Much was made of the fact that the Big Ten tournament was played a week earlier than normal so that it could be played in the Madison Square Garden. A week later, the Big East took center stage at MSG and both conference champions have advanced to the Final Four. Some pundits suggest that winning a conference championship is disadvantageous because that forces a team to play more games, but all four of the remaining teams won their respective conference championships.
The Final Four is finally upon us as the University of Michigan will face Loyola University Chicago and Kansas University takes on the Villanova Wildcats to see who will advance to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. What can we expect from San Antonio this weekend?
Michigan vs Loyola University Chicago
Last season prior to the Big Ten tournament, the University of Michigan’s plane nearly crashed and since that time the Wolverines have gone 15-1 in postseason play collecting two Big Ten championships and a Final Four appearance along the way. In this year’s NCAA tournament, UM has played to the level of their competition by winning an ugly game against Montana, yet also running the most talented team they played in Texas A&M right out of the gym.
The Ramblers from Loyola are the typical March Madness Cinderella and will be a team that will go into NCAA lore because of Sister Jean, being an 11 seed, and winning a bracket that featured UVA, Kentucky, and Arizona en route to the Final Four.
The two teams are very similar stylistically and statistically. Both teams play a slow, yet efficient offense, and are lockdown defenders. Loyola is the highest ranked defense in terms of efficiency remaining in the tournament.
Prediction: Michigan is basically a faster, bigger, and more athletic version of Loyola. The coaches will counterbalance one another and Michigan handled an even better Texas Tech defense last round. Look for Michigan to survive and advance to the championship game.
Villanova vs. Kansas
Villanova has been rated as, and played like, the number one overall team in the tournament. They have won every game by a fairly wide margin, and have done so employing different styles each round. Villanova can grind out a win or run up and down the floor if need be.
Kansas won what was the best game of the tournament by knocking off the Duke Blue Devils to reach the Final Four. They have a potent inside-outside game and are equipped with senior guards who lead the way.
Prediction: Kansas won in what was essentially a home game to reach San Antonio, and they will not be afforded that advantage this round. Kansas’ star big man Azubuike will be a huge liability on the defense end if Kansas tries to play man, and Villanova will destroy a zone. Villanova is the pick to play for it all.
Predicted Championship: Michigan vs. Villanova
If this the matchup, most people would not be surprised based upon the head coaches alone. Both Jay Wright and John Beilein rank near the top of the coaching ranks, even if they are not yet household names.
Both Michigan and Villanova have big men who can stretch the floor and knock down shots from the outside. Similarly, both teams have veteran guards who have played in high pressure situations in March.
Prediction: Villanova is just better than Michigan at making shots. It may seem overly simplistic, but both teams can generate opportunities from disciplined sets and taking care of the ball. In the end, Villanova is just better at scoring than Michigan is, which will be the deciding factor in allowing Villanova to win the National Championship.
The Final Four is finally here and expect to see Michigan and Villanova squaring off on Super Monday with Villanova cutting down the nets as this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion.