The 2018 NCAA Tournament will wrap up on Monday night with Michigan and Villanova set to play in the National Championship in San Antonio.
After three weeks of March Madness, the NCAA Tournament is inching closer to crowning a champion. On Saturday night, in San Antonio, the National Championship matchup was finalized. Michigan and Villanova will face each other Monday night at the Alamodome (9:20 p.m ET, TBS) as each team will look for their one shining moment.
For Michigan, they will look to win their first National Championship since 1989. On the other side, Villanova will try to win its second title in the last three years and their third in school history.
Both of these teams won their games in different ways, which sets up for an interesting championship game. Michigan used their athleticism and the play of Moritz Wagner to stop Loyola-Chicago’s magical run, 69-57. Then, in the second game, Villanova hit a Final Four record 18 three-pointers and Kansas just not could keep up as they lost 95-79.
In the first game, it was a defensive battle for both teams, but Michigan had the one difference maker that set them apart and that was Wagner. The junior forward had 24 points, which was the most he’s had since the 27 he had against Michigan State on January 13, but that wasn’t where he made the biggest difference in the win.
Wagner’s impact down low was huge against a Loyola-Chicago squad that did not have much size outside of Cameron Krutwig. He had 15 rebounds, six of them at the offensive end. Those six offensive boards matched the entire total of the Ramblers squad and it helped contribute to 19 bench points for the Wolverines.
The key for Michigan is to find scoring outside of Wagner. Charles Matthews will be a key factor in determining whether the Wolverines cut down the nets. Matthews had 17 points (7-for-12 shooting) and he has scored 17 or more points in four of his last five games.
As for Loyola-Chicago, their Cinderella run was the best story of the tournament. However, in the second half, they struggled to take care of the ball (11 of their 17 turnovers) and their lack of perimeter shooting (1-for-10 from downtown) helped Michigan’s defense get the steals they needed.
Another key for Michigan in this game was their bench scoring. In total, their bench outscored Loyola’s, 21-11. Nine of those 21 points came from Duncan Robinson, who can be a big X-Factor in the championship game on Monday if he can keep up with Villanova from beyond the arc.
Speaking of Villanova, their three-point shooting is absolutely fun to watch when everything is going in. It felt like a game of NBA 2K18 in the first half for the Wildcats. They were 17-for-33 from the floor as a team, but most of their shots were trifectas (13-for-26). Their 13 three-pointers in the first half ended up tying an NCAA Final Four record for a single game.
The high volume of three-pointers is impressive in itself, but Villanova has a balance where everyone is a contributor. All five starters hit two or more trifectas in the first half and they had 11 assists as they took a 43-28 lead over Kansas heading into the locker room and they did not look back.
The story for Villanova will be all the trifectas, but their frontcourt is emerging at the right time. Eric Paschall had 24 points and made ten of the 11 shots he took (4-for-5 from downtown). It is the most points he’s had since November 11, 2014 (31) when he was a freshman at Fordham.
In addition to Paschall, Omari Spellman made his presence known down low with 12 of Villanova’s 26 rebounds and he had three blocked shots. The freshman also added three trifectas from beyond the arc (15 points) to his strong defensive performance.
If Paschall and Spellman can keep up that production on Monday along with the strong backcourt duo of Jalen Brunson (18 points, six assists) and Mikal Bridges, it is hard to not envision Villanova cutting down the nets again if the threes are falling. But, that’s why they play the game.
Let us know who you think will be crowned the National Champion on Monday night. Michigan or Villanova?