On Saturday, the clock finally struck midnight for Cinderella as the Michigan Wolverines defeated Loyola-Chicago, 69-57 to advance to tonight’s championship game. Meanwhile, the Villanova Wildcats crushed the Kansas Jayhawks, 95-79, in the second game to complete the matchup as the 2018 NCAA Tournament concludes with tonight’s championship game.
The Wolverines have improved as the season went along. They started the season off unranked and didn’t enter the AP basketball poll until Week 11. They have had a remarkable month of March. It started with four wins in four days to win the Big Ten Tournament. Since then, they’ve won five more games including a one-point win over Houston to advance to the Sweet 16. Since the beginning of February, Michigan has won 15 of 16 games, including 14 in a row.
Villanova, on the other hand, has been near the top of the AP basketball poll all season long. The Wildcats haven’t been lower than 6th all season long. Nova has won 10 in a row and 15 of 18 since the start of February, They won three games in three days to win the Big East Tournament over Providence by ten points. In the NCAA Tournament, they haven’t had a game which was closer than 12 points.
In general, it’s hard to think that this game isn’t Villanova’s for the taking. They’ve got six players averaging in double figures in points from Jalen Brunson, who’s averaging 19.0 ppg, to Eric Paschall, who is averaging 10.2 ppg. Mikal Bridges is second in scoring with 17.6 ppg and he is also second in rebounds with an average of 5.5 rpg behind Omari Spellman, who leads the team with 7.8 rpg. Spellman is also averaging 10.9 ppg. The other two Wildcats who are in double-digits in scoring are Donte DiVicenzo who is averaging 13.8 ppg and Phil Booth who is averaging 11.0 ppg.
On the other hand, Michigan has just three players averaging in double figures in points. Moritz Wagner leads the team with an average of 14.4 ppg while Charles Matthews is second with 13.0 ppg. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman is third with an average of 12.3 ppg. Wagner also leads the team in rebounds with an average of 7.2 rpg.
The key seems to be whether the game is high scoring or low scoring. A high scoring game favors the Wildcats while a lower scoring game would appear to favor the Wolverines.
This is your National Championship game open thread.