The Season Finale: Michigan a heavy underdog in National Championship

By Landon Dillion ,

Basketball

Michigan basketball MAAR

College basketball season will come to a close in San Antonio on Monday night. Michigan and Villanova are the two teams left standing.

‘Nova has tournament wins Radford (16), Alabama (9), West Virginia (5), Texas Tech (3) and Kansas (1). Its smallest margin of victory was 12 points, in an Elite Eight game over Tech. It’s been a dominant run for the ‘Cats, capped off by obliterating fellow 1-seed Kansas in the Final Four on Saturday.

Michigan has wins over Montana (16), Houston (6), Texas A&M (7), Florida State (9) and Loyola-Chicago (11). They’ve had some close calls, including Jordan Poole’s game-winning shot as time expired to take down Houston. Despite the close calls, the Wolverines are undoubtedly the hottest team in the nation with 14 straight victories.

Here’s the preview.

Villanova, the offensive juggernaut

The Wildcats have displayed why they’re a 1-seed, and why many people thought they were the best team in the tournament. They have maintained the No. 1 spot in offensive adjusted efficiency and in effective field goal percentage(KenPom).

And they don’t turn the ball over. They’re 13th in the country in turnover percentage, averaging around 11 turnovers per game.

The Final Four game against Kansas gave fans an idea of what this Villanova team is capable of. In that game, the wildcats shot 45-percent from 3, with seven different players making a shot from deep. Kansas has an above-average defense, and they gave up 95 points in that game. It was a balanced attack for Villanova, with 6 players reaching double-digit scoring numbers.

Get Villanova off the 3-point line

3-point shooting is what Villanova does best. They shoot a scary good 40.1-percent from beyond the arc at a huge volume, with 40-percent of their points coming from three.

The toughest part of keeping them from shooting threes is that they can all shoot, 1 through 5. The wildcats have 5 different players on the team that shoot 39-percent or higher, and even more players that are capable of knocking down shots.

In the few games that they lost, opposing teams limited their offensive abilities on the perimeter:

  • @ Butler: 34 percent, Villanova gave up a whopping 101 points in this loss.
  • vs St John’s: 24 percent, Wildcat guard Jalen Brunson scored 28 points in this game, but only shot 2 of 11 from deep.
  • @ Providence: 15 percent, The Wildcats were 3 of 20 from the 3-point line, had 19 turnovers, and still only lost by 5 points.
  • @ Creighton: 31 percent, similar to the Butler game, ‘Nova just gave up too many points (89) to not shoot extremely well.

Michigan’s guide to slaying Goliath

Michigan’s offense has been hit or miss this tournament.

They looked incredible against A&M, but they looked terrible against Montana.

The ball might not be falling on jump shots. Get to the rim. Charles Matthews has been great for the Wolverines. He is more aggressive than he has been all season, and it’s paying off.

Moe Wagner needs to see the ball in the post. Villanova plays with guys that may be able to chase him around the perimeter, but Wagner garners a ton of attention on the block and can get open shots for others.

Zavier Simpson has to lock up Jalen Brunson. Simple. Brunson is a favorite for Player of the Year, and it’s because he has been dominating college basketball this year. Lock him up, pester him, don’t let him breathe.

Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman just has to be his usual self. Put the ball on the floor and get to the cup. Michigan doesn’t need him to have a herculean effort like he did against Maryland, but he needs to be consistent and cool – which shouldn’t be hard for him.

Isaiah Livers and Duncan Robinson need to step up defensively. Both have been good, but Nova’s forwards are extremely talented and have a ton of ways they can score the basketball. Offensively, knock down jumpers.

The bench needs to bring an energy when they get on the floor. Play with emotion, play with energy, play loose. Know your role. Jordan Poole thrives in these moments.

Anyone can win the big game

The previous games can be looked at as indicators of what may happen, but this is a winner-take-all one game series.

‘Nova is loaded, but Michigan doesn’t need to be better than them any other night besides Monday night.

Anyone can win the big game.

Tip is at 9:20 pm ET on Tbs.

Staff predictions:

  • Brandon Justice: 81-74 Villanova
  • Landon Dillion: 79-78 Michigan
  • Tanner Wooten: 77-72 Michigan
  • LGHail: 74-70 Villanova
  • Ant Wright: 82-71 Villanova

See you Monday night.

 

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Basketball Reporter at The Wolverine Lounge | | + posts

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