O'Neil: For UL and UM, a shot at restoration

ATLANTA -- Trey Burke versus Peyton Siva. Offensive efficiency versus defensive superlatives. Grinder coach opposite Hall of Famer.

Those are the easy and obvious storylines for the national championship game between Michigan and Louisville, but the real narrative goes a lot deeper.

The culmination of this season is really the end result of a much steeper climb for both teams, out of the morass of NCAA shame and out of the shadow of successful rivals.

National championships have the power to do a lot of things -- turn ordinary players into stars and turn coaches into legends.

But the redemptive powers of lofting that trophy cannot be overlooked. It was on hand when Jim Calhoun hoisted his in 2011 in the midst of an NCAA investigation, and again in 2012 when Kentucky finally returned to the top of what it considers its fiefdom after 16 long years.

Monday's title game is about not just one, but two hungry programs desperate to cling to the NCAA hardware and its restorative antidote.

Maybe not since 2006 -- when UCLA, title-less for 15 years, and Florida, its trophy case empty forever, met in the final -- have two teams waited longer for their moment.

It's been 20 years since the Wolverines played for a national title (later vacated), 24 since they won one. Louisville's drought extends even further, all the way back to 1986.

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