- Created on 07 April 2013
(CNN) -- Michigan and Louisville will meet Monday in the NCAA men's basketball championship game in Atlanta after both survived close games Saturday.
Michigan was up by 11 points at halftime leading the Syracuse Orange 36-25.
But the Orange went on a furious comeback in the second half, getting the game to within three points with a little more than 7 minutes left.
The Wolverines handled Syracuse's tough zone defense down the stretch, winning 61-56. Michigan's backcourt of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke led the way against Syracuse's pesky defenders.
Two crucial foul calls at the end of the game helped the Wolverines secure the win.
They advance to play Louisville, who beat Wichita State earlier Saturday.
The Shockers and Cardinals battled through a tight, low-scoring first half that ended with Wichita State going into the intermission with a slim 26-25 advantage.
Louisville's 72-68 win means that its head coach, Rick Pitino, still is in contention to win his second national championship -- the other coming in 1996, when he coached the Cardinals' archrival, the University of Kentucky.
The game also ended Wichita State's remarkable tournament run. The No. 9 seed in the West region beat top-seed Gonzaga and then Ohio State to earn a spot in the Final Four.
Despite being a heavy underdog, the Shockers led for much of the game -- leading 47-35 with 13 minutes to go in the contest. But the Cardinals were able to chip away, before finally going ahead with about five minutes remaining.
Louisville, which won the national title in 1980 and 1986, will face Michigan Monday night.
- Created on 05 April 2013
Media from across the country gathered at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis Friday morning for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association's selection of Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke as the winner of the 2012-2013 Oscar Robertson Trophy.
Burke, who is town in preparation for Saturday's Final Four showdown against Syracuse, became only the second guard to ever win the Oscar Robertson Player of the Year Award, named for the legendary NBA Hall of Famer.
The Oscar Robertson Trophy has been given out annually since 1959 to the most outstanding men's college basketball players by the USBWA, an organization of journalists who cover college basketball stated by the first executive director of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Walter Byers.
"I have to thank my teammates and coaches for just trusting me," Burke said. "They put the ball in my hands and allow me to make plays. We have more work to do, two more games to play and looking we're forward to cutting down that net Monday."
The award was the Columbus native's third of the week after receiving the 2013 Bob Cousy Award, given to nation's top point guard, and being selected as the Associated Press' College Basketball Player of the Year Thursday, the first Wolverine to win the AP award since Cazzie Russell in 1966.
"He's just one tough young man," Michigan Wolverines head coach John Beilein said. "There have been three or four times this year where the trainers have come to me and have said that "this is bothering Trey, well that is bothering Trey," but he doesn't want you to know it."
Leading the University of Michigan men's basketball program to its first Final Four appearance in 20 years, the Big Ten Player of the Year managed to put up 19.2 points per game, 3.1 rebounds and 6.7 assists this season, all while shooting at 40.1 percent from the three-point line.
"What impressed me so much about him at the point guard position is that he knows how to play. He didn't get rattled about certain things, he kept his team together," twelve-time All-Star Oscar Robertson told the Daily World. "It's a lifelong process, it's not a one game thing and that's the key. I hope he does the best, I'll be rooting for him."
With three national player awards already under his belt, Burke is also a candidate for the Wooden Award for the National Player of the Year.
"All of these awards may get overwhelming and are great to have, but I don't want them to get in the way of what the team is trying to accomplish," said Burke. "We're trying to win a National Championship. That's where my focus is."
Burke started all 37 games played by the Wolverines thus far, scoring double figures and each game, helping Michigan maintain a Top 6 national ranking all season.
"I've had to practically beg him to come out of plays to say, 'You need some rest,'" Beilein added. "But it's that toughness that gives us so much trust in how he plays. The best is yet to come from this young man."
- Created on 04 April 2013
With a largely expected 8-1 vote on Thursday, Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons cleared the final political hurdle to the team’s plan to build a $1 billion retractable-roof stadium in downtown Atlanta.
Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm, voted almost unanimously to approve issuing more than $200 million in bonds backed by city hotel-motel taxes that would partly finance the team’s new home. The move will authorize the stadium to receive 39.3 percent of Atlanta's 7-cents-per-dollar hotel-motel tax for the next 30-plus years.
The Atlanta City Council voted 11-4 in March to use the tax revenue to pay for the bonds which will go toward construction costs and potentially to the costs of financing, maintaining and operating the stadium through 2050. The $200 million is what will be paid to the stadium upfront. Estimates have suggested that could be up to $900 million in taxes that are paid to the Falcons when it’s all said and done.
The plan has long been praised by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who joined Blank at a press conference in March announcing a deal for the stadium that he called, “'a great public-private partnership'' that will benefit the city and the state.
The vote by Invest Atlanta marks the culmination of more than two years of negotiations, and ironically comes right before the 21-year-old Georgia Dome, which will be demolished as part of the agreement, is to begin hosting NCAA Final Four basketball tournament.
The Georgia World Congress Center, which would own the property, already signed off on the plan as well. Invest Atlanta was expected to approve it last month, but the board wanted more time to consider a range of late amendments added by councilmembers.
Councilman Kwanza Hall, who voted against the stadium agreement, detailed some of the proposed amendments in an earlier op-ed piece, saying that they “improved the proposal greatly, including measures to protect the General Fund and a commitment, without details, to a community benefits plan.”
Julian Bene, the lone Invest Atlanta board member to vote against the proposal, said it will create “surprisingly few jobs” and said the money could be better spent elsewhere, such as a streetcar route on the Beltline. He said the city should lobby state legislators to change a law requiring that the hotel-motel taxes be spent on a stadium.
“What do we get from this in terms of jobs?” said Bene. “My perception is that we’re switching one stadium for another and that we don’t get an additional amenity for the city.”
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed called Bene’s statements “overly dismissive,” according to the AJC. Most importantly, he said, it helps keep the team in the city’s limits for the next 30 years.
“We’re not simply swapping one stadium for another. We’re building a best-in-class facility that will help us attract new events and retain the Falcons,” he said. “They were going somewhere … Whether that was the suburbs or another city, they weren’t staying here.”
The deal calls for the Falcons to pay up to $70 million in infrastructure costs and another $15 million to support the troubled surrounding neighborhood. Invest Atlanta would chip in another $15 million from a pool of property taxes it collects from a special taxing district, and it must craft a “community benefits” plan for the area.
The stadium now must go through the processes of securing the property for the favored site of the stadium, a lot of land just south of the Georgia Dome that is currently owned by two historic churches. The deal calls for the team to set aside $20 million to purchase the needed property, which is largely owned by two churches, Freedom and Mount Vernon Baptist Church, but negotiations are still underway.
At an earlier meeting with residents of Vine City, Penny McPhee pledged that the owner had “no plans” to move any churches that did not want to be moved.
- Created on 05 April 2013
For the first time in tournament history, the NCAA Division II and Division III championship games will take place in the same city hosting the Division I championship.
The final two teams in each division will compete for the championship title on Sunday, April 7 at Philips Arena. Amherst College (Mass.) will be taking on Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) at 12:30 p.m. (ET) in Division III action, followed by Drury University (Missouri) facing Metro State Univ. (Colo.) for the Division II title at 4 p.m. (ET). The games are free and open to the public.
The second-ranked Amherst Lord Jeffs will take aim at the program's second Division III national title, coming off a 52-44 Final Four win over No. 3 North Central. Amherst (29-2) will make its third appearance in the national championship game after gaining back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008.
Mary Hardin-Baylor earned the right to face Amherst after the Crusaders (27-5), down by as many as 14 points, stormed back to stun St. Thomas, 74-67, to earn the program's first berth in the national championship game.
Seeded No. 3, Metro State stunned No. 1 West Liberty (W.Va.) 83-76 on Saturday in Louisville, Ky., to advance to the Division II championship game. The Roadrunners improved to 32-2 overall and it is the second year in a row MSU has eliminated the No. 1-ranked team at the NCAA tournament. Metro State is making its 17th post-season tourney appearance, winning championships titles in 2000 and 2002.
The Drury University Panthers (30-4) downed No. 3 Western Washington, 107-97, over the weekend to advance to the title game. Drury is in the NCAA-II post-season for the eighth time, and sixth time in nine years under coach Steve Hesser.
- Created on 03 April 2013
Hawks forward/center Zaza Pachulia had surgery today to repair his sore right Achilles at Mercy Hospital in Charlotte, N.C. The surgery was performed by surgeon Dr. Robert Anderson of OrthoCarolina with Hawks Team Physician Dr. Michael Bernot of Peachtree Orthopaedic Clinic attending.
Pachulia will now undergo a period of rest, treatment and rehabilitation. The expected recovery time is approximately six months and his status will be updated as appropriate throughout his recovery.
Pachulia, plagued by a sore right Achilles for two months, will undergo a surgical procedure and miss the remainder of the year.
“After thoroughly reviewing the possible options with Zaza, we all felt this was the best decision to ensure Zaza's complete recovery so that he can be at 100 percent going forward,” Hawks President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Danny Ferry said following Pachulia's injury. “Zaza is a professional with a strong work ethic. The Hawks will continue to be completely supportive as he tackles the return to play process.”
Pachulia had not played since a March 3 loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles, missing 15 games before deciding on surgery. He has visited multiple doctors seeking information about his injury. Hawks starting center, Al Horford, missed the team's previous game with an illness.
Pachulia averaged 5.9 points and 6.5 rebounds in 52 games this season for the Hawks. His absence will likely lead to more playing time for Johann Petro, who is third on the team's depth chart at center.