Despite all the upsets throughout the NCAA Tournament, two deserving teams, the Michigan Wolverines and Villanova Wildcats, have ended up in Monday’s championship game. The Villanova Wildcats are -6 over the Michigan Wolverines on Monday.
Michigan enters Monday’s game winners of their last 14 games, including a Big Ten Tournament championship. There have been some close calls along the way, as the Wolverines needed a buzzer-beater to get past Houston in the Round of 32, won a tight Elite 8 game against Florida State, and overcame a 10-point deficit against Loyola (Chicago) in the national semi-final.
The Wildcats have their own 10-game winning streak, winning the Big East Tournament and advancing to the title game without much trouble. Villanova’s average margin of victory during the NCAA tournament is nearly 18 points per game. Of course, no performance was more impressive than the one they put on against Kansas on Saturday night. The Wildcats made 18 three-pointers
Michigan’s Star Comes Alive
Michigan’s biggest star Moritz Wagner has had a relatively quiet tournament, even going 0 for 7 from three-point range in the Elite 8. But he finally had a breakout performance in the Final Four against Loyola, going off for 24 points and 15 rebounds. That’s a big-time performance no matter the stage or opponent. More importantly, it signals that Wagner is ready for a big performance on Monday night.
However, Michigan’s fate may be tied to how well the Wolverines play defense. Michigan was one of the top defensive teams in the country this year, giving up less than 63 points per game. They’ve continued that during the tournament, giving up less than 59 points per game over their five tournament wins. But they’ve yet to face a team seeded higher than 6, and they’ve not faced a team with Villanova’s firepower.
Wildcats Raining Threes
If there were any doubts about Villanova’s offensive prowess, they were answered when the Wildcats made 18 perimeter shots against Kansas. Villanova has scored at least 81 points in four of their five tournament games. Even during an off-day against Texas Tech in the Elite 8, the Wildcats scored 71 points and won comfortably. With seven different players making a three against the Jayhawks on Saturday, the Wolverines better have multiple defenses ready to throw at Villanova.
Kansas had brief success on Saturday playing zone against the Wildcats. West Virginia also bothered them for a half with their full-court pressure. But no team has been able to find any tactic that works against Villanova over an extended period of time. Michigan coach John Beilein needs to have several contingencies in place to keep the Wildcats out of rhythm offensively, although that could be tough to do with just one day in between games.
Start of A New Dynasty?
Saturday night, the Wildcats looked like a well-oiled machine, and it’s tough to envision them not playing equally as well Monday night. Michigan is a worthy opponent, but Villanova has been the best team in the country for most of the season, and they’ll be the best team Monday night in San Antonio too. Bet on the Villanova Wildcats -6 over the Michigan Wolverines on Monday.