In continuing our NCAA Final Four coverage, it’s time to take a closer look at all four teams still in the running for the 2012 NCAA National Championship.
Previously, we gave you 6 Reasons Why Ohio State Will Win the National Title, now after a 72-68 win over Florida, it’s time to focus on the Louisville Cardinals. Many wonder if we are witnessing deja vu as Louisville may be following the path to the title taken by last year’s Big East Champion and eventual National Champion UConn Huskies by winning the 2012 Big East Tourney followed by a deep NCAA run.
Many things have helped play a major role in the Cardinals advancing to their first Final Four since 2005, like the outstanding play of freshman Chane Behanan, the rapidly improving PG play of Peyton Siva, the shot-blocking exploits of big man Gorgui Dieng, and of course the coaching accumen of future Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino.
One thing’s for sure, in their Final Four match-up with Kentucky this Saturday, Coach Rick Pitino will try and do a better job of containing the Wildcats’ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who had a monsterous 24 points and 19 rebounds in a 69-62 Kentucky victory.
Check out 6 Reasons why Louisville will win the National Title:
Whether it’s connecting on a key trey or pulling down a monsterous rebound, you can always read senior Chris Smith by the rather demonstrative expressions on his face. The former Manhattan College transfer didn’t have his best statistical season but provided timely scoring, rebounding, and 3 point shooting in helping the ‘Ville capture the Big East Tournament crown before winning 4 straight contests in March Madness. No doubt, The Cardinals will rely heavily on Chris’ senior leadership down the stretch if they hope to defeat the much younger Kentucky Wildcats in the Final Four.
The flashy and flamboyant sophomore is arguably one of the most improved players in the Big East this season, upping his scoring average from 2.2 ppg last year to 11.6 ppg in this season, ranking 2nd on the Cardinals in scoring. The former highly touted HS player from South Kent HS in Connecticut, has both the moves and skill to put opposing backcourt players in the spin cycle on the way to the hoop, or by using a deadly step back jumper from behind the arc. The match-up of Smith against the Wildcat backcourt players like Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb, and Darius Miller could be key in deciding their Final Four contest next weekend.
Along with fellow incoming freshman Wayne Blackshear, forward Chane Behanan had instant stardom written all over him. While Blackshear suffered an unfortunate injury early in the season, Behanan, a former Top 30 rated recruit, has been every bit as advertised by providing Coach Pitino a much needed low post presence with the departure of Terrence Jennings and Samardo Samuels in recent years. Behanan provides painted area scoring and near double digit rebounds each and every night as one of the nation’s very best freshman performers. He will have his hands full playing opposite Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, and Anthony Davis of Kentucky in the Final Four.
When it comes to game-changing, shot-blocking big men, there aren’t many on the collegiate level better than sophomore big man Gorgui Dieng. The second year native of Senegal has grown in leaps and bounds from his freshman campaign, averaging a near double-double in points and rebounds, along with sending back 3.2 shots per contest, ranking 8th nationally in blocks. Dieng has become one of Coach Pitino’s favorite players as he continually puts the pressure on opposing players trying to attack the rim. Against Michigan State in the Sweet 16, Dieng held his very own block party, swatting 7 Spartan shots in a convincing 57-44 victory. Dieng may have met his virtual equal defensively in Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, who coincidentally led the nation in blocked shots.
After biding his time behind senior Edgar Sosa as a freshman, the former McDonald’s All American in HS has quickly become one of the nation’s best point guards over his sophomore and junior seasons. Siva possesses a rare combination of quickness and athleticism that allows him to continually probe opposing defenses and get to the rim as well as any player in the country. His all around talents earned him Big East Tournament MVP honors and his 5.4 assists and 1.7 steals both ranked 6th in Big East play, making him a two way talent. His individual match-up with Kentucky’s Marquis Teague may very well be key to who moves on to play in Monday’s Championship Game.
In winning more than 600 collegiate games, winning a National Championship in 1996 at Kentucky and taking 3 different schools to the Final Four, there’s no doubting Rick Pitino belongs in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. By once again leading the Cardianl to their first Final Four since 2005, Pitino became only one of 3 coaches in NCAA history to lead a team to a Final Four in 4 different decades. He’s a coaching icon who essentially was the first collegiate coach to embrace the 3 point shot and make it a focal point offensively as well as preaching lockdown, full court defensive presses on the other side of the ball. After facing former player and protege Billy Donovan of Florida in the Elite Eight, focus now turns to a Final Four match-up against his former school Kentucky, where he went to 3 Final Fours in 8 seasons, including the ’96 National Title.
March 27th, 2012 – We will profile each of the Final Four teams in a our ‘6 Reasons’ features. Check out 6 reasons why Louisville will be 2012 NCAA National Champions….