Which team will be celebrating Monday night in Atlanta: Michigan or Louisville?
In a season of upsets and Cinderella stories, we are down to the final game of the season for the national title, pitting a team ranked second (Louisville) and a team ranked fifth (Michigan) in the Associated Press preseason poll.
The last time we had a national championship game between two teams ranked in the top five of the AP preseason poll was 2008, when Kansas beat Memphis in overtime. Let’s hope Monday night’s contest between the Cardinals and Wolverines is just as exciting as that game five years ago.
It’s been a while
Both Michigan and Louisville are among the elite college basketball programs of the past several decades, but it has been a while since either has hoisted the national championship trophy.
Most Years Between Title Wins
Teams with Multiple Titles
Louisville is appearing in its first title game since 1986, when Pervis Ellison led the Cardinals to the championship.
Michigan is in the final game for the first time since the Fab Five made back-to-back appearances in 1992 and '93 (which were later vacated), and is looking for its first title since 1989.
Strength vs. strength
This is a classic strength versus strength matchup between the nation’s top-ranked teams in adjusted offensive efficiency (Michigan) and adjusted defensive efficiency (Louisville), per Kenpom.com.
Louisville’s defense is built on a swarming press that forces turnovers on 27 percent of its opponents' possessions, the second-highest rate in the nation. However, its defensive turnover rate has been less than 20 percent in each of its past three games of the tournament.
Michigan ranks first in Division I in offensive turnover percentage (14.5 percent) and has shown the ability to handle a pressure defense. The Wolverines had a turnover rate of 18 percent against VCU, which leads the country in defensive turnover percentage at 28 percent.
What’s at stake
National Championship Games
The Wolverines also are trying to improve on their 1-4 record in national championship games, which is tied for the worst among all schools that have played at least three games.
Louisville is seeking to be the third No. 1 overall seed to win the title since the NCAA began the designation in 2004, joining Florida in 2007 and Kentucky last year. The Cardinals also would be the eighth school to win at least three national championships.
Rick Pitino is the fourth coach to take multiple teams to the national championship game, along with Larry Brown, Frank McGuire and Roy Williams (John Calipari’s title game appearance with Memphis was vacated).
If Louisville wins, Pitino would be the first men’s coach in NCAA Division I history to win a national title with two schools.