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By Rachel Singer
The men face Michigan on Monday, and women take on Connecticut Tuesday night.
A sweep of the NCAA Division I basketball championship has only been completed once, by the University of Connecticut in 2004. The University of Louisville will look to accomplish that same feat, starting Monday night with the men’s 9:23 p.m. tip-off.
The Cardinal men were the only one-seed to make it to the Final Four, an admirable feat in a season that saw top seeds being upset what seemed like multiple times every week during the season. They will face four-seed Michigan and their high-octane offense. Michigan is looking to become the first four-seed to win a title.
Louisville is the favorite against the lower-seeded Wolverines. After losing Kevin Ware to a gruesome leg injury in an Elite 8 game versus Duke, the Cardinals will look to Russ Smith and Peyton Siva to carry the team. Smith is averaging 18.8 points per game this season, with Siva distributing six assists in each contest.
Michigan, led by Wooden Award winner Trey Burke, has been given multiple sparks off the bench to make their run through the tournament. Freshman center Mitch McGary has taken the tournament by storm, filling the stat sheet and making hustle plays in every game. Sharpshooters Nik Stauskus and Spike Albrect have contributed in the improbable tournament run as well, including a 22-point, 6-for-6 three-point performance from Stauskus in the win over second-seeded Florida.
The Louisville women are on an improbable run of their own. They are the first five-seed ever in the women’s tournament to advance to the title game, and have become known as the proverbial ‘David’ after knocking off Baylor in the Sweet 16. After easily defeating historical powerhouse Tennessee in the Elite 8, and a comeback win over Cal in the semifinal, the Cardinals will have to defeat now-favorite Connecticut to complete their Cinderella story.
Baylor was the overwhelming favorite to win the 2013 championship. Once the Brittney Griner’s Bears were prematurely knocked out, and Connecticut was able to get past rival Notre Dame – who defeated UConn three times during the regular season – the Huskies became the favorite in the all-Big East championship game.
The University of Connecticut was the first and only school to complete the basketball sweep in 2004. While the men are a 3.5 point favorite over Michigan, the women will need a little more of their Cinderella magic to carry them past seven-time champion Connecticut. Regardless, both games will feature a lot of excitement in a season that has been full of surprises on both the men’s and the women’s sides.