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2018 NCAA Tournament championship – A tale of two teams

Tonight is the culmination of March Madness;  The final game of a great 2018 NCAA Tournament.  The championship game is finally here, and it’s going to be a great matchup.  The game between the Michigan Wolverines and Villanova Wildcats will be a classic, and unlike past years this truly will be an even match as the two teams are ON FIRE.

The Wildcats come into the championship game on a roll, steamrolling Kansas in the semifinal 95-79.  Even the score is misleading as Nova got off to a 22-4 start.  They haven’t had much trouble with their competition, even though they’ve played some quality teams.  On the other hand, the Michigan Wolverines come into this game as the enemy after crushing the hopes of Sister Jean and the Cinderella Loyola-Chicago Ramblers.  Michigan has played great defense all season, but just recently they’ve caught fire from the offensive side.  Mo Wagner (I’ll talk about him soon) is a one man wrecking crew and will give Villanova fits.

Keys to a Villanova win

Shut down Mo Wagner early

In order for Villanova to win this game they’ll need to stop this kid often.  Whether it be double-teaming him or playing hard, aggressive defense, Wagner is going to be a tough test for any defense as he’s a freakishly athletic 6’11 forward.  He can shoot, pass, and can block shots with the best of them.  If Wagner gets going early, it’s going to be hard to slow him down later in the game.

Keep up the three-point shooting

It’s going to sound ridiculous because the key to any game in current basketball is hitting your three pointers.  However Villanova, like the Golden State Warriors, live and die by the three.  Dante DiVincenzo has been lights out in the tournament and will be the main guy dropping buckets from behind the arc.  Nova shot 16.7% from three against Texas Tech but hit 45% on Saturday against the Kansas Jayhawks.  The Wildcats cannot afford to start the game cold, because at the end of the day these players are still kids and will lose some confidence if they don’t hit immediately.

Keys to a Michigan win

Don’t get in foul trouble

It’s a given that in order for Michigan to win the game they need to stop the three.  However, just as important as stopping the three is not letting Villanova get to the free throw line.  Nova is shooting 78% as a team from the charity stripe and takes advantage of that term.  Unlike most college basketball teams, they thrive in tight situations and a four point lead late in the game can become an eight point real quick if Michigan is down late.

Build the offense around Charles Matthews

Charles Matthews has been the unsung hero of this Michigan team.  Unlike Mo Wagner, he isn’t talked about nearly enough.  Matthew has been averaging 16.6 PPG over the course of the tournament and has become a stalwart on defense.  He is a great two way player, hits clutch shots and can etch his name in college basketball lore with another big performance in the championship game.  It’s a long time coming for this young star, as he did have a brief stint with Kentucky before transferring.

Prediction

Both teams have had incredible seasons and are primed for an even better one with a win in the championship game.  John Beiline and the Wolverines are making their first appearance in the championship game since 2013 (a loss to Louisville).  Jay Wright and the Wildcats are two years removed from a buzzer-beater championship thanks to Kris Jenkins.  Nova beat a great North Carolina team then and will beat a better Michigan team now.

We’ve named some keys to the game, but the star of the championship game will be Jalen Brunson.  Brunson is a Naismith finalist and will take over the game in the second half.  A few three pointers by DiVincenzo and Villanova will come away with their second title in three years.

Villanova 84, Michigan 75

 

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