, Ware will be very much on their minds. Louisville gets a full week to prepare for this event and deal with its emotions. By the time the ball is tipped on Saturday evening, the Cardinals should be ready to focus on Wichita State and play at a high level.

Who Will Win

Wichita State is going to play this game without fear or timidity, and that point alone is going to keep the Shockers in the conversation far longer than a lot of people are willing to expect or believe. Louisville should win this game, but a spread of over 10 points is simply too much. Wichita State will cover the number.

College Basketball Betting Pick: Wichita State

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