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The Final Two

And so, Michigan and Louisville. And a couple of thoughts before they tip it Monday night:

* It's no accident that the two best backcourts in the country belong to the last teams standing. Bigs help, rebounding and defense keep you in games, but you rarely win the Dance without solid guard play.

It's why Michigan is as good at taking care of the basketball as any team in the country. And it's why Louisville is so effective at separating teams from the basketball.

* Mitch McGary will be the difference in this one.

Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway aside, the rapid emergence of the freshman from Chesterton has been the reason why Michigan is back in the title game for the first time in 20 years. He gives the Wolverines a multi-skilled inside presence that it didn't have earlier in the season, and because of him Burke and Hardaway are that much more effective.

What's he mean to this team right now?

Just look at what happened in the semifinals. The Wolverines were up double digits on Syracuse until McGary got in foul trouble and had to go to the bench. That's when the Orange staged its rally; only when McGary returned did Michigan manage, barely, to right the ship.

* Want a preview of Monday night? Just check out the last five minutes or so of Michigan-Syracuse.

The Wolverines' struggles with the Orange press do not bode well for them against Louisville, whose engine is backcourt pressure which unleashes its blinding transition game. The Cardinals simply wear you down eventually with their speed, athleticism and unrelenting effort; it's pretty much what happened to Wichita State down the stretch.

On the other hand, the Cardinals haven't seen a team with the variety of weapons Michigan can throw at you, and the Wolverines will no doubt spend most of today deconstructing Louisville's pressure D.

Conclusion: This should be a terrific national championship game.

Ben Smith's blog.

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