On Monday night, the Louisville Cardinals defeated the Michigan Wolverines for the NCAA men's basketball championship. Rick Pitino, the coach of the Cardinals, has now won his second title, and the University of Louisville captured their third overall. On the same day that coach Pitino was elected to the Hall of Fame, he became the first coach ever to win national championships with two different schools.
Louisville had its own superstars, notably in Peyton Siva, who led the team in heart, if not in statistical categories, and Luke Hancock, who was named most outstanding player of the Final Four, and finished the game with a team-high 22 points. However, there's no denying the impact that Kevin Ware had on the Louisville team. Sitting courtside and being interviewed as the last player for the Cardinals, his words represented the will of a team that refused to lose.
In the first half, Michigan led by as many as 12 points. There was a special significance to the event for the Wolverines, as it brought about a reunion of one of the most heralded teams of all time. With the Fab Five in attendance, it seemed as though the circumstances might be ripe for a cathartic forgiveness for the voided Final Four appearances 19 and 20 years ago. Instead, those five ceded the spotlight—as people might hope they would have done had Michigan won, too—and let the new champions have their one shining moment.
While the Cardinals won the game and deserve the accolades that Hancock and Siva accumulated, it's worth noting that, aside from the progeny of former NBA stars, the Wolverines have a player who's been touted as an example for all athletes for his recent diet and exercise regime, Mitch McGary. The teams also possesses the player of the year, Trey Burke, who sat out of the last twelve minutes of the first half due to foul trouble. At the time, it didn't seem like too much of a problem, thanks to Spike Albrecht, who hadn't missed a three pointer in the entire NCAA Tournament and started the championship game by going 4 for 4 from deep, before finally missing one with 11:23 left in the game. Averaging only 7.5 points per game for the season, McGary had 9 points before the first half was halfway through.
When the game was over, though, the Cardinals were the victors, Pitino added another notch to his coaching resume, and Americans who'd gasped for breath upon seeing Kevin Ware's traumatic injury were able to breathe a sigh of relief.