Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The NCAA Tournament does not always award
its title to the best team in the field due to its one-and-done format. It did
this season with Louisville.
Entering the 2012-13 season, Indiana was the favorite to take home the NCAA
Coach Tom Crean did a terrific job making Indiana one of the national powers
again, but it was Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals who cut down the nets in
Atlanta, beating Michigan 82-76, in the championship game behind Luke Hancock's
The Cardinals were a very deserving team as they put on a consistently strong
performance throughout the campaign. They exhibited talent, team chemistry and
mental toughness throughout the course of their title run. Pitino's focus on
defensive pressure and obviously a strong relationship with his players made
Louisville unstoppable when it mattered.
The horrific injury that reserve guard Kevin Ware experienced in the Elite
Eight will never be forgotten. Neither will the way his teammates and coaches
rallied after Ware motivated them by saying, "I'll be fine. Just go get this
win," as he was carried away.
The Cardinals winning the title was not too big of a surprise considering they
were the No. 2 team in the preseason polls. Louisville emerged from what seemed
to be one of the deepest fields in NCAA Tournament history.
Many thought the other powerhouse school from the Bluegrass State would be back
in the Final Four. Kentucky, which was ranked third coming into the season,
failed to return to the Big Dance to defend its crown. John Calipari's
recruiting skills are second to none and he managed to lead the Wildcats to
last season's crown with a crop of underclassmen.
Kentucky fans hoped Calipari could repeat that feat with freshmen Nerlens Noel
and Archie Goodwin, but the team was the biggest disappointment of the season
as it failed to make it to the NCAA Tournament and lost in the opening round of
Kentucky was not the only school to have a disappointed fan base at the
conclusion of their season. North Carolina State, UCLA, Murray State, Saint
Joseph's, Drexel and Florida State all failed to meet high expectations.
There were a handful of surprise teams as well. Saint Louis played inspired
basketball all season under interim head coach Jim Crews, who took over for the
legendary Rick Majerus over the summer. After Majerus passed away midseason,
the Billikens raised their level of play to dominate the Atlantic 10
Gonzaga managed to climb the polls and claim the No. 1 ranking just before the
conclusion of the regular season. Although Mark Few's Bulldogs lost in the
third round of the NCAA Tournament to Wichita State, they had a stellar run
The Shockers made history after downing Gonzaga as they charged past La Salle
and Ohio State into the Final Four. Gregg Marshall showed he is one of the most
talented coaches in the country while guiding Wichita State, which played
Louisville very tough in the semifinals.
Miami (Fla.) also made a name for itself this season and will no longer be
considered only a football school. Jim Larranaga instilled a new winning
culture into his program. The Hurricanes, like Gonzaga, ran out of steam in the
Big Dance, but there was a time when they were the best team in the country.
Indiana's Victor Oladipo had a breakout season. The junior guard was
overshadowed by his teammates Cody Zeller, Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls
coming into the season, but Oladipo emerged as one of the top athletes in the
nation as he was continuously effective on both ends of the floor.
Oladipo was named to a First Team All-American along with Trey Burke
(Michigan), Doug McDermott (Creighton), Kelly Olynyk (Gonzaga) and Otto Porter
McDermott didn't sneak up on anybody and was the focal point of every defensive
game plan he faced all season. The Creighton forward managed to guide the
Bluejays to the Missouri Valley Conference regular season and conference
tournament championships. If McDermott returns for his senior year, he will
have a chance of being named a First Team All-American for the third season in
Olynyk, who was redshirted last season, played a vital role in Gonzaga's
record-setting season. The seven-footer from Canada showed off a soft shooting
touch while also using his size and length to physically dominate opponents.
Porter single-handedly made Georgetown look like one of the fiercest schools in
college basketball. Although the Hoyas were upset by the Cinderella Florida
Gulf Coast Eagles in the Big Dance, John Thompson III's team earned a second-
seed because of excellence play, led by Porter's superb leadership.
Burke, the consensus national player of the year, was the engine for Michigan
as it returned to the Final Four for the first time since Jalen Rose
and Chris Webber wore blue and maize. The sophomore has all the tools needed to
be a great point guard. Although the Wolverines had plenty of talent
surrounding him, Burke was clearly the cause of his squad's success.
Michigan's season is a good example of the national unpredictability this
season. It seemed unbeatable at time and rose to take over the No. 1 ranking in
the national polls before transforming into a team that appeared to be average
The Wolverines were one of two teams to lose to Penn State in conference
play this season. After it was dealt a nine-point loss in the Big Ten
Tournament by Wisconsin, the fourth-seeded Michigan transformed back into
national title contender before falling just short against Louisville.
While this season was wild, it might be even tougher to make sense of next
season. The constant movement of teams to and from different conferences
along with coaching and personnel changes will send us into 2013-14 with a
myriad of questions.
Anticipation may be at an all-time high as we wait for the arrival of the new
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