Anticipation is rising as the Louisville Cardinals and Michigan Wolverines are settling into Atlanta today. Both Louisville (34-5, 14-4 Big East) and Michigan (31-7, 12-6 Big Ten) are looking for their first men’s basketball title in over 20 years. Michigan’s last championship was in 1989, while Louisville’s last championship was in 1986.
A big story line in tonight’s title game is Cardinals coach Rick Pitino, who won a national title while coaching the Kentucky Wildcats in 1996. A title tonight would make Pitino the first coach to win titles at two different schools. Pitino isn’t worried about accomplishing this as an individual, rather he is focused on the team.
The Kentucky Wildcats are normally the dominion for men’s college basketball in the state of Kentucky, but Louisville is representing men’s hoops there this year. Louisville’s women’s basketball team is also playing in the national championship, which takes place tomorrow night.
Louisville’s athletic program has been dominant on more than just the hardwood this year. Its football team won a Big East title and shocked Florida in the Sugar Bowl, its baseball team currently has a record of 25-6 and is ranked No. 14 nationally, and its softball team has a record of 32-6 and is ranked No. 11 in the nation.
The Cardinals entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed and worked their way to the Elite Eight by beating out 16th seed North Carolina A&T, No. 8-seeded Colorado State, and 12th-seeded Oregon. The Cards then beat out No. 2-seeded Duke in a 85-63 blowout that sent them to the Final Four to play No. 9-seeded Wichita State. Louisville beat Wichita State in the Final Four game with only a four-point margin victory of 72-68.
Louisville’s coach Rick Pitino said that they are going to face true competitors.
Michigan came into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 4 seed and pushed its way to the top after upset wins over No. 1 seed Kansas and No. 3 Florida. The Wolverines earned their spot in the title game by knocking out No. 4 Syracuse at the Final Four in a 61-56 victory.
Michigan’s coach John Beilein talked about the pressure Louisville puts on the Wolverines.
The Wolverines spent five weeks at No. 2 in the AP Poll and were ranked No. 1 the week of January 28. They proved to be fierce competitors in the Big Ten, which is arguably the most difficult conference in men’s college basketball this season. Beilein said that they’ve been prepared as much as they can up to this point.
All eyes will be on Michigan’s sophomore Trey Burke, who has won several individual collegiate awards this season. Burke won Big Ten Player of the Year, National Player of the Year, NCAA Tournament South Regional Most Outstanding Player and the Bob Cousy Award.
Burke said that this is the moment the Wolverines have been dreaming of.
Tipoff for the big game tonight is scheduled for 9:23 p.m. ET.