Rewind: NCAA 2013 Men’s Basketball National Championship—Michigan Wolverines vs. Louisville Cardinals

Michigan Wolverines guard Trey Burke (3) walks off the court as the Louisville Cardinals celebrate defeating Michigan to win the NCAA mens Final Four championship basketball game in Atlanta, Georgia April 8, 2013.   REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES  - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)   ORG XMIT: ATL159


Michigan Wolverines guard Trey Burke (3) walks off the court as the Louisville Cardinals celebrate defeating Michigan to win the NCAA men’s Final Four championship basketball game in Atlanta, Georgia April 8, 2013. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) ORG XMIT: ATL159

On the 8th of April in 2013, the sports universe tuned in to watch an all-time shootout in the NCAA National Championship between the Michigan Wolverines and the Louisville Cardinals. With both teams having played astounding basketball for the entirety of the year, each squad was searching for a program-defining victory in the season’s final game. This particular matchup had a surplus of collegiate talent as well as future-NBA superstars, setting up an especially appealing game. 

This Michigan team in 2013 saw all eyes turn to it from the very beginning of the season. With the eventual National Player of the Year returning in Trey Burke along with a hard-working and gritty recruiting class, the Wolverines were on the map from day one. As the season progressed, Michigan’s freshman highlighted the team’s efforts. Aside from sophomore Trey Burke and forward Tim Hardaway, the majority of the production was from the underclassmen. Freshmen forwards Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III in conjunction with freshmen guards Nik Stauskas, Caris Levert, and Spike Albrecht, the future for the Wolverines was in phenomenal shape. 

Michigan’s journey to the championship game was nothing short of amazing. An early-season tidal wave of momentum and success saw the team ranked number one in the country, shortly before losing six out of its last 12 games to finish the regular season. After an early exit in the Big Ten tournament, the capabilities of the Wolverines was seriously in question. However, the team found a major spark in March Madness. After trouncing the opponent in its first two games, Michigan found itself matched up with Kansas, the top team in the country. Thanks to a game-tying three-pointer by Trey Burke from nearly 30 feet, the Wolverines won in overtime to complete the comeback. After blowing out Florida in the Elite Eight, Michigan squeaked by Syracuse in the Final Four to reach the National Championship game for the first time since 1993.

In contrast to the Wolverines, Louisville was stacked with experience. Senior guard Peyton Siva and senior forward Gorgui Dieng gave the Cardinals a basis of leadership, while younger, yet highly-skilled players such as Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear rounded out the starting lineup. With notable bench players in Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrel, Louisville was built to contend for the national title.

Louisville was hot, plain and simple. The team only lost five games in the whole season, earning them a number one seed in the tournament. The Cardinals made easy work of opposing teams throughout March Madness, including an impressive double-digit victory over the extremely talented Duke Blue Devils. In a surprising matchup with the 9 seed and cinderella-storied Witchita State Golden Shockers, Louisville faced a 12-point deficit at halftime. However, the team rallied back with a tenacity reminiscent of Michigan’s comeback against Kansas. The Cardinals came back to win by a slim margin of 4 points, securing a matchup with the Michigan Wolverines in the National Championship. 

There was no question that this game would be an offensive duel. As the game tipped off, both teams seemed to have no trouble scoring. Trey Burke scored Michigan’s first seven points, while others chipped in to help. Louisville’s attack strategy was working as well, as they kept pace with the Wolverines early on. However, early in the first half, an incredibly unexpected storyline broke out. Freshman Spike Albrecht—Trey Burke’s backup—entered the game after Burke picked up his second foul. To everybody’s surprise, Albrecht took over the game. He knocked down 4 consecutive three-pointers along with multiple impressive finishes at the basket. When all was said and done, Spike had a total of 17 points off of the bench in the first half. Riding Albrecht’s momentum, Michigan went on a 15-2 run with all five of its freshman on the floor.

Just as Michigan began to take a double-digit lead, Louisville responded. Luke Hancock, another bench player, matched Albrecht’s explosiveness as he went on a huge run by himself. The junior guard knocked down four straight three-pointers of his own, bringing the Cardinals back into the game. As the first-half buzzer sounded, Michigan clung to a one-point lead. After the first half of shocking subplots and phenomenal offensive displays, the NCAA basketball season would be decided by just 20 final minutes.

Coming out of the locker room, Louisville’s determination was persistent. The two teams fought back and forth for a majority of the night, trading baskets on both ends. The depth of both teams was evident in this game as the stars canceled each other out, forcing role players to make plays. For Michigan, Glenn Robinson and Mitch McGary kept the team afloat many times with their scoring and rebounding. As for Louisville, Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan combined for 23 points and 20 rebounds. As the game progressed, the scoring from both sides continued. 

In the final five minutes, Michigan committed several crucial fouls, sending Lousiville to the free-throw line for easy points. In the end, it came down to these foul shots. The Cardinals attempted 26 free-throws to just 16 from the Wolverines. A few controversial calls occurred in the final minutes, most notably a head-scratching foul call on a would-be block by Trey Burke. This allowed Louisville to maintain a steady lead for the last few minutes. Ultimately, the Cardinals were able to pull away. After taking a five-point lead with under two minutes remaining, Louisville made all of its free throws to secure the National Championship. It was an incredible fight from both teams and will be remembered for its high-octane nature. 

As Michigan walked off of the court in defeat, Louisville was able to finally celebrate as world champs after a fantastic season. As for the Wolverines, reflecting back on the improbable run to the Final Four was nothing short of spectacular and will live on in Michigan’s legacy for decades. The 2013 NCAA Basketball National Championship was a game for the ages; it is difficult to overlook this matchup as an all-time showdown.