With the NCAA Tournament reaching the Final Four this weekend, we give our predictions to which teams will be playing in Monday night’s title game.
In what has been an eventful NCAA Tournament so far, we have finally reached the Final Four. On Saturday night, in San Antonio, there are two great matchups that will determine which teams will get a chance to play for a National Championship on Monday night (9:20 p.m ET, TBS).
The fun begins at 6:09 p.m ET (TBS) when the Cinderella story, the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, takes on the Michigan Wolverines. These two teams each come into this game having winning streaks of at least 13 games, so something is going to have to give in the Alamodome.
During this NCAA Tournament, the word that I have used to describe Loyola-Chicago best is balance. They don’t have the star player that will carry you on a given night, but Porter Moser’s club has had a different player become a hero every game.
When the Ramblers have the ball, they do a great job of getting the ball to the basket with their four guards and kicking it out to an open three-point shooter. In the first four games, they are 18-for-30 from beyond the arc. This includes the six threes made by Ben Richardson in the Elite Eight against Kansas State.
On the other side, Michigan has been excellent this tournament with their defense, giving up just 59 points per game. Sophomore guard Zavier Simpson has been key to that success, with 11 steals in the last three games, including six against Texas A&M in the Sweet 16.
Of course, when you face Michigan, the player to key in on is forward Moritz Wagner. Wagner did have 21 points in the Sweet 16, but he has just 29 combined points in the other three games. He can tend to get off to slow starts because of foul trouble, but his ability to shoot from the perimeter and dominate inside could cause problems for Loyola-Chicago.
While the Ramblers have been a fun story to follow, Michigan gets the edge from me in this game because Loyola-Chicago does not much have size down low. This could allow Wagner to be a big factor in this game since he will go up against a freshman in Cameron Krutwig. It’s been a great run for Loyola, but Michigan will go to its second title game under John Beilein.
The second semifinal (8:49 p.m. ET) is the marquee matchup of two number one seeds as Villanova goes up against Kansas. This is the second time that these two teams will be facing each other in March in the last three years. ‘Nova did beat Kansas back in 2015 in the Elite Eight.
As you watch this game, the battle of the point guards between Jalen Brunson for ‘Nova and Devonte Graham for Kansas is going to be fun to watch because not only can these two players take over games with their scoring, but they also do a great job of making the players around them better.
For Kansas, the star of the tournament has been Malik Newman. Newman had 32 points in the Elite Eight against Duke, including the final 13 points of the game. He has been nearly automatic from the free throw line (20-for-22) and he is 13-for-27 from beyond the arc.
If you look at strictly the position battle for Newman, he will have to go up against Mikal Bridges, who is one of the best defenders on the Wildcats and he can get hot at the right time. If it’s not Bridges, then it’s usually Donte DiVincenzo off the bench, who can create instant offense with his perimeter shooting.
The guards might be the storyline, but the frontcourt could be an X-Factor in this game for both of these teams. For Kansas, Udoka Azubuike has been a factor inside now that he’s healthy. The sophomore has 26 rebounds in three games and he has been efficient with his scoring around the basket (15-for-20).
Meanwhile, for Villanova, freshman Omari Spellman has been having his national coming out party since the regionals. His 18 points and four three-pointers against West Virginia helped ‘Nova come back in the second half. Plus, he has six or more rebounds in each of his last six games.
This is a tough matchup to predict because Kansas has probably been the top seed that has flown under the radar in this NCAA Tournament. However, Villanova’s consistency and some big plays from Brunson down the stretch help get the Wildcats to their second title game in the last three years.