As March Madness draws closer, the excitement over who might be able to emerge from San Antonio as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion grows. The ability of one of the Final Four teams to cut down the nets will almost certainly come down to which stars can play the best. Who will have the biggest impact this weekend?
Clayton Custer- Custer is not only Loyola’s leading scorer, but also is tops on the team in assists and steals. He plays the most minutes and is clearly the centerpiece for the Ramblers when they have the ball.
Cameron Krutwig- Krutwig is the Ramblers’ muscle in the post and averages 10 and 6 in only 23 minutes a game. The real challenge will be if he can defend the Michigan big men on the perimeter, but he may be able to foul Wagner out with his post moves. It will be interesting to see the chess match while both teams are on offense.
Marques Townes- Townes has been the Robin to the Loyola Batmen quite a few times this tournament. He was second on the team in points against Kansas State, and his slashing style opens up the three-point line for his teammates.
Moritz Wagner- The Michigan big man is a stretch 5, and he leads the Wolverines in points and rebounds. He is the centerpiece of the Michigan offense and the outcome of the game may be decided by whether or not Wagner gets into foul trouble.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman- Abdur-Rahkman is the veteran, stabilizing force as the point guard. He takes care of the ball and he rarely comes off the floor playing 35 minutes a game. The senior is the prototypical ‘coach on the floor’ and Michigan needs him to facilitate the offense against a tough Loyola defense.
Charles Matthews- Matthews is one of the best athletes on the team and has blocked more shots this year than Wagner despite being 5 inches shorter. Matthews’ most important role will be shooting the three as the ball is rotated. During the regular season he was under 33% from downtown, but was huge in the game against A&M and led the team in scoring against Montana.
Devonte’ Graham- The Wooden Award Finalist is a senior, the leading scorer, has the most assists, steals, and the highest free throw percentage of any of the rotation players. It is hard to envision a scenario in which Graham has a bad game and Kansas is able to knock off Villanova. Kansas needs Graham to play like one of the best players in the nation.
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk- Mykhailiuk took over half of his shots from behind the arc, and Kansas will need him to stay hot from three. Kansas uses him to spread the floor and beat the zone from outside. If he gets hot, he can be an equalizer against anyone.
Udoka Azubuike- The Kansas big man is the best post presence on the Jayhawk roster and can impact games in all three phases of the game. He will have to extend his defense in man-to-man, which could be problematic for Kansas. Azubuike’s defensive prowess is typically a plus, but he could be a liability against Villanova.
Jalen Brunson- Much like Graham on Kansas, Brunson is a Wooden Award Finalist and the do-everything point guard that leads the team is scoring and assists. Brunson has the ball in his hands at the most crucial juncture in the game, and his fingerprints will be all over Saturday’s contest.
Omari Spellman- Spellman is a stretch four who shoots threes and leads the team in rebounding. Spellman creates matchup problems for just about every team that he faces, and Saturday’s game will be no different.
Mikal Bridges- Bridges is a major contributor to the Villanova team as the top three-point scorer, second in points, and second in rebounds. Bridges can create his own shot when he needs to, and Villanova needs his production if they are going to win on Saturday.
The stars are sure to shine in the Final Four, and whichever team’s best players show up when it matters most is likely to win the National Championship on Monday night. We will have a free pick for one of the games on Saturday here!