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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

From underdogs to juggernauts, this year’s Final Four has something for everyone

A frenetic, unpredictable NCAA tournament has yielded a Final Four that seems to have something for every taste.

Louisville and Wichita State will meet in one national semifinal, a matchup pitting the pre-tournament favorite against a underdog whose roster of ex-walk-ons and overlooked recruits stormed through the West Region the past two weeks. The other semifinal will pit Syracuse and Michigan, two No. 4 seeds who spent much of the season in the top 10 but had to rebound from late-season fades to reach the Final Four.

That the Final Four only features one team seeded better than No. 4 is no surprise considering the topsy-turvy nature of this year's college basketball regular season. Not only did no team emerge as a dominant powerhouse in the mold of last year's Kentucky team or 2009 North Carolina, the nation's top teams traded the No. 1 ranking week-by-week as though it was a hot potato.

[Related: Injured Kevin Ware inspires Louisville in Final Four bid]

Of the remaining teams in the field, however, Louisville has earned the title of favorite. The Cardinals have torn through their four NCAA tournament opponents by an average of nearly 22 points per game and have won 17 of 18 games overall, the only loss coming in five overtimes against Notre Dame back in mid-February.

Don't expect Wichita State to be intimidated though. The Shockers have already become only the fifth team seeded ninth or higher to make a Final Four, parlaying strong defense, fierce rebounding and unusually torrid outside shooting into victories over the likes of Pittsburgh, Gonzaga and Ohio State.

The other semifinal will feature a strength-versus-strength showdown between Syracuse's stingy two-three zone defense and Michigan's dynamic offense.

Syracuse, which has been erratic offensively all season, has made up for that in the NCAA tournament by befuddling opponents with its zone, holding powerful Indiana to just 50 points and Marquette to a mere 39. Michigan, which had lost five of 10 entering the NCAA tournament, has regained its mojo, coming back from 14 down to beat top-seeded Kansas on Friday and then throttling third-seeded Florida two nights later.

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