This year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship sees the Villanova Wildcats take on the Michigan Wolverines. Both teams had impressive wins in the Final Four round, though Nova showcased an offensive onslaught that puts them as the favorites to win their second national title in 3 years. Is there a chance for Michigan to pull off the upset?
Michigan ended Loyola’s storybook postseason in dominant fashion. The Wolverines looked a bit shaky heading into halftime. They were down 29-22 and the Ramblers appeared to be in control. However, some key adjustments were made in halftime by veteran coach John Beilein that helped his team outscore the Ramblers 47-28 in the second half to win by double digits. One of the stars of the Loyola game will be pivotal for the Wolverine’s chances in the championship—Moritz Wagner.
Wagner finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds in the Final Four. If it weren’t for him, they might not have escaped Loyola. He helped his team stay in the running during the first half and dug them out of a 9-point deficit towards the end of the game. Wagner has been strong for most of the tournament, though he had a quiet game against Florida State. He faces tough opposition in Villanova, especially after seeing how they shut down Kansas’ forwards Udoka Azubuike and Sviatsolav Mykhailiuk.
Michigan plays best when their permiter shooting works. In the Final Four game, they were 3-21 in the first 28 minutes of play. Even clutch shooters like Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman were off, missing all 5 of his 3-point attempts. If you’re shooting is that off against a team like Villanova, you may find yourself in too deep of a hole to climb out of. The Wolverines can’t afford to have a slow start out of the gate. Nova led Kansas by double-digits for 35 minutes straight to seal their spot in the national championship. On paper, Kansas is better than Michigan, so a similar situation will not bode well for the Wolverines.
Villanova is not unbeatable. The keys to defeating them are eliminating their 3-point opportunities and not giving up cheap fouls. Michigan is a stout defensive team and if coordinated properly, may be able to slow Nova’s offensive rhythm. The Wolverines’ main focus will be Jalen Brunson, the star Wildcat averaging 17.6 points a game in the postseason. On top of keeping an eye on him, they’ll need to cover Omari Spellman, Phil Booth, Mikal Bridges, Eric Paschall and Donte DiVincenzo. It is a tough defensive task to simultaneously take away 3-point shots and not foul when opponents drive to the rim, but Michigan has to hit both marks if they want to walk away with a title.
All of the trusted USA sportsbook sites list Nova as the clear favorite, and while this tournament has had many upsets, we’re looking at a miracle for Michigan to win. If Villanova shoots like they did against Kansas, take the over line on total points scored. Basketball betting analysts don’t see Michigan pulling it off and it is easy to see why with squad they are facing. However, Michigan isn’t going down without a fight.