ATLANTA -- Throughout this wonderful college basketball season, the prevailing narrative has held that there is no dominant team.
Could have fooled me.
Anyone who has watched Louisville play the last six weeks knows that is not the case. The Cardinals encountered a little turbulence in January, when they lost three consecutive games, but in retrospect, it's hard to remember what everybody was so concerned about. Two of those losses came by two points to very good teams (Syracuse at home, Georgetown on the road). The third was by nine points at Villanova. The Cardinals only lost two other games this season -- by five points to Duke in November when they were missing center Gorgui Dieng because of a broken wrist, and the five-overtime classic at Notre Dame on Feb. 9. The Cardinals have not lost since then, and in the postseason they have steamrolled the competition, winning their three Big East tournament games by an average of 16 points and their four NCAA tournament games by 21.8 points. If that's not a dominant team, what is?
So we're going to have to revisit our narrative heading into this weekend's Final Four at the Georgia Dome. There is, in fact, a dominant team, and while I wouldn't go so far as to describe this Final Four as Louisville and the Three Dwarves, that's not far off. How about Louisville and the Three Challengers? Louisville and the Three Amigos? Louisville and the Three Teams That Aren't Louisville?
Or maybe I should just give you the Three Keys for each of the Three Others that would give them their best chance at upending our narrative. Sweetheart, get me rewrite.
Wichita State over Louisville
Michigan over Louisville
The good news is that Louisville is ranked 131st in the country in defensive free throw rate, so the Wolverines should have the ability to drive and get fouled. The question is whether they take advantage -- and then knock down the shots.
Syracuse over Louisville
Most of this responsibility falls on Carter-Williams. He was visibly frustrated that night, and he sniped at his teammates for failing to catch some of his ill-advised passes. Body language is just as important as decision making. We know Syracuse is going to make a few mistakes against the Cardinals. Everybody does. The question is whether the Orange will compound them.
This is the NCAA tournament, so anything is possible. However, heading into this weekend's actions, the keys described above look like they are opening a door to nowhere. It's like Mike Tyson famously said: Everybody has a game plan until they get hit. Wichita State, Michigan and Syracuse all have a puncher's chance, but on Monday night, Louisville is going to be the last one standing.