Louisville entered the NCAA tournament as the number one overall seed and left Atlanta as top dogs, cutting down the nets for the third time in school history. Before this year’s Louisville squad, only one other team in NCAA history won the tournament when being the number one overall seed. That was the Florida Gators, who accomplished this feat in 2007, led by head coach Billy Donovan. Donovan was a one time assistant coach to Pitino when Pitino was the head coach of Kentucky, after playing for Pitino at Providence, the school where Pitino began his Hall Of Fame coaching career.
Pitino had one of the best weeks a college basketball coach could ever imagine. Already being the only coach in NCAA history to lead three different schools to the final four (Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville), Pitino is now the only coach to win a National Championship with two different schools, Kentucky and Louisville. In addition, Pitino was announced as a member of the 2013 class to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September.
For those who understand the impact that coaching can have in a college basketball game, it’s obvious why Pitino’s teams are so successful and why this year his Louisville team is National Champion.
Michigan had a fantastic season, led by the nation’s most outstanding player and winner of the John R. Wooden Award, Trey Burke. The game was truly one of the best national championship games I have seen. In the end, it came down to coaching and Patino clearly outcoached Michigan’s John Beilein.
Burke committed two fouls early in the first half and coach Beilein sat him until halftime. Michigan’s backup point guard, freshman Spike Albrecht, came in ready to play, scoring 17 points on 4-5 shooting from the three-point line. However, Louisville got an even better performance from one of their own bench players, junior forward Luke Hancock, who scored 22 points and was a perfect 5-5 from long distance. Both teams’ reserves and starters played extremely well and made the game fiercely competitive and exhilarating all the way down to the last whistle. This was all accomplished despite some terrible officiating throughout the game. Not to take anything away from the game and especially from the players who competed honorably and extremely hard for all 40 minutes, the officiating needs to be mentioned because it was so bad throughout the tournament, including in the championship game.
Early in the first half, Louisville center Gorgui Dieng had a clear goaltending on a Michigan field goal attempt which wasn’t called.
This blown call was especially egregious because it was so obvious. The ball not only hit the backboard before Dieng blocked it, but the ball was also on its way down, either being a reason to give the basket and two points to Michigan.
Soon after this blunder by the officials, Michigan center, Mitch McGary, purposely kicked the ball while on defense and the officials failed to call a kicked ball, which should have resulted in a stoppage of play. Instead, Louisville scored a quick basket. The most blatant miscall was on a incredible block by Burke late in the second half. Burke rose up, greeting Peyton Siva of Louisville at the rim with one of the most amazing shot blocks of the season except for the fact that the officials called a foul and Siva was awarded two free throws. Despite these and many more questionable calls, the better-coached team won the game.
Michigan had multiple chances to win the game, right down to the last minute. Michigan’s Coach Beilein mishandled the clock, costing his team precious seconds at the end of the game.
In his post-game interview, Beilein admitted to miscounting the number of team fouls, leading to the poor late game clock management. The difference in a game this competitive often comes down to something that happens in only a miniscule amount of time in the grand scheme of the whole game. This game was no different, with a few veteran-coaching decisions made by Pitino and miscalculations on the part of Beilein being the difference, with Louisville ending the tournament where they began it and being crowned this year’s national champion.
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