atINDIANAPOLIS — Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman rooted against Michigan in the 2013 NCAA Tournament national championship game, where the Wolverines lost to Louisville.
“It was more so a brotherly rivalry,” Abdur-Rahkman explained Saturday. “My brother’s a big Michigan fan, so I always rooted against the team that played Michigan.”
Abdur-Rahkman is on his brother’s good side now. On Sunday, the junior guard will be trying to help Michigan exact some revenge for that 82-76 loss when the teams meet up again, this time in a second-round game that sends the winner to the Sweet 16.
Tip-off at Bankers Life Fieldhouse between the No. 7-seed Wolverines and No. 2-seed Cardinals is scheduled for 12:10 p.m. ET.
No player on the Michigan roster was a part of that 2013 national runner-up team. Louisville center/forward Mangok Mathiang was taking a redshirt year that season. No other players who will be on the floor Sunday were a part of Louisville’s victory at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta four years ago. But while the bodies in the uniforms will be different, how the teams operate — particularly in their definitive style of play — remains a constant between the two games.
Michigan head coach John Beilein said he will show his team tape of the 2013 game, but not for any emotional reason.
“It won’t be inspirational,” Beilein said. “It will be ‘OK, here’s what their zone (defense) looks like, here’s how they guard us man, here’s how we were able to — or not able to — beat the press,’ so we make adjustments. It hurts to watch it.
“I saw — what would we call those — a couple of mistakes made by some of the people in the game and they weren’t on either team. But that’s OK, it’s a tough game to call.”
Memories are still vivid for current players, even if they weren’t participants in that title game.
“Everyone remembers Spike’s (Albrecht) first half — it was incredible — the block, I mean the foul they called on Trey (Burke), and Tim’s (Hardaway) dunk. There were so many highlights from that game, it’s nice to have another crack at Louisville,” said senior guard Zak Irvin, who was a senior in high school in nearby Fishers, Ind., watching that game.
Albrecht, who is now playing at Purdue, scored all 17 of his points in the first half of the title game, including making 4 3-pointers. Burke appeared to have cleanly blocked a dunk attempt by Louisville’s Peyton Siva with 5:09 left in regulation and Michigan trailing, but was instead called for a foul. Siva made both free throws to give Louisville a 69-64 lead and the Wolverines never got back within 4 points again.
“It’s basically a rematch of the championship game, just a little early,” Mathiang said. “It’s totally two different teams from the teams that played in the national championship. This team right here that we’ve got is tremendous offensively. Our national championship team, our defense was very tough to play against. That’s the same thing with Michigan. They shoot awesome. I haven’t seen anyone shoot the ball that well in college.
“It’s going to be one of those challenges where we both have to go through each other. It’s going to be fun.”
Despite Mathiang’s description, this Louisville team is ranked No. 7 nationally in defensive efficiency (a measure of points allowed per 100 possessions) by KenPom.com. The Cardinals are allowing 65.8 points per game, and 91.3 points per 100 possessions. Michigan is ranked No. 4 in offensive efficiency, scoring 122.6 points per 100 possessions.
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino compared the way Michigan has shot the ball this season, particularly from 3-point range against Oklahoma State in the first round, to the Golden State Warriors.
“I think Rick’s got a little bit of an exaggeration there,” said Beilein, whose club shot 16 of 29 on 3-point attempts — 11 of 15 in the second half — in the 92-91 win against the Cowboys. “We had a really good game, and we’ve done that a couple of times this year, but we’re going to be flexible. Make no mistake, we are not close to that team.”
Pitino might have spread the hyperbole thick but he’s concerned about Michigan’s ability to attack his team in different ways.
“This (Michigan) team is very difficult to go against,” Pitino said. “If you said to me right now out of all the teams in college basketball, who are the two most difficult teams to play against with 1-day prep, it would be Michigan and West Virginia because it’s the first time I’ve seen a team press nonstop on misses. So, they’re both very (difficult) — with 1-day prep.”
Michigan has won 11 of its last 13 games, and six in a row. During that six-game win streak, the Wolverines are shooting 53 percent from the field (174-of-328) and 41.4 percent from 3-point range (63-of-152).
“Louisville’s defense is something we haven’t seen,” Irvin said. “The way they disrupt offenses, the way they trap in their press to slow us down and get us out of a rhythm. The key will be getting into a rhythm early.”