The Final Four 2018 has it all: The Big East Champion. The big 12 champion. The Big Ten Champion. Two seed # 1. Three of the top seven teams in the regular season finals. And possibly the biggest Cinderella story the NCAA tournament has ever seen. All that's left to do is make some predictions.
No. 3 Michigan against No. 3 11 Loyola-Chicago
Saturday, 6:09 PM ET, TBS
As I said in my matchup preview earlier this week, Michigan and Loyola are stylistically very similar. These are two teams that are efficient in the offensive area, but are really special at the defensive end of the level. Michigan can go explosive runs behind the arch like few teams in the country, but defense is the bread of this team. Loyola earns a ton of credit for his active offensive, which treats ball movement almost as a vice, giving the nation's fifth best effective field goal percentage, but it also finds its foundation in its defense. Both defenses force long stakes ̵
Loyola is more a member of the ensemble as a star driver, but if you're looking for a key player for the Ramblers, Clayton Custer is junior point-keeper. He leads the team in minutes (32.7) and points (13.2) per game, but it goes beyond this surface statistic. The Ramblers are just another team when they get off the ground, especially at the offensive, where they often stagnate without their point guard. Custer is not only the defensive hand for the attack, but also the man the Ramblers want with the ball when the firing clock runs within 10 seconds. When Loyola's dream run continues, it's almost certain that Custer has a great game.
Despite the similarities, Michigan has some big advantages in this game. The first is Mo Wagner. Loyola simply has no NBA players. Wagner is sure to find himself in an NBA court in the near future, maybe next season. He will be a matchup nightmare for the Ramblers, even with their excellent defense. He is too fast and versatile on the edge for Cameron Krutwig and too big with too soft touch around the tire for Donte Ingram or Aundre Jackson. The Ramblers will probably have to be with Wagner on Saturday.
Another is the sales fight. This game will probably be played in the 60's, with as little ownership as you will realistically see in a modern college game. The less possessions there are, the more valuable everyone is. Michigan does a great job protecting the ball, with the country's third-lowest turnover. Despite his offensive efficiency, Loyola can sometimes get sloppy, as in the first half of his Sweet 16 win over Nevada. Loyola is ranked 219, and we know what Michigan can do if there are numbers going the other way, with players like Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur Rahkman filling their wings. (If you do not, Queue video from the Wolverines & # 16; Sweet 16 win Texas A & M.)
With all due respect for Porter Moser-who has done an incredible job building this Final Four team from scratch- Michigan's last big advantage is John Beilein. It is not so much the discrepancy between the coaches as the fact that Beilein is undoubtedly the best coach in the country and one of the few in the discussion. Give him one week to prepare for an opponent, especially one so similar to his own team, and that opponent usually has a long night.
This game can not hit a combined 130 points, but it will not be a rock fight. The offensive efficiency of both teams will prevent this. The Ramblers have won their trip to the Final Four and after all they have achieved, it will not be a shock if they win the national championship. Yet, for some reason, they have the biggest odds, and much of it is the team they will meet in the semi-finals. Whatever happens, Loyola is the story of the 2018 NCAA tournament. The fairytale will come to an end on Saturday.
INTRODUCTION: Michigan 68, Loyola 60
No. 1 Villanova Vs. # 1 Kansas
Saturday, 8:49 pm ET, TBS If games played in the 60s are not your thing, the Final Four nightcap is yours palate cleanser. Villanova and Kansas are two of the country's best offensive teams, no matter how you want to measure it. Kenpom.com has adapted Attack Efficiency? Villanova is the first, Kansas is the fifth. Effective Field Target Percentage? Villanova is the second, Kansas is the sixth. Points per game? Villanova is the first and Kansas is among the power conference teams 14th field goal percent? Villanova is fifth, Kansas is ninth. In other words, these two teams can and will put the ball in the basket. A lot
That may sound too easy, and it's certainly easier said than done, but Villanova needs to find a way to pull Kansas' off shooters off the three-point line. Devonte & # 39; Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk and Malik Newman shoot at least 40.3% from a distance, and that's not thanks to the small sample size. The three have each tried 263, 255 and 200 shots behind the bow. When two of them start, Kansas is hard to beat. If all three make it, it's almost impossible to steal the Jayhawks.
Kansas is a very different – and not nearly as dangerous – team unless Graham, Mykhauilik and Newman fire from a distance. Neither Graham nor Mykhailiuk are terribly threatening players when they put the ball on the deck. Newman can make things happen in the paint, and Lagerald Vick is probably the team's best player in attacking the tire, but Villanova will be living with Newman and Vick drives, if that's the compromise, Jayhawk's three-point ability to calm down. Udoka Azubuike can get a light bucket, beating his nationwide leading 77.2% field goal percentage on two points, but the day Kansas carries out his offensive through his college center is probably the day it packs becomes.
This is Villanova's biggest asset. The wildcats may not be as dangerous as the three-point land jayhawks, but they can get it going and finish 15th in the country with a pass rate of 40% behind the bow. Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Omari Spellman were at least 41.4% away from their three-point attempts, while Donte DiVincenzo and Phil Booth were both just under 40%. The difference is that Villanova does not have to live like the Kansas after the three. The two best players from Brunson and Bridges-Villanova, and the two who handle the ball the most, can manage both themselves and their teammates within the arc. Brunson's two-point field goal percentage is 60.4% while Bridges 58,8 is 58.8%. Meanwhile DiVincenzo is more comfortable in attacking the rim, making 57.1% of his two-point attempts, while giving away 3.5 assists per game as an off-ball guard. Villanova's attack is more diverse than that of Kansas, and that could be the difference. At least that's reason enough for the Wildcats to be the right favorite in this matchup.
That too should be a great game. I do not think we'll be stuck with one of the last four gaffes this year. We should be so happy to get a final four match with two teams like this one. Villanova and Kansas both have a wealth of individual talents but somehow found a way to make it bigger than the sum of their impressive parts. Whoever wins will be the favorite in the National Championship game, no matter who is in the lead in Michigan-Loyola. After all, Villanova's A game is the best in the country. That will show on Saturday evening.
Prediction: Villanova 87, Kansas 84