ATLANTA, Ga. (Sporting Alert) — March Madness returns to action on Saturday with the Final Four at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.
Ninth-seeded Wichita State (30-8), the surprised package of the tournament, will look to extend their run with a place in the Championship game, but come up again No. 1 overall seed Louisville (33-5).
The second game will see two fourth seeds, Syracuse (30-9) and Michigan (30-7) facing off for a place in the title game as well.
Both games will be broadcast live on CBS and stream online.
Louisville has been playing some of its best basketball in the tournament so far and many pundits and experts believe that they will be too much for Wichita State.
Rick Pitino’s team picked up its 14th successive win with an easy 85-63 victory over Duke last Sunday, but the experienced coach isn’t taking things for granted.
“Our players totally understand the challenge that lies ahead with this Wichita State team,”Pitino said.
“We understand with Kevin (Ware, who is injured) out that we not only have to play very hard, we have to play very, very smart.”
The Shockers, which got past the likes of No. 1 seed Gonzaga and No. 2 Ohio State on their way to the Final Four, have won four straight and will into the contest confident of taking down another No. 1 seed.
The confidence will certainly spring extra life into the players, but coach Gregg Marshall has called on his players to remain cautious in their play in an attempt to lessen the amount of turnovers.
“What you’ve got to do is not turn the ball over,”Marshall said.
“If we’re turning the ball over and giving them transition opportunities, then we’re not doing what we’re trying to do.”
But the way Cardinals play defense it could very well be a long afternoon for Wichita State.
Another team with rock solid defense is Syracuse and if they can get their 2-3 zone right again, Michigan too could have a difficult time scoring.
Jim Boeheim’s team held Marquette to just 39 points in their Elite Eight game last weekend and will certainly start as the favourites to win this one.
“It’s tough to go against our zone when you’ve never seen it before,” Syracuse forward C.J. Fair said.
“We want to force him to do some things he’s not done before.”
Not many expected Syracuse to get this far in the tournament, but Boeheim had no doubts.
“I wouldn’t have expected going into the tournament that we were going to be here,” he said. “This team has come together.
“Sometimes that happens at tournament time. It happened to us in `96 when we kind of came together and got (to the Final Four). And other years, we’ve come close.”
But Michigan’s style of play might be a little more difficult for the Orange to contain with their 2-3 zone, seeing that they space out very well and have good guards, such as Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke and Nik Stauskas, who can shoot the ball well.
“If their zone was unbeatable, then they would be 39-0,” Hardaway said.
“We’re just going to go out there, play our game, not worry about what they’re going to do, and just play Michigan basketball.”
Burke is also ready for the challenge.
“If you’re not confident in the Final Four, then you shouldn’t be here,” Burke said.
“We’ve just got to try to find different ways to attack the zone.”
The Wolverines turned back the Florida Gators 79-59 in their Elite Eight – knocking down 10-of-19 from three-point range and Burke hopes they can continue to shoot well from long range.
They play a really good 2-3. It’s tough,” he said.
“We’ve got to make sure we knock down uncontested 3s.
“We’ll be ready.”
NCAA Tournament Final Four Games
TIME (ET) MATCHUP TV CHANNELS
6:09 PM (9) Wichita State vs (1) Louisville: Live on CBS
8:49 PM (4) Syracuse vs (4) Michigan: Live on CBS