NCAA Tournament: Michigan vs. Louisville Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Louisville 82, Michigan 76-38
Dustin Johnston

MICH 76  1.17 25-48 52% 17-30 57% 8-18 44% 18-25 72% 8 19 12 12 3 2 15
L’Ville 82  1.26 28-61 44% 20-45 44% 8-16 50% 18-23 78% 15 17 18 9 9 3 22

Michigan’s season was always going to end like this. The ending just came two weeks later than anyone expected.

The Wolverines magical run through the NCAA tournament was rooted in improvement on the defensive end of the floor. Michigan suddenly was able to contest a few more shots and grab a lot more defensive rebounds and the wins followed. For about 15 minutes, the Wolverines kept it up in Monday’s championship game, bursting out to a 12 point first half lead with their best player strapped to the bench with two fouls.

But down the stretch those ugly habits returned in a nasty way. Michigan’s defense ran out of steam.  It wasn’t Louisville’s highly touted turnover forcing defense that did the Wolverines in, it was Michigan’s inability to stop the Cardinals. Louisville would outscore Michigan 59-41 over the game’s final 23 minutes and change and walk out of the Georgia Dome as champions.

Michigan’s special season ended on a sour note not because of a new shortcoming but because it reverted to its old self.


Michigan shot the tar out of the ball, didn’t turn it over against Louisville’s pressure and got to the free throw as effectively as it has all season. The Wolverine offense went out with its guns blazing, scoring 1.17 points per possession against a Louisville defense that hadn’t surrendered more than 1.11 points per trip in its first 39 games.

Trey Burke went out like only Trey Burke could. Michigan’s All-American, Player of the Year, superstar scored 24 points on 11 shots in 26 minutes — while fighting through countless injuries and fatigue after playing more minutes than any player in Michigan history. Meanwhile Spike Albrecht played like no one imagined Spike Albrecht could. Albrecht scored 17 points on 6-of-7 (4-4 3pt) shooting in the first half alone in what has to be one of the most outrageous performances from an unheralded reserve in the NCAA Championship history.

But this loss was about Michigan’s defense.

It’s tough not to wonder whether the Wolverines simply ran out of gas on that end of the floor. Michigan had surrendered just 23 points in the game’s first 24 possessions and led 35-23 with 3:23 to play in the first half. The Wolverines weren’t flawless but managed to string together stops and control the defensive glass. Four Luke Hancock threes and a Montrezl Harrell alley-oop later and the Wolverines had given up 37 points in the first half. Beginning with those five plays, Michigan would surrender 59 points in the final 41 possessions of the game; 1.44 points per trip. The Wolverines rebounded 83% of Louisville’s missed shots in the first 16:37 of the game and just 41% of Louisville’s missed shots in the final 23:23.

The defensive improvement and dominance on the defense glass was gone. Time had run out on the Wolverines and Louisville gouged the Wolverines with the high ball screen repeatedly. Luke Hancock’s hot shooting earned him the headlines – and the MOP award – but Peyton Siva was Louisville’s true hero. Siva finished with finishing with 18 points, five assists and four steals and controlled the second half. When the final horn, confetti and explosives cleared, Michigan had surrendered 1.26 points per possession; its worst defensive performance of the season.

On Selection Sunday, the only people that believed Michigan had the mettle to make a run to the championship game were inside the Wolverine locker room. Down late against Kansas the only group that believed in a comeback was huddled up on the sideline. The youngest team in the NCAA tournament took its fair share of lumps this season but always battled back. This was an incredible tournament run and the brilliant, but disappointing, championship game was a fitting end to the best Michigan basketball season in two decades.

Michigan came painfully close to the ultimate goal but the bottom line is that this program is back. A Michigan basketball program that only dreamed of making the NCAA tournament when John Beilein took over in 2007 is now competing for championships. Two years ago that was still rhetoric, now its reality.

  • AADave

    It was a close game but Michigan actually outplayed Louisville by a small margin despite two of their best players on the bench with foul trouble for a significant part of the game due to officiating screwups.

    I would add a referee stat line to the recap. If you add up the points from egregious ref mistakes (all of which favored Louisville), it comes to at least 7 points (the missed goaltending off the backboard, the phantom foul on Burke, the incredible Burke block that was called a foul and the blatant foul which caused Levert to fall out of bounds). There may be more. It was a 4 point game at the end so this was the difference between winning and losing. Of course, the screwups also led to Burke sitting for a good 10 minutes in the first half, Louisville’s best shooter staying in the game and McGary getting saddled with a 4th foul and sitting for several minutes near the end. How many more points is all this worth? Who knows?

    The bottom line is that Michigan had a great season and outplayed a great opponent in the championship game. They should feel proud of their performance and not worry about the scoreboard. Luck is a huge factor in these games (one guy gets hot, the ball bounces the wrong way or refs make mistakes) so it’s silly to worry about the final score of one game.

    I’ll remember all the great plays, Spike’s all-everything tournament performance, Burke’s huge plays (including his incredible block in the championship game), McGary’s emergence as a beast, the historic comeback against Kansas and everybody else’s timely contributions.

    I would like to thank the Michigan basketball team for a great year!!

    • Jeff

      You missed the most egregious officiating decision. With 11 minutes to go, Hancock picked up his 4th foul when he slid into the legs of Morgan on an attempted layup. He (Hancock) had tripped over Dieng. The officials “re-assigned” the foul to Harrell, who didn’t come within two feet of Morgan. The only other player to make contact with Morgan was Dieng, but I guess they didn’t want him getting a foul either.

      • Paul Anderberg

        And even more egregious was the play where we had just scored (I forget who/how – I was so “aggravated” at the end that I deleted the recording of the game, so I cannot look it up) and Hancock took the ball out for them AND NEVER EVEN MADE AN ATTEMPT AT GETTING OUT OF BOUNDS FIRST! Is it any wonder their break after a made shot was often so effective?

        It is fashionable to not blame the refs for a loss – but they screwed up bigtime, and actually did cost us the game. Sure, we could have/should have played better ball screen defense, and perhaps even figured out after a few of his made threes that we shouldn’t help off of Hancock – but as AADave posted, the margin of victory, our stars’ foul trouble (“I hate to break it to you” _ but if Spike could go off like that in the 1st half, Trey could have & would have done so even more [and play better defense,]) the horrible missed fouls on Louisville, and that absolutely ridiculous missed goaltending non-call dictated the endgame strategy.

        But – again as AADave pointed out: the final score of one silly game doesn’t mean much.

        And besides – IF we actually were ahead in the final minutes, we probably would have missed our clutch free throws! HEHEHE

        Thanks so much to our boys in Blue, and to the absolute BEST coach in the game!

        And thanks also to Dylan for patiently explaining so many fine points of the sport. Perhaps we should try to get him Steve Kerr’s job.

        • Champswest

          Just for the record, there was the non-call when McGary was undercut. Also a traveling call on Horford, I think, that should have been a foul or held ball and the near same play later on the end that was a noncall and allowed Louisville to keep possession.
          I also noticed a couple of calls that went our way. I kept wondering, how could they pick such poor officials for such a big game. It was unfair to two teams that played so hard and played so great.

      • EchoWhiskey

        I’m flustered by the officiating too. There’s always a few calls a game that don’t go your way, but usually you feel like they were close and you understand the refs perspective. But the ones that have been mentioned here are head scratchers. We’ll never know if that changes the outcome, but it’s sad to see a great game marred by some rookie officiating mistakes. I thought most of the tourney games were well officiated, so maybe I’m just seeing this one through maize-colored glasses.


    These last few weeks watching Michigan play has been amazing. From being able to attend the Thursday game at the Palace versus South Dakota State to watching us dismantle VCU and Florida, with the thrilling comeback versus Kansas and our gutsy victory over Syrcause in between, the ride has been so fun. Being able to watch the games with my family and us all on the edges of our seats throughout, I am so proud of Coach Beilein and this team. I am crushed we came up short, but appreciative of everything this team has given and know the future is bright.

    Also, I was proud to see the Fab 5 at the game. As a young boy, my first memory of sports was watching them play in the 1993 Championship game. My passion for sports and namely Michigan sports was born that day and has grown ever since. Say what you want about him, but I am pleased that Chris Webber was able to make the game and support this team. I hope one day soon he and the University can come together and celebrate his and his teammates achievements in an appropriate manner.

  • Wayman Britt

    I agree 100% with this analysis, it was the defense that lost the game. We failed to go under screens and block out. Stuff they can improve on for next season.

    UM went further than anybody expected, kudos to the players and coaches. It will be interesting in the next couple of weeks to see what players and coaches leave, if any.

  • Cyrus Ernesto Zirakzadeh

    Thanks, Wolverines, for an inspiring year. Your courage, never-say-die attitude, loyalty to each other, and physical and emotional growth over the past year were wonderful to watch. Thanks, Again.

  • JDR

    I may be alone here, but I’m not crushed by this loss at all. Maybe it’s because the whole thing was surreal – Michigan basketball hasn’t been this relevant since I was seven – but I really think it’s because this whole season was such a joy to watch. We sorta knew all along that this team wasn’t perfect, but I honestly believed right until the last minute of the championship game that someone would do something incredible and bring us back. Beating Kansas the way that they did, and getting so many surprise performances throughout the season and the tournament, will do that. I thought every Hardaway shot was going in, and I wasn’t the least bit bothered when one of the freshmen tried something ridiculously audacious (like McGary’s turnaround jumper near the end) because that had been their MO all season. When they did finally lose, then, I think I found some satisfaction in the fact that I’d FELT so confident that they’d do something magical, even though it didn’t happen. That’s what I think this team gave us – the sense of things being possible or magical on the court for Michigan basketball (OUR Michigan basketball!) for the first time in ages. I already know I won’t remember this team as the one that “came up just short.” I’m going to remember their magic. As sappy as it might seem, I don’t think I’ll watch college basketball the same way again after this year.

    For those who need more than this, just check out the wikipedia page of the past champions and runnersup. Apart from a few cases, you’d be hard pressed to find a team that made it to the championship game since 1985 that isn’t still relevant today. It’s much too early to say, but damn folks, we matter again.

  • Sood

    Great year, great team, very young. Spend the offseason boxing out anyone/anything that moves. Championship next year.

  • AC1997

    Your reason for the loss (defense & rebounding) and who played well (Siva) is all true……but you miss the explanation. Burke couldn’t guard Siva due to foul trouble. McGary couldn’t be in the game to rebound. Case closed.

  • Siva destroyed us, and the chaos he caused really aided their offensive rebounding. That said, I’ll always believe this Louisville team wasn’t that good. We got jobbed by the refs as hard as I’ve ever seen in a championship game (the last time I really felt this way was Superbowl XL where Seattle got smacked down by the referee gods). People are going to look back at this game and wonder how a team with likely zero good NBA players beat us. If they soberly watch the game they’ll have their answer.

    All that said, great run, and it really felt like house money after the magic of the Kansas game. It’s very frustrating to lose in the championship game the way we did, but all in all I’ll remember this team very, very fondly.

  • gpsimms

    Amazing run and amazing year. Michigan basketball has had so many incredible moments already since Beilein has taken over, and I’m really proud of this group in particular.

    Coach Beilein is my absolute favorite coach in DI and he is perfect for Michigan. Sadly, I don’t think he coached his best game last night. The kids played their tails off, and I am excited to find out their future plans for those who are moving on. I will be rooting for all of them in the NBA/Europe/real life/etc.

  • Jay Z

    Great work this year, Dylan and Joe

  • Roanman

    I can’t pin this loss on our defense so much as Louisville’s offense. Louisville is way athletic, quick and has a bunch of guys that can finish. I thought that his was an extraordinarily well played and intense championship game.

  • Chazer

    Really great season by these fine young men, they believed they achieved and they will live to fight next year! A great game for sure, couldn’t stop Silva in the paint. He made UM look slow or tired…..not sure which is true. With that said, they just got better and experience for next year.

    I thought Louisville wanted the ball more or was stronger in key battles under the boards late. When you have the ball you have to squeeze it….sometimes we didn’t….that’s part of being young! As for the officiating, it was poorly called but I’m glad they let them play. UM will be better next year, they really over achieved and are young….but you hate to miss on championships! You have to be a little lucky to run the tournament or the best team….Michigan will have that chance again next year!

    Go blue!

  • Kenny

    Disappointed but I am proud of our boys. Yes, we lost, but we poured 76pt on the nation’s top defense. The future is bright, we will return to Final Four next year with a better defense, a stronger, more aggressive more seasoned GRIII, a deeper and more experienced and maybe dominating front court, a better defender in Stauskas. Spike showed on the biggest stage of college basketball that he belongs there, and is ready to take the baton from Burke and get pushed by Walton, the best pure PG in his class. Not sure if Hardaway will be back for another year but I am sure Irvin is ready to make some noise in Big Ten.

    • Chris in NC

      Finally, someone says it!!! This team is going to pick up some great talent and with this experience we’ll be back in that final four again soon. This was an incredible run but Coach Beilein has put together some incredible teams. Our second season with him he cobbled together some balsa wood and duct tape and made the tourney and won a game! With top tier talent, he makes finals. Trust the coach. He gets the right players and makes them better! Our future is bright. So very bright! It’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine!!!

  • Dr_ZC

    Despite the fact I had to spark a few smokes during the game, and the cleaning I had to do from broken glass this morning, I cannot say that I am disappointed from the way things worked out for Michigan Basketball. The appearance in the final 4 and the fab 5 hoopla can only help recruiting for Michigan. In addition, I think Glenn and Mitch would have gone had we won the game… As it turned out, I will be looking forward to the 2013 season with the new crop of players, and this year’s freshmen coming back.

    We will have one heck of a team next year. For now, let us enjoy the moment with positive thoughts, and thank Joe and Dylan for the top job they have done all year long. Guys, it’s been a privilege visiting this site and participating…

  • MGoTweeter

    Great run. This team should be incredibly proud of itself and I thank them for all their hard work to achieve such success.

    I think the biggest factor in the game was simply Michigan’s inability to guard the ball screen. Perhaps it is a factor of youth, which prevented the team from changing strategies, but at some point they had to try a different approach. The hard hedge got beat nearly every time and created help and switches in the paint. I wish they would have tried going under screens against Siva and Smith.

    It has been a fantastic season and although I will take some time to relive this run, I am already starting to get excited for next year.

    • JB

      Spot on. Siva clanking a couple jumpers late was just further evidence that going under ball screens would have been the correct strategy. Don’t know how such a sharp staff missed that scouting.

      • gpsimms

        We haven’t gone under ball screens once all year. My guess is that even if coaches knew going under was a better strategy, they weren’t confident that the kids could execute a new approach with 1 day of practice.

        That said, I agree it was not the best gameplan these coaches have ever put forward.

        The other thing I can’t believe is how everyone is going so nuts over Spike that no one has mentioned how much he hurt us on the defensive end. He finished the game -13, and Stauskus (who spent most of the 2nd on the bench so that Spike could keep playing) finished +16. I cannot for the life of me figure what Stauskus did that was so terrible he got benched. He made a great hustle play that led to an assist (although it was after his own turnover), and then he got benched.

        Stauskus is no great defender, but Spike and Caris really had rough days out there.

        • I think Spike stayed out there more for his ability to help Burke with the ball handling than because of the stellar first half performance. I love Nik but he seems to be a bit of a head case out there. If he misses early it affects his play offensively and defensively.

          • gpsimms

            I guess that’s why I was asking. Nik hit a three, and looked fine out there to me. I think he was fine defending on the wing, and it allowed THJr to take a guard. When Spike was out there, Siva was getting into the lane over and over again.

            Maybe it didn’t matter who guarded, maybe it’s just we don’t have the quickness to keep up with smith and siva either way.

  • Mattski

    i’m still brooding about the dubious officiating which–without trying to pin the nebulous accusation that it won Louisville the game or any such crap–had a far greater impact than it should have.

    That said, I feel great about this team, really love all the kids, and feel like I have been rewarded by following them closely all season. I will never forget Trey Burke flying up and down the court in the final minutes, desperate to make something happen, working unbelievably hard. This world needs heroes, and Michigan fans have one in him, forever. Michigan is not going away again for a long, long time to come.

  • Northern Blue

    Fun year to watch, made even more fun by their being new content on this website everyday. Thank you.

    Tough loss for the boys, and as a fan. What an effort though, and if a few things go differently, UM could be national champions. The reffing was blatantly bad, not saying it cost Michigan the game, but even getting those extra two points from the obvious goaltend in the first half could have made a world of difference. Anyways, I am glad there are two more excellent guards coming into the program next year and hopefully Beilein can get another terrific guard for 2014. Seems to me that guards tend to win this thing…. All of the final four teams had terrific guard play.

  • jakelam2116

    Still heartbroken today — it’ll take awhile for the sting to go away — but, man, what a fun (if rocky at times) season and what a great group of guys (both players and coaches, both on the court and off the court) to root for. It truly is a lot more enjoyable to be invested this much in a program — Michigan basketball is by far the team I follow the closest, college or pros — when you know that things are being done the right way and for the right reasons.

    November can’t come soon enough.

    Thanks, Dylan and Joe, for continuing to make this site the best for Michigan hoops content year-round.

  • Champswest

    What a great team and what a great season they gave us. Kudos to the coaching staff for the talent they have assembled, the character of the individuals and how they have coached them up. It was an easy team to root for.
    Dylan, thanks for the great coverage. I will be checking in daily (or more often) to read your season recap, preview of next year’s team and how the B1G race stacks up.

  • Matty P

    What a ride! I can’t remember ever getting more joy out of rooting for a bunch of kids, and I don’t think I’ve ever admired the courage and willpower of a college player as much as I do with Trey Burke.

    It’s funny how, in a way, you can be more reflective on the journey in a close loss than in a win. Of course, last night was devastating but, as a lovable underdog who just kept defying our expectations, it didn’t feel like a loss so much as the culmination of a really fun vacation that had to end sometime. This Michigan team became a “team” in the truest sense and that’s all you can ask of any group of college kids. Maybe on another night they’d beat Louisville, maybe the refs made it hard on them, but all I know is that those guys left everything on the floor and I tip my cap to all of them.

    Dylan, great job all year on this blog. Looking forward to a bright future for Michigan basketball!

  • Mr_Sledge

    That has got to be the saddest picture of Trey Burke EVER!

  • CDeSana

    Great season for sure and the future is bright. As for this game we were out coached and for some reason were not able to do the couple of things that had to be at the top of the list in regards to the game plan.

    Make the two small guards beat you with the jump shot – keep them out of the paint. And find the only real shooter that can beat you from the 3.

    The biggest question is how many guys leave for the NBA? And how does change the scholarship situation?