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National

  • Louisville, Michigan escape shadows at Final Four

    ATLANTA (AP) — The hoops teams at Louisville and Michigan are used to being overlooked.

    The Cardinals may be a national powerhouse, but they're still considered second fiddle in their own state. The Kentucky Wildcats are the blue bloods of the bluegrass, while Louisville settles for being viewed as more of a blue-collar school.

    The Michigan basketball team knows what that's like. Football rules on the Wolverines' campus — rightly so, said Tim Hardaway Jr., given that program's long, storied history.

    "We still have a ways to go," said Hardaway, Michigan's junior guard. "Football has a lot more national championships than we do."

    Well, it's kind of hard to overlook either team now.

    Louisville and Michigan will meet Monday night in the NCAA championship game.

    The Cardinals (34-5) have lived up to their billing as the tournament's top overall seed, blowing through their first four opponents before rallying from a dozen points down in the second half to beat surprising Wichita State 72-68 in the national semifinals.

  • Electric Games on Final Four Night

    Get in-depth coverage here.

  • Louisville beats Wichita State 72-68 in Final Four

    ATLANTA (AP) — The deficit was getting bigger, the clock becoming an enemy and Louisville's options were dwindling.

    "I just kept telling the guys ... 'We're going to make a run. It's about defense,'" coach Rick Pitino said. "The tempo is not ours. Give them their credit, but the bench won the game for us tonight. Unbelievable display."

    Impressive comeback, too.

    Luke Hancock came off the bench to score 20 points, walk-on Tim Henderson sparked a second-half rally with a pair of monster 3s and Louisville advanced to the NCAA title game Saturday night, escaping with a 72-68 victory over Wichita State.

    Now the Cardinals (34-5) will try and win it all for their emotional leader on the bench, injured Kevin Ware. As the final buzzer sounded, Ware stood up, grinning as he thrust his arms above his head.

    Louisville will play the winner of Syracuse-Michigan for the national title Monday night. It is the Cardinals' first trip to the title game since they won it all in 1986.

    "We just played super hard," said Russ Smith, who led the Cardinals with 21 points. "Nobody wanted to go home."

    Cleanthony Early had 24 for the ninth-seeded Shockers (30-9), who nearly pulled off their biggest upset of all.

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  • Ware resting comfortably after injury

    Kevin Ware is already up and walking, and he's got a nice souvenir to keep him company until he's cleared to return to Louisville.
    Cardinals coach Rick Pitino brought the Midwest Regional championship trophy when he visited Ware, who remains hospitalized after surgery to repair a gruesome fracture in his right leg.
    "He was real excited about (the trophy)," Pitino said after visiting Ware again Monday morning. "I said to him, 'You want me to bring it back or stay with you?' He said, 'It's staying with me.' I said, 'All right, just make sure you don't lose it.'"
    During a 2-hour surgery Sunday night, doctors reset Ware's broken tibia and inserted a rod into the bone. Because the bone broke through the skin, Pitino said doctors are monitoring Ware to make sure no infection develops. If there are no complications, he should be released Tuesday.
    The Cardinals plan to leave for the Final Four in Atlanta on Wednesday night, and Pitino said they expect to have Ware with them. Ware is originally from New York City, but he moved to the Atlanta area before high school.
    "He gets to go home, be with his family and be with us on the bench," Pitino said. "He's in very good spirits and anxious to get out of the hospital and get back with the guys."

  • Michigan rolls into Final Four, beats Fla. 79-59

    ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Trey Burke and Michigan had the perfect response for everyone who said they were too young or not tough enough to make it all the way to Atlanta.

    The championship trophy for the South Region is headed back to Ann Arbor, while another fabulous group of young Wolverines is going to the Final Four.

    Led by Burke and sharp-shooting guard Nik Stauskas, one of three freshmen starters, Michigan controlled Florida from start to finish in a 79-59 win Sunday.

    "It means the world — 20 years has passed and we haven't been on that stage yet," said Tim Hardaway Jr., the junior elder statesman in the starting lineup.

    The last time Michigan made it this far was the Fab Five era of the early 1990s, what until now had been considered the program's glory years.

    Might be time to start rethinking that.

    Once they got ahead Sunday, the Wolverines (30-7) maintained a double-digit lead against the experienced Gators (29-8), who won the regular-season title in the Southeastern Conference, but lost in a regional final for the third straight year.

    "We've almost become numb to it now. Been here before," Gators junior center Patric Young said. "I just really wish we were out there cutting the nets down."

  • Louisville beats Duke 85-63 to reach Final Four

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — With tears in their eyes and Kevin Ware in their hearts, there was no way Louisville was losing this game.

    Russ Smith scored 23, Gorgui Dieng had 14 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, and top-seeded Louisville put aside the shock from Ware's gruesome leg injury to earn a second straight trip to the Final Four with an 85-63 victory over Duke on Sunday afternoon.

    As the final seconds ticked down, Chane Behanan put Ware's jersey on and stood at the end of the Louisville bench, screaming. Cardinals fans chanted "Kevin Ware! Kevin Ware!"

    "We won this for him," coach Rick Pitino said. "We were all choked up with emotion for him. We'll get him back to normal. We've got great doctors, great trainers. We talked about it every timeout, 'Get Kevin home.'"

    This was the first time Pitino and Mike Krzyzewski had met in the regional finals since that 1992 classic that ended with Christian Laettner's improbable buzzer-beater, a game now considered one of the best in NCAA tournament history.

    This game will be remembered, too, but for a very different — and much more somber — reason.

  • Syracuse on to Final Four, beats Marquette 55-39

    WASHINGTON (AP) — When played to perfection, there's nothing quite like Syracuse's aggressive, half-court 2-3 zone defense.

    It's 40 minutes of trapping and shot-challenging, of closing off angles, of trusting teammates.

    "We showed," senior guard Brendan Triche said, "that defense wins games."

    Yes, the Orange D certainly does.

    With a second suffocating performance at the East Regional, No. 4-seeded Syracuse shut down No. 3 Marquette 55-39 Saturday to earn coach Jim Boeheim his fourth trip to the Final Four — and first since a freshman named Carmelo Anthony helped win the 2003 NCAA championship.

    "A tremendous, tremendous defensive effort," Boeheim said.

    Fittingly, a matchup between schools from the soon-to-break-apart, rough-and-tumble Big East became quite a struggle on the offensive end. Syracuse (30-9) was led by senior forward James Southerland's 16 points. Michael Carter-Williams, a 6-foot-6 guard who is out front in the zone, was named the regional's top player after accounting for 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists, five steals and only one turnover Saturday.

  • Alford's departure from New Mexico spurs emotions

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico basketball fans were blindsided Saturday by news that coach Steve Alford had been hired away by UCLA.

    The Lobos had just wrapped up another winning season that was topped by their second straight Mountain West Conference title and their third NCAA tournament appearance in the past four seasons. And just days ago, Alford signed a new 10-year contract that could have been worth up to $2 million a year.

    No one thought Alford was going anywhere.

    Not even Alford.

    Overnight, it all changed. Lobo Nation is now awash in disappointment.

    New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs is among those feeling the effects of the loss. He said it was clear when he talked to Alford early Saturday that the coach had made up his mind. He said he understood and respected the decision.

    "This is a very emotional time," Krebs said to a room packed with reporters and television cameras.

    For some of the players it has yet to sink in. Lobos center Alex Kirk said they needed to come together and clear their heads.

    "It's tough," Kirk said. "It hit us all really hard. It hit coach hard and it's going to hit the whole state hard. I think it affects the whole conference."

  • Big East going out with big hurrah in NCAA tourney

    WASHINGTON (AP) — If you're one of the college basketball fans who can't wait for the Big East breakup to be final, hang on. You'll have to wait for the Final Four.
    Syracuse and Marquette both won their East Regional semifinal games Thursday night and that means the Big East will have a team in Atlanta next week. It will be the fourth straight season the conference that changed the landscape of college basketball over the last three-plus decades will have a Final Four team.
    Oh yeah, Louisville, the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament and a Final Four team last season, is still alive with the Cardinals playing Oregon on Friday in the round of 16.
    "It will be different than the Big East tournament," Syracuse guard Michael Carter-Williams said after scoring 24 points in the 61-50 victory over top-seeded Indiana. "It will definitely feel familiar with different refs and a neutral court, but we'll see them again."
    Marquette won the only meeting between the teams this season, 74-71 on Feb. 25 — the middle game of the Orange's three-game losing streak.