NCAA Final Four preview: Tale of the tape

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NCAA Final Four preview: Tale of the tape

Your bracket may already be busted and your favorite Philly team may have already been eliminated.

But there is still basketball -- very good basketball -- left to be played before the NCAA tournament concludes and “One Shining Moment” is sung.

To help get you ready for college basketball’s biggest weekend, here’s a breakdown of both NCAA Final Four games in Atlanta -- from the important to the inane.

Wichita State (30-8) vs. Louisville (33-5)
Saturday, 6:09 p.m., CBS

Road to Atlanta
Ninth-seeded Wichita State has enjoyed one of the most improbable runs in NCAA tournament history, upsetting three teams in the Pomeroy top 11 (Pittsburgh, Gonzaga and Ohio State) and beating a La Salle team we all know is very difficult to match up against. Louisville, the top seed in the Midwest, had a relatively easy road before beating Duke in the regional finals, needing to get by North Carolina AT&T, Colorado State and Oregon. Advantage: Wichita State.

Coaches
Gregg Marshall has coached his mid-major teams (first Winthrop and now Wichita State) to the Big Dance in nine of the past 15 seasons and will likely be a candidate for some high-major jobs in the near future. Rick Pitino has taken three different teams to the Final Four and is one of the best at his profession. Advantage: Louisville.

Star attraction
For Louisville, Russ Smith is one of the best scorers in college basketball and Peyton Siva is one of the nation’s premier point guards. Wichita State leading scorer Cleanthony Early is not exactly a household name (although he should be because that’s an awesome name). Advantage: Louisville.

X-Factor
Louisville small forwards Wayne Blackshear and Luke Hancock will both likely have to play expanded minutes in the backcourt following the horrific injury to top reserve guard Kevin Ware (more on that below). For Wichita State, redshirt freshman guard Ron Baker missed 21 games this season because of a stress fracture but returned in time for the Missouri Valley Conference tournament and has become one of the most unlikely starters in the Final Four. Advantage: Wichita State.

Style of play
The Shockers are one of the best rebounding teams in the country and have used their strength inside to get this far in the NCAA tournament. Louisville likes to press and run, using its exceptional defensive pressure to make you turn the ball over. The Cardinals rank second in the nation in steals per game, behind only VCU. Advantage: Louisville.

Aura
This is Wichita State’s second Final Four ever. This is Louisville’s second Final Four in the last two years. Advantage: Louisville.

Karma
Wichita State has an entire mid-major army behind them hoping to see the Shockers break through and do what mid-major brethren Butler, VCU and George Mason could not: win a national championship. Louisville has the extra motivation of playing for Ware, who suffered one of the most gruesome injuries ever shown on TV (and who also appears to be just an incredible person and teammate in subsequent interviews). Advantage: Louisville.

Mascot
Nothing against the Cardinal bird, but “Shockers” is a great name (especially for headline writers) that is derived from students shocking wheat. That’s why their mascot has a head full of wheat (or something). Advantage: Wichita State.

Famous basketball alumni
Wes Unseld was a three-time All-American at Louisville before his Hall of Fame NBA playing career began. Xavier “The X-Man” McDaniel was the first person to lead the nation in both scoring and rebounding while at Wichita State. Advantage: Louisville.

Famous non-basketball alumni
The great Johnny Unitas starred at Louisville and fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Parcells went to Wichita State. Advantage: Louisville.

Philly connection
Longtime Eagles kicker and fan favorite David Akers went to Louisville. Joe Carter, forever a Philly nemesis, was the Sporting News magazine’s 1981 College Player of the Year while at Wichita state. Advantage: Louisville.

Prediction
Louisville is a heavy favorite for good reason. The Cardinals are a well-coached and talented team that has all the tools to win in March -- and now April. Wichita State has Top 25 talent, but its magical run will end two wins shy of a national title. Louisville 71, Wichita State 62.

Syracuse (30-9) vs. Michigan (30-7)
Saturday, 8:49 p.m., CBS

Road to Atlanta
As No. 4 seeds, both Syracuse and Michigan needed to upset a top seed, as the Orange beat Indiana and Michigan toppled Kansas. Michigan also had to get by tough VCU and Florida teams (as well as South Dakota State), while Syracuse topped Montana, California and Marquette. Advantage: Michigan.

Coaches
John Beilein has now enjoyed some March magic with both Michigan and West Virginia and is one of just nine college coaches to have taken four different teams to the NCAA tournament. Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim has been the head coach at only one school –- but has won over 900 games there. Advantage: Syracuse.

Star attraction
Kansas probably still has nightmares about Trey Burke's taking the game over and leading a huge Sweet 16 comeback for Michigan. Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams is a smooth scorer and a likely first-round draft pick if he comes out –- but he won’t get picked ahead of Burke, the 2012-13 Wooden Award winner. Advantage: Michigan.

X-Factor
Mitch McGary averages less than 20 minutes per game, but the Michigan freshman big man has emerged as one of the best players in the NCAA tournament, averaging 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in the Wolverines’ four wins. Syracuse’s James Southerland shoots over 40 percent from three-point range and attempts more than six long-balls per game. Advantage: Michigan.

Style of play
Michigan likes to run but will need to figure out a way to crack Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone when it gets into the halfcourt set. And teams that don’t see it much usually struggle to adapt to it. Advantage: Syracuse.

Aura
Syracuse is the fifth winningest Division I program of all-time and holds the active record for consecutive winning seasons with 42. Michigan also has a proud history but didn’t make any NCAA tournament appearances between 1998 and 2009 and was hit hard by NCAA sanctions in the ’90s. Advantage: Syracuse.

Karma
Michigan is back in the Final Four exactly 20 years after the Wolverines’ “Fab Five” went to the national championship and lost on Chris Webber’s infamous timeout call. Two of Michigan’s best players –- Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III –- are also the sons of former NBA stars. Syracuse is back in the Final Four exactly 10 years after Carmelo Anthony led the Orange to a national championship. Advantage: Michigan.

Mascot
Otto the Orange is fun for the whole family. Michigan is one of the few colleges that doesn’t have a mascot after it stopped bringing real wolverines to football games in 1927. Something about safety issues. Pfft. Advantage: Syracuse.

Famous basketball alumni
Michigan’s Glen Rice holds the NCAA record for most points in a single NCAA tournament with 184 in 1989. Syracuse’s Carmelo Anthony is one of the premier players in the NBA. Advantage: Syracuse.

Famous non-basketball alumni
New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin (Syracuse) has gotten the better of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (Michigan) in a couple of Super Bowls. But still. Advantage: Michigan.

Philly connection
By the time Chris Webber (Michigan) got to the 76ers, he was past his prime. For all his critics, Donovan McNabb (Syracuse) was a great Eagle. Advantage: Syracuse.

Prediction
This is going to be a really fun game between two teams catching fire at the right time. But if Burke and McGary keep doing what they have been doing, nobody is beating the Wolverines. Michigan 79, Syracuse 76.

Penn fails to clinch Ivy tournament spot in 70-67 loss at Columbia

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Penn fails to clinch Ivy tournament spot in 70-67 loss at Columbia

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Mike Smith scored 20 points, including a key 3-pointer with a minute left, Luke Petrasek added 17 with a blocked shot as time ran out, and Columbia edged Penn 70-67 in a critical Ivy League game on Saturday night.

The Lions (11-14) and Quakers (12-13) are both 5-7 and tied for fourth in league play with a week to go. This is the first season the Ivy League has a postseason tournament with the top four teams qualifying.

Neither team led by double figures, their statistics were almost identical and there were 11 ties and 10 lead changes, although Columbia took the lead for good on a Nate Hickman's free throws with 10:27 remaining during an 8-0 run.

Hickman gave Columbia a 67-60 lead -- the largest of the second half -- on a 3-pointer with 5:37 to go. The Lions then went 4:11 without a basket, missing seven-straight shots. Ryan Betley's free throws pulled the Quakers within 2 before Smith hit is trey at 1:04.

Betley made two free throws and after a Columbia miss the Quakers had two 3 attempts with Petrasek saving the day.

AJ Brodeur and Jackson Donahue had 16 each for Penn.

Temple snaps 3-game losing streak with double OT win over Tulane

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Temple snaps 3-game losing streak with double OT win over Tulane

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Temple's wild 86-76 double-overtime victory against Tulane on Saturday snapped a three-game losing streak (see Instant Replay)

The win, however, was not easy after Tulane's Malik Morgan hit a deep three as time expired to force a second overtime.

"Not again," Temple senior forward Daniel Dingle said. "We're not leaving this gym until we get a win."

Temple's mistake of not picking Morgan up after two made free throws cost the Owls and was not the plan for head coach Fran Dunphy. 

"We said we wanna pick them up as soon as we can and not allow a go-by," Dunphy said. "If someone's going by you, chest them, but don't let them get a full head of steam going towards the basket and Shizz (Alston Jr.) kind of backed off him. Obviously, Morgan made a great shot."

Temple (15-15, 6-11 AAC) received a big lift from its seniors on Senior Day, as Dingle and forward Mark Williams combined for 33 points and 14 points against the Green Wave (5-23, 2-14 AAC).

Williams' play in the waning moments of regulation and throughout overtime also showed his savvy as a veteran on this team. Down 65-63 with 11 seconds left, Alston Jr. missed a jump shot, but Williams tapped the ball back to Alston Jr., who put in a layup to tie the game at 65.

"I couldn't get it, so I seen him and I just tipped it," Williams said. "He grabbed it and it was just right place at the right time."

To start overtime, Williams scored two quick buckets after an early Tulane free throw to take 69-66 lead with 2:51 left. The Owls and Green Wave went back and forth in the first overtime period, which ultimately culminated in a 71-71 tie and another overtime.

At the start of the second overtime period, it was all Owls. They scored seven quick points, which included a dunk by freshman Quinton Rose to start the period, a three pointer from Alston Jr. (who had 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists) off a Tulane miss and block-dunk sequence from junior forward Obi Enechionyia. The 78-71 lead with 3:20 left helped spark a 15-5 run Temple used to close the game.

At the 2:28 mark in the second overtime period, Williams fouled out, and walked off the Liacouras Center floor for the final time in a Temple uniform, inciting a standing ovation.

"I love my teammates, I love these guys," Williams said, who finished with 20 points and six rebounds. "[Standing ovation] was like the last time, it's like you moved out of your childhood house."

Because it was Senior Day, the Owls started all of their seniors, including Mike Robbins, who, in his first career start, scored seven points during a career-high 22 minutes.

Robbins provided Temple a spark early, scoring all seven of his points in a 17-4 Temple start in the first 4:25 of the game, including a baseline reverse layup that got the Owls' faithful on their feet.

"It felt good to get back out there and make some shots," Robbins said. "The crowd was terrific. After the game everybody thanked me for all my hard work."

After losing three straight games, the Owls recognized that this was a must-win game, as they look to finish the season strong. 

"We needed to win and we did, we found a way to win," Dunphy said.

"This game meant a lot to us as a whole," Dingle said "Now we're playing USF next [and then the] conference tournament and hopefully this win gives us some momentum. Right now, we're not worried about the wins and losses, what our record says."