ATLANTA (AP) — Around the Final Four and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of everything surrounding the games.
Move over Fab Five, there’s a new bunch of Wolverines playing for the title.
Michigan overcame shaky foul shooting in the closing seconds Saturday night to fend off Syracuse 61-56 in the Final Four, advancing to face Louisville in its first title game since Chris Webber and Co. made black shoes and baggy shorts fashionable in 1993.
The Wolverines appeared to have solved the Orange’s vaunted 2-3 zone defense, only for the Big East upstarts to mount a second-half charge. Syracuse got within 57-56 on a 3-pointer by James Southerland, but a charging call on Brandon Triche moments later deflated the Orange.
It was Michigan coach John Beilein’s first victory in 10 tries against Syracuse counterpart Jim Boeheim.
The Wolverines haven’t won the national title since beating Seton Hall for it in 1989, but they’ll get another chance against the Cardinals, who beat Wichita State 72-68.
— Dave Skretta — http://twitter.com/@APdaveskretta
Michigan wants to follow the same gameplan it executed in the first half, showing millions how to break down a zone:
Make 3-pointers. Move the ball into the post, then let the big fella create.
Forward Mitch McGary had four assists, yes, assists, to go with his six points and seven rebounds in the first half. Michael Albrecht and Caris Levert were 4 for 5 from 3-point range. No surprise, then, that Michigan is winning this thing by seven with 15:58 left in the second half.
— Eddie Pells — http://twitter.com/@epells
If it seems like this game is going faster than the first semifinal that’s because there is more of a flow to it. It probably won’t turn into the foul-fest that slowed down the Louisville-Wichita State matchup.
Michigan doesn’t foul much, and the Wolverines don’t draw very many fouls either. At the end of the first half with Michigan leading 36-25 only eight fouls have been called.
Louisville and Wichita State combined for a total of 43 fouls.
On offense, Michigan is getting contributions from its bench. Caris LeVert — who at one point looked like he might redshirt the season — has made a couple 3-pointers. He had 11 3-pointers all season before the national semifinal.
Spike Albrecht has also hit one from beyond the arc.
— Noah Trister — http://twitter.com/@noahtrister
A reminder of an infamous moment in Michigan basketball history can be seen near the court.
There’s a sign that says “TIME OUTS LEFT” with the No. 5 on it. Hard to tell if the tone is a mocking one or if it’s just a Michigan fan trying to be helpful. There is a block “M” on the message.
Former Michigan star Chris Webber called a timeout in the last seconds of the 1993 championship game against North Carolina — but the Wolverines didn’t have any left. The play resulted in technical fouls against Michigan and the Tar Heels went on to win 77-71.
— Noah Trister
Anybody seen James Southerland?
The Syracuse forward has gone missing against Michigan, missing his first five shots and being a total non-factor on both ends of the court in the national semifinals.
Southerland has been key to the Orange’s late-season run. He was suspended in mid-January, struggled when he was cleared to return in February, but has been splendid over the past eight games — back-to-back 20-point efforts in the Big East tournament, and 16 points in a regional semifinal win over Marquette that sent Syracuse back to the Final Four.
Not only was Southerland scoreless with 3:38 to go against the Wolverines, the senior from Bayside, N.Y., had just three rebounds and two fouls to go with a pair of turnovers.
— Dave Skretta
HOOPS AND HORSES
Talk about having a good day.
If you haven’t heard, not only is Rick Pitino’s team in the national championship game, his horse is also in the Kentucky Derby.
Shortly before Pitino’s Louisville team rallied to beat Wichita State 72-68 in the Final Four on Saturday, Goldencents won the Santa Anita Derby in Arcadia, Calif., to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby.
Pitino is a minority owner in the horse, trained by Doug O’Neill. O’Neill trained I’ll Have Another, the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness last year.
The race wasn’t as close as Pitino’s game. Goldencents won by 1 1/4 lengths.
— Charles Odum — http://twitter.com/@CharlesOdum
Michigan fans are making their presence felt, but it isn’t helping the Wolverines find their shooting touch.
This is a road game for Syracuse. The Orange are well-represented but they’re outnumbered by Michigan fans. And the Wolverines faithful are loud.
Michigan seems to want to shoot over the top of the Syracuse zone. After five minutes, the Wolverines started just 1 of 6 shooting from behind the arc.
— John Affleck — http://twitter.com/@affleckap
AIRCRAFT CARRIER vs. GEORGIA DOME
Syracuse forward James Southerland downplays the difficulties of shooting at the Georgia Dome.
“It can’t be worse than a ship,” Southerland said after practicing at the dome in preparation for the Final Four.
The Orange play their home games in the smaller Carrier Dome but opened the season against San Diego State in a game played on an aircraft carrier.
Mr. Southerland finished 2 of 9 from the field and just five points.
— Eddie Pells
The Final Four isn’t the first time the Georgia Dome has held a massive crowd by basketball standards.
On March 27, 1998, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls played the Atlanta Hawks in the Georgia Dome as the Hawks’ new Philips Arena was being built. The allure of seeing Jordan’s last visit to Atlanta with the Bulls attracted a crowd of 62,046 — the largest in NBA history.
Jordan, now owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, came back to Atlanta in his two seasons with the Washington Wizards.
— Charles Odum
Louisville is moving on to the national championship game.
Russ Smith scored 21 points, Luke Hancock added 20 off the bench and the Cardinals rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half to beat Wichita State 72-68.
The Cardinals move on to face Michigan in Monday night’s title game. Those teams will tip off in about a half hour at the Georgia Dome.
For the Shockers, a surprising run through the NCAA tournament is over.
Injured Louisville guard watched the game from the bench, his broken leg propped in a chair. He couldn’t even watch in the closing seconds, covering his eyes with his No. 5 jersey. But he was celebrating at the buzzer.
— Paul Newberry — http://twitter.com/@pnewberry1963
Can the Louisville story get any better?
Walk-on has swished back-to-back 3-pointers to pull the Cardinals within 47-41 of Wichita State in the Final Four.
Henderson is getting more playing time because of the gruesome injury to Kevin Ware.
Now, the fill-in is coming up big for the Cardinals, who have battled back and lead 60-58 with 3:50 to play.
— Paul Newberry
Say this about the Shockers: They aren’t intimidated by mighty Louisville.
No. 9 seed Wichita State, trying to become the lowest-seeded team to win a national title, is holding its own against the top overall seed in the first game of the Final Four.
The Shockers lead the Cardinals 26-25 despite shooting just 30 percent from the field. Wichita State is putting its experience to good use against Louisville’s touted press. The Shockers have only four turnovers, compared to seven for the Cardinals.
— Paul Newberry
Top overall seed Louisville began like it was trying a little too hard to win one for Kevin Ware.
With the injured guard watching from the bench, the Cardinals got off to a dreadful start at the Final Four. They trailed Wichita State 8-0 at the first television timeout, turning it over twice and going 0-for-4 at the foul line.
— Paul Newberry
‘GREAT TO BE HOME’
A broken leg couldn’t keep Kevin Ware from sharing the Final Four experience with his Louisville teammates.
There was a loud cheer Saturday when Ware, wearing his No. 5 jersey and supported by crutches, followed his teammates onto the floor before the NCAA semifinal against Wichita State. Ware sat in a chair by the Louisville bench and propped up his surgically repaired right leg on a stack of towels situated on another chair.
Ware’s right tibia snapped and broke through his skin in Sunday’s Midwest Regional win over Duke. He had surgery Sunday night, was released two days later and on Wednesday flew with the team to Atlanta.
Ware said before the game he feels “great” and added “Obviously, it’s great to be home.”
Ware signed with Louisville from Rockdale County High School, about 30 miles east of Atlanta.
Louisville players paid tribute to Ware, No. 5, as they wore T-shirts over their jerseys in pregame warmups with the words “”Ri5e to the Occasion.”
— Charles Odum
When top-seeded Gonzaga played Wichita State during the first week in Salt Lake City, the game plan revolved around stopping Malcolm Armstead and the Bulldogs succeeded. Armstead scored only eight points. Only problem: Ron Baker and Clhcombined for eight 3-pointers and 32 points. Coach Gregg Marshall said even he wasn’t expecting that good a shooting night from his team.
Message to Louisville: There’s more than one player to stop on the Shockers.
Message to Shockers: To pull another one, against a team like this, might be best if all those guys — Armstead, Baker and Early — are having good nights.
— Eddie Pells
THINGS TO KEEP AN EYE ON
The Final Four tips off Saturday night and Steve Kerr has a few ideas on how to improve college basketball games.
“I could go on for a while,” said Kerr, who played 15 seasons in the NBA and was the general manager of the Phoenix Suns from 2007-10. He went to the Final Four with Arizona in 1988 and is working his third straight national semifinals as an analyst for Turner/CBS.
A few of his ideas to watch during the Final Four:
— Eliminate timeouts after made shots. “It just makes the game so choppy.”
— Cut out the mandatory media timeouts — under 16, 12, 8 and 4 minutes on the game clock— if a team calls one just before the scheduled timeout.” I understand that you’ve got to sell advertising, but there’s plenty of time for advertising because there’s enough timeouts already.”
— Don’t restart the 10-second backcourt count just because a team called a timeout.
— Change the interpretation of the charge/block so it’s geared toward the offensive player. “We’ve got to make the game more pleasing to watch and more fluid.”
— John Marshall — http://twitter.com/@ jmarshallap
NCAA Finals Watch follows the Final Four games and all the activities surrounding the event as seen by journalists from The Associated Press from across Atlanta. It will be updated throughout the day with breaking news and other items of interest. Follow AP reporters on Twitter where available.