Your guide to the Final Four

NCAA Final Four
AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Saturday will be a fun day to be in downtown Atlanta, and it’s just the beginning of a great weekend of basketball.

There’s a lot of hoopla surrounding three big games that will ultimately decide college basketball’s national champion, but when the interviews are done and it’s finally time to play, the games are all that matter.

So here’s what you should watch for in both of Saturday’s games.

(Also read: Braves off to a wonderful start)

Wichita State (9) vs. Louisville (1), 6:09 p.m.

The tournament’s darlings from Wichita face off against the field’s top-seeded squad in Louisville. If you’re a fan of the underdog, you’re inclined to pull for the Shockers.

I have Louisville winning it all in my bracket, so I’ll root for the clear favorite, though.

The Cardinals are going to win this game easily, I believe. I’ve seen enough of both of these teams this season to be confident in that pick, too. So far in this tournament, Louisville has scorched the earth, winning all but one of their four games by at least 22 points. Their latest win, an 85-63 beatdown of a really good Duke team was the message sent to the remaining field that the Cards are going to be really tough to beat.

Then, there’s the Shockers, whose wheels fell off in the final seven minutes of their quarterfinal game against Ohio State. Against all odds, they made a few clutch baskets to advance to the Final Four, but that performance on a big stage gave me no confidence in Wichita State. They looked scared. Shaken. And if that was their demeanor against Ohio State, how do you think they’ll look against Louisville?

I’m rolling with the Cardinals, and I think they’ll win by double-digits. Again.

Syracuse (4) vs. Michigan (4), 8:49 p.m.

The outcome of this game is much tougher to project because both teams are extremely good at what they do. For Michigan, it’s offense — led by National Player of the Year Trey Burke, the Wolverines score by the dozens. Ask the Florida Gators.

The Syracuse Orange, on the other hand, win with suffocating defense that has baffled opponents so far in this tournament. Stifling offenses like Indiana and Marquette, only one of their four tourney opponents have scored more than 50 points.

It’s weird to say nobody has been able to crack Syracuse’s defensive zone because head coach Jim Boeheim has been running it for decades, but it has been a recipe for success.

What makes this pick even tougher is Michigan’s ability to make clutch baskets in the final seconds of a game. They have no shortage of guys who can make a big shot, and the way they stormed back to knock off top-seeded Kansas in overtime in the third round is a reason why you can never count out the Wolverines. Both teams have tremendous strengths, raising the possibility that this will be a really entertaining game.

In the end, however, I believe the old adage that “good defense beats good offense” will ring true, and if I had to make a prediction, I’d have to say it will be the Syracuse Orange advancing because of their puzzling defensive scheme. It won’t be easy, and I see no way they win by double-digits, but Syracuse should be joining Louisville in the title game when we’re done with 80 minutes of basketball on Saturday night.

If you’re going to be downtown the next two days, here is a schedule of free concerts going on at Centennial Park … and I’ll just say this — it’s strong:

Centennial Park Concert Series

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