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Louisville vs. Michigan

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Editor's note: Since March 28, Brian Edwards is on an 13-4 run in college hoops for 9.82 units of profit. Going back further, Brian owns a 59-36 record (62%, +2062) since Feb. 21. Don't miss out on Monday's pick package

The 2013 NCAA Tournament will culminate Monday night at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta where Louisville (34-5 straight up, 23-16 against the spread) and Michigan will collide for the national championship.

Just before midnight Eastern late Saturday night, most books opened the Cardinals as either four or 4.5-point favorites. After the first hour of betting, most betting shops had settled at four while the Mirage, Stations and several offshores adjusted to 3.5.

By lunch on Sunday, nearly all books had U of L favored by four with a total of 137.5 or 138. Gamblers can take the Wolverines on the money line for a +160 return (risk $100 to win $160).

For first-half wagers, Rick Pitino’s team is a two-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 63.5.

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Speaking of Pitino, what a week this dude has had! (Good thing he decided not to retire after losing to Morhead St. two years ago, right?)

In the span of a week, Pitino’s 30-year old son, Richard, was hired as the new head coach at Minnesota. Also, the elder Pitino was selected to the Hall of Fame and his team rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit to beat Wichita St. for the right to cut the nets down Monday night.

But wait, that’s not all! You see, Pitino owns horses and one of his ponies (Goldencents) won the Santa Anita Derby on Saturday at 6/1 odds to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.

In 2013, we call that #winning with a hashtag.

But for most of Saturday’s first national-semifinals matchup, it appeared as if Wichita St. was going to advance to the finals. Behind the brilliant play of Cleanthony Early, who finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, the Shockers led by 12 with 13:35 remaining.

Pitino’s vaunted defense wasn’t forcing any turnovers and U of L couldn’t produce buckets in order to set up its full-court press. It wasn’t looking good – at all.

Pitino was desperate and turned to walk-on Tim Henderson, who didn’t score a point in February and had only played more than eight minutes in a game once this season. Nevertheless, Henderson buried a pair of crucial 3-pointers to give the Cardinals some life.

Luke Hancock began to assert himself on both ends. Hancock would score 20 points to go with four rebounds, two assists and a pair of steals.

He saved his most important play for last and, fittingly, it wasn’t one that would show up in the box score. Leading by three with 8.8 ticks left, Louisville’s Russ Smith missed yet another free throw. (Smith, who finished with a team-high 21 points, made only 5-of-12 at the charity stripe.)

When Wichita St.’s Ron Baker elevated to grab the rebounds, he lost his balance somewhat. Hancock noticed as much and instantly tied up Baker just long enough to prompt the official to blow the whistle and look to the possession arrow.

It was pointing Pitino’s way, just like everything else this week.

The Cardinals won a 72-68 decision but failed to cover the number as 9.5-point favorites. After only 51 points were scored in the first half, ‘under’ backers were feeling good. However, 89 second-half points allowed the 140 combined points to jump ‘over’ the 133-point total.

In the nightcap game, Michigan (31-7 SU, 19-16-1 ATS) got sloppy down the stretch but was nonetheless able to capture a 61-56 win as a 1.5-point favorite. The 117 combined points stayed ‘under’ the 128.5-point tally.

John Beilein’s team raced out to a 36-25 lead at intermission thanks to the passing of freshman center Mitch McGary and shooting of reserves Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht. The Wolverines remained in control throughout the second half until crunch time when they started missing free throws and committing careless turnovers.

Syracuse’s James Southerland, who missed his first seven shots and was missing in action nearly the entire game, finally drained a trey to slice the deficit to 57-56 with 41 seconds remaining. Moments later, Michigan Trey Burke made one of two free throws for a two-point advantage.

At this point, Beilein was making offense-defense substitutions. Jordan Morgan, the junior center who had recently lost his starting slot and seen his minutes dwindle due to the emergence of McGary, was subbing in for defense.

With his team trailing by two, ‘Cuse senior guard Brandon Triche saw an opening and attacked the basket off the dribble. As Triche elevated to the rim, Morgan stepped in to take the charge.

It was very close, could’ve gone either way. Some pundits suggested that Morgan was still moving and had slid under Triche after he left the floor. Again, it was very close.

But the official whistled Triche for a charge. Morgan had taken another charge minutes before when the Orange were mounting its furious rally.

When Jon Horford made one of two at the stripe for a three-point lead, Syracuse had one last chance. However, Trevor Cooney took an ill-advised shot in traffic that was inside the arc. He missed and Tim Hardaway Jr. pulled down the rebound.

Morgan sprinted out while the ‘Cuse desperately tried to foul. The two-year starter, who has maintained a great attitude and hasn’t once complained about his diminished role, was hit in stride as he got behind the defense. Morgan, who only played five minutes, put an exclamation point on the victory with a slam with one second left.

You could make the argument that Morgan made the three most important plays of the game. And that, youngsters at home, is why you always remain a team player and keep a positive attitude even in the face of adversity.

Hardaway finished with 13 points, six rebounds and five assists, but he disappointed his prop-bet backers who had taken ‘over’ 13.5 points. McGary produced 10 points, 12 boards, six dimes and a pair of blocked shots.

Michigan will be an underdog Monday night for only the sixth time this season. Beilein’s bunch has compiled a 3-2 spread record in the five previous ‘dog spots.

The Wolverines will need a much better effort from their star point guard Trey Burke, who made only 1-of-8 shots versus the ‘Cuse and missed two free throws at winning time.

The ‘over’ is 21-15 overall for Michigan, 19-14 overall for Louisville. The ‘over’ has hit in nine consecutive games for the Cardinals.

Tip-off on CBS is scheduled for 9:23 p.m. Eastern.

  
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