INDIANAPOLIS (WDRB) – The last time Michigan and Louisville played a basketball game the 2013 national championship was on the line.

When the Wolverines and Cardinals play Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, they'll be battling for a spot in the Sweet Sixteen

After starting slowly, Louisville handled Jacksonville State, 78-63, Friday afternoon in the Midwest Regional. The Cards got 18 points from Mangok Mathiang while Deng Adel and Quentin Snider each scored 16.

Michigan, the seven seed, outlasted Oklahoma State, 92-91, in the opening Midwest Regional game here.

I asked a coach whose team played Michigan this season for his thoughts on the Cardinals-Wolverines matchup:

"Michigan is playing at a high level right now. D.J. Wilson's emergence makes them a tough matchup and they have a veteran point guard in (Derrick) Walton who loves the big moment."

Can Michigan pull the upset?

"Only if they hit at least 10 three-point shots and Louisville is off offensively."

Three quick thoughts on a the Louisville-Michigan game (for the record, Jeff Sagarin's predictor numbers favor U of L by 4.42 points):

1. The Wolverines are hot, hot, hot.

How well has Michigan played?

Better than anybody in the Big Ten.

Two months ago, the Wolverines lost to Wisconsin. Their record slipped to 4-6 in the Big Ten, 12-7 overall. Michigan was ranked No. 49 nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s computer power formula. They were likely to miss the NCAA Tournament.

Bubble team? You can say that. Many people did.

John Beilein’s team had two home games to get everything right. They got right. They got rolling, popping Illinois (by 9) and Indiana (by 30).

Starting with those two games, Michigan won eight of its last 12 Big Ten regular–season games. They were only getting warmed up.

Michigan toppled four more teams in the Big Ten Tournament and then made 16 three-point shots, 11 in the second half, against the Cowboys.

Michigan is not a deep team. Four guys played at least 38 minutes in the win Friday. But Beilein’s guys have figured it out, winning six straight, improving from 12-7 to 25-11.

2. Derrick Walton Was the Big Ten’s Best Point Guard

Several Minnesota fans directed noise at me after I voted Walton on my Big Ten first team. There were grumbles from several other campuses, too. Heck, Michigan fans grumbled about Walton last season, wondering if Walton would be replaced by freshman Xavier Simpson. He struggled shooting the ball. 

Who’s grumbling now?

I’ll tell you who: Anybody who has been assigned to guard Walton.

He’s been as productive as any player in the country during the post-season, averaging nearly 22 points in Michigan’s five post-season games. During that stretch, Walton has made 18 of 41 three-point shots and 28 of 30 free throws. He burned the Cowboys with 26 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.

3. Three Common Opponents

The Cardinals and Wolverines share three opponents this season – Virginia Tech, Purdue and Indiana.

Louisville swept those three teams, beating Tech and Purdue at home and Indiana here at Bankers’ Life.

Michigan went 4-1 against that group. The Wolverines were beaten, 73-70, by the Hokies in Ann Arbor as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Michigan beat IU in Ann Arbor and Bloomington, then took down Purdue at home and in the Big Ten Tournament.

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