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March Madness: Final Four Tickets Punched

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NetScouts Basketball is covering the 2013 NCAA Basketball Tournament from all the regional sites.

Michigan knocked Florida out in the first round, scoring the first 13 points of the game, pulling out to a 23-5 lead and coasting to a 79-59 win. Nik Stauskas came into the game on a shooting slump, hitting on only two of his last twelve three-point attempts. The slump ended as Stauskas hit his first six three-pointers on his way to a game high 22 points, 19 of them in the first half. The Wolverines hit 10-of-19 three-pointers in the game, which bodes well in combating the Syracuse 2-3 zone in the Final Four. NetScouts Basketball's National Player of the Year, Trey Burke ran the show efficiently although he was suffering from the effects of a virus. Burke didn't shoot well (5-of-16) but came up with eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals against only one turnover. His game was similar to Michael Carter-Williams' line yesterday for Syracuse.

Michigan is a different team with Mitch McGary starting and contributing. The 6'10 freshmen came one rebound shy of his third straight tournament double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds while adding five steals. Florida had problems shooting throughout the contest, going 2-of-10 on three-pointers while Erik Murphy shot 0-of-11. The Gators made a run to get within 11 early in the second half but Michigan pulled away soon after. If Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. can find his stroke he Wolverines seem to have the perimeter skills to handle the Syracuse zone defense. They certainly have the point guard.

Louisville went on a 24-6 run over Duke in the second half to turn a tie game into a relatively easy 85-63 Cardinals win. The Blue Devils didn't have the speed on the perimeter to keep up with Louisville guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. Siva had his best game off the tournament, pushing it into another gear after a horrific injury to guard Kevin Ware. Ware broke his leg as he landed awkwardly on defense and was taken by stretcher to the hospital. His leg was broken in two places .and it will be a year before he can return to action.

Gorgui Dieng was able to hit elbow jumpers consistently as he scored 14 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked three shots. The Cardinals won handily despite shooting only 2-of-13 on three-pointers. Russ Smith was 0-of-4 from downtown but still led Louisville with 23 points. Siva scored 16, dished four assists and did not commit a turnover. The Cardinals out-rebounded Duke 42-33 and shot 27-of-48 (56%) on two-pointers as they consistently penetrated and either scored, drew fouls or dished for open mid-range jumpers. Louisville did a great job containing Seth Curry, denying him the ball and employing tough on-ball defense. Curry came on some in the second half and finished with 12 points. Mason Plumlee led Duke with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Louisville advances as the only remaining #1-seed as they will face Wichita State in the Final Four. The Cardinals have to be considered the favorites for the title.

Marquette became the latest team that couldn't navigate Syracuse's 2-3 zone as the Orange cruised to a 55-39 win and became the first team headed to the Final Four in Atlanta. Of all the teams in the tournament Marquette had the highest disparity between their two-point and three-point shooting percentage. Syracuse's chances of winning the contest improved considerably if they could limit the Golden Eagles penetration and force them into three-pointers. That's what happened as Marquette hoisted 24 three-point attempts, connecting on only three. That was the game. Marquette shot a terrible 22.6% from the field, many misses due to the Syracuse defense and many just missed shots.

Syracuse wasn't terribly efficient on offense themselves, shooting 38% and making 5-of-17 three-pointers. But they put the ball in the basket enough to advance. James Southerland connected on three from long distance in scoring a game high 16 points. Michael Carter-Williams was effective on both ends of the court finishing the game with a solid line of 14 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals against only one turnover. Davante Gardner gave Marquette their only consistent offense, hitting mid-range shots consistently and shooting 6-of-9 for 14 points. Gardner also grabbed eight rebounds. Vander Blue also scored 14 but did so on 3-of-15 shooting. Outside of Gardner, Marquette shot 6-of-42 (14.3%). Yeah, the Syracuse defense is good but shooting that poorly can't be attributed only to defensive pressure. As we said earlier in the week, where are the shooting coaches??

Goodbye Columbus. Wichita State became the latest mid-major to reach the Final Four as the Shockers held off a furious late Ohio State rally to top the Buckeyes 70-66. Wichita State took a 13-point halftime lead with tough defense, holding Ohio State to less than 25% shooting (9-of-33). The Shockers, with strong play by point guard Malcolm Armstead, pulled out to a 56-36 lead with 11 minutes remaining. Then the Buckeyes started getting aggressive, generating fouls on penetration while Deshaun Thomas and LaQuinton Ross stepped up their offensive games.

The lead was down to 62-59 when Wichita State's Tekele Cotton hit a three-pointer with 2:22 left. Up by four, Cotton made another key play when he pulled down an offensive rebound and fed Fred Van Vleet for a jumper and a six point lead. Armstead led Wichita State in scoring with 14, although he shot 6-of-21. The Shockers lost both their key big men for a time as Carl Hall took an inadvertent elbow from Thomas and Cleanthony Early sprained an ankle. Both were able to return after several minutes on the bench. For the game Ohio State shot only 31.1% from the field including a poor 20% (5-of-25) on three-pointers. Thomas was the games leading scorer with 23 points while Ross added 19. It's Wichita State's first trip to the Final Four since 1965.

Carl Berman is a Managing Partner of NetScouts Basketball and can be followed on twitter here.

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