Louisville And Michigan To Vie For NCAA Title

Michigan beat Syracuse 61-56 Saturday night and Louisville also won a close contest edging Wichita by 4 points.The Wolverines play the Cardinals on Monday in Atlanta for the national championship. Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin talks about the how the upcoming title game.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

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MARTIN: In men's college basketball, Michigan beat Syracuse 61 to 56 last night. Louisville also won a close contest, edging Wichita State by four points. So the Wolverines play the Cardinals tomorrow in the national championship.

NPR's Mike Pesca was at the games. He joins us from Atlanta. Good morning, Mike.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hello.

MARTIN: OK. So, Michigan last won the championship back in 1988. Louisville won it back in 1986. Who has the edge on Monday?

PESCA: It would be Louisville, I mean, to be very succinct and accurate. Yes, Louisville will be the favorite. I think they're a deserved favorite, for a couple of reasons. They play a very high, up-tempo defense and they get a lot of steals. And even though Wichita, who was a, you know, a strong team, held Louisville, I guess you say, stolenless(ph)? I don't know. You would definitely not say that. But Louisville didn't have a steal for 26 minutes. So, that was probably their biggest drought. They still stuck to their game plan and were able to turn Wichita over a bunch of times. So their defense, it would be frightening to everyone.

Michigan has been playing a lot better since - throughout the tournament, I would say. If they reseeded them again, they'd probably be higher than the four-seed. They're a very strong team, but, yeah, Louisville's going to be the favorite.

MARTIN: So, you mentioned Michigan is a four-seed. The Cardinals are the favorite, they're number one. But Michigan doesn't exactly seem like an underdog, right?

PESCA: Yes, and that's an important thing because we always want to root for the underdog. Psychologically, we pull for the underdog, and this has been proven time and time again. There was a study out of Bowling Green, where two teams are really the same. Professor told students that one was the underdog, and even though they weren't, you know, physically different looking or anything like that. Eighty-one percent of the students would root for the team that's the underdog. Even in presidential politics, the candidate that we back we tell ourselves, that guy's the underdog.

But, yeah, I mean, Michigan's a really powerful school with a huge athletic budget. They don't feel like the underdog. They have the national college player of the year in Trey Burke. That's not very underdog-ish. So, it seems like it's just two juggernauts going at it.

MARTIN: So, this doesn't help me because as a casual observer of the tournament, I, too, like to root for the underdog. So what am I supposed to do tomorrow night?

PESCA: Well, I would suggest rethinking the terms. First of all, Louisville does have - even though they're the favorite - they do have some of the elements of the underdog. Of course, we all know about Kevin Ware and his terrible leg injury. But the player that replaced Kevin Ware, a kid named Tim Henderson, a walk-on, hit two huge three-pointers against Wichita. So, there's a little Cinderella aspect there. But mostly I would say the reason that Louisville is the favorite has nothing to do with the fact that they're just stocked full of players who would waltz into the NBA if the rules allowed it. They're the favorite because they play together, and they play hard, and Rick Pitino drills them well. So they've sort of - they're like an up-by-your-bootstraps type underdog, sure. They're athletically gifted, but the effort - you can see it and feel it in the way they play the game.

But then again, if you want to root for the Wolverines, I mean, the wolverine is sort of like an underdog-type creature. They have yellow uniforms, sort of an underdog color than red.

(LAUGHTER)

PESCA: Maybe you want to go with that.

MARTIN: OK, you have a curveball for us this week?

PESCA: I do. I want to stick with the Louisville Cardinals, but this time the lady Cardinals, 'cause they're in the Final Four also. Their best player, Shoni Schimmel and her sister Jude Schimmel were reasons that they got there. They beat Baylor, and you know who didn't even think that they would beat Baylor is Shoni's mom. Shoni's mom and Shoni's dad, they have eight kids, they live on an Indian reservation, but they've not been married. They've been together 28 years. They just say, you know, we never got around to it. They told Shoni if you beat Baylor, we'll tie the knot.

MARTIN: Oh.

PESCA: Louisville did, they did. They got married in a ceremony this week.

MARTIN: Very nice story. NPR's Mike Pesca, with a happy ending. Thanks, Mike.

PESCA: You're welcome.

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