An ACC-Centric Glance at the Final Four

For the third straight season, there will not be an ACC team in the Final Four. However, two future ACC members will be in Atlanta, as Louisville and Syracuse will both be playing Saturday with the chance to potentially meet each other on Monday.  Here is our preview of the Final Four games, with an extra ACC flavor.

louisville_logo_home#9 Wichita State vs. #1 Louisville
April 6, 6:09 PM

Against the ACC: Wichita State didn’t play any ACC teams this season, but Louisville will be the second future ACC member they have faced in the NCAA Tournament. The Shockers’ run to the Final Four began with a 73-55 victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers, led by 22 points and five assists from Malcolm Armstead.

Louisville played Duke twice in 2012-13. In the first game, a Cardinals squad lacking Gorgui Dieng lost 76-71 to the Blue Devils in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game. Louisville outscored Duke 50-31 in the second half of last weekend’s Elite Eight rematch to take an 85-63 win after Kevin Ware’s injury late in the first period. Louisville was 5-3 against fellow Big East teams that are ACC bound, including victories over Notre Dame and Syracuse en route to a Big East Tournament championship.

Why does that name sound familiar?: In the first meeting between Louisville and Duke, freshman Montrezl Harrell scored ten points off the bench for the Cardinals. Harrell is averaging 16.5 minutes per game for Louisville, but he could see a little extra time this weekend as Rick Pitino will have to alter rotations to account for Ware’s absence.

Harrell was also close to being a Virginia Tech Hokie. Harrell was Virginia Tech’s top signing in last season’s recruiting class, but the Hargrave Military Academy forward asked out of his letter of intent following Seth Greenberg’s dismissal. Harrell’s move to Louisville was one of many changes in a turmoil-filled offseason for the Hokies, which left the roster short on depth for first-year head coach James Johnson.

What to watch for: The Cardinals are shooting 55.1 percent in the NCAA Tournament, easily the best mark of the remaining four teams, allowing Louisville to average 80.8 points per contest. However, the Shockers are holding opposing teams to 34.3 percent shooting. Can Wichita State slow down a Louisville offense adjusting to life without a 40.5 percent three-point shooter, or will the Cardinals overwhelm the Shockers?

syracuse_logo_home#4 Syracuse vs. #4 Michigan
April 6, 8:49 PM

Against the ACC: Syracuse has not played an ACC teams this season. The Orange posted a 3-3 record against Notre Dame/Louisville/Pittsburgh in Big East play.

Michigan defeated NC State 79-72 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, behind 18 points and 11 assists from eventual AP Player of the Year Trey Burke. Two games prior, the Wolverines defeated Pittsburgh in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden. In that contest, Burke settled for 17 points and six assists.

Why does that name sound familiar?: After coming off the bench for most of the season, Michigan freshman Mitch McGary was moved into the Wolverines’ starting lineup for the team’s NCAA Tournament opener against South Dakota State. During the four tournament games, McGary has averaged 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per contest.

A top power forward in the class of 2012, McGary’s final three choices were Florida, Duke, and Michigan before signing with the Wolverines. McGary drew the ire of some Blue Devils fans with a blog post on ESPN prior to his announcement, writing that a negative of attending Duke as a big man would be, “…the perception that all their big men do is set screens and rebound and that they don’t get a lot of touches. It’s worth noting that his very next sentence was, “However, I know that if I went there I’d change that up because they mapped out how they want to use me and involve me in the offense, which is appealing.” That hasn’t prevented anyone from remembering McGary as the guy who said that Duke’s big men just set screens and rebound.

What to watch for: Michigan makes 37.9 percent of its three-point attempts, the 25th best shooting percentage beyond the arc in the nation. Syracuse opponents in the NCAA tournament have attempted plenty of shots over the Orange’s vaunted 2-3 zone, but haven’t made too many of them. Of the 92 long-range shots against Syracuse over four games, only 14 have found their target, a 15.2 percent success rate. That includes a 3-for-15 outing from Indiana, a team that made more than 40 percent of its three-pointers in 2012-13. Can Michigan find the key to unlock Syracuse’s defense, or will the Orange shut down the Wolverines?

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