No. 9 Wichita State and No. 1 Louisville will begin the Final Four this Saturday in Atlanta with a trip to the 2013 NCAA Championship game on the line. The game can be seen live on CBS television and will be streaming for free live on-line through March Madness Live. Tip time is slated for 6:06 p.m., EDT.
The upstart Shockers of Wichita State (30-8) are no longer a sleeper. With as much talent as any team in the field, head coach Gregg Marshall and his squad have been playing tremendous basketball since the start of the tournament.
WSU disposed of No. 8 Pittsburgh 73-55 in the first round and then took down No. 1 Gonzaga 76-70 in the Round of 32. Rolling through La Salle in the Sweet 16, Wichita State was supposed to get their toughest test from the Ohio State Buckeyes. Playing with loads of confidence and completely out hustling the Buckeyes, Wichita State held the Buckeyes off for a 70-66 win, advancing to the Final Four.
Malcolm Armstead leads the way for the Shockers. The senior leads WSU in scoring during the tournament, averaging 15.5 points through four postseason games. In what has become a true team effort, Armstead has embraced the role of team leader. The Shockers will need that effort and more if they want to advance to the title game.
While Wichita State has been a Cinderella story throughout the tournament, their opponents were expected to make it this far.
A consistent Top 20 team all year long, the Louisville Cardinals (33-5) are playing in their second-consecutive Final Four. Head coach Rick Pitino is no stranger to tournament success, especially when it comes to advancing to the final four. The 60-year-old head coach, who won a National Championship with Kentucky in 1996, is making his seventh trip to the Final Four as a Division I head coach.
Riding an emotional wave into Saturday following the horrific leg injury sophomore guard Kevin Ware suffered in the Regional Final, the Cardinals and leading scorer Russ Smith would love nothing more than to win this game for their injured friend, who will be on the bench with his teammates rooting them on.
Russ Smith has been nothing short of spectacular during the tournament, averaging 26 points per game in the Cards' four contests. A lethal Smith coupled with perhaps the best guard in the country in Peyton Siva, Louisville is nothing short of scary.
Prediction: While the Cardinals are riding high with emotion, Wichita State is rolling through opponents and embracing the motto "Shock the World," a play of words taken from their team name. That being said, the slipper stays on for one more game.
Wichita State - 78 Louisville - 75