I swear this is the last time I will write about this NCAA tournament. I know it seems like for someone who didn’t care about this tournament I’m all in about it. Seriously, last time because this is the last weekend for it. The Final Four. Three blue bloods against one mid-major that’s managed to capture the hearts of America.
At least it seems that way with Loyola-Chicago.
This is a pretty solid Final Four this season, I think. Two one seeds, a three and that 11 seed. Though, I could manage to argue, that nothing will probably top the Duke and Kansas game the best game of the tournament. The emotions running through that game were off the chart. The only thing missing was Greyson Allen trying to trip someone.
Saturday’s games, Loyola-Chicago against Michigan and Kansas against Villanova, should be some interesting match ups. The Ramblers have been on a streak, the longest in the nation right now with 14 straight wins, while the Wolverines have gone on a 13 game streak of their own. Something will have to give in the first Final Four game on Saturday night.
Michigan has a better talent pool, better athletes and pop out more with their regular season test than Loyola-Chicago does. As we all know, this is a team game, and the team that can play together will win. The Ramblers have a lot of players that have stepped up in these tournament games. They have had a different leading scorer in every post season game thus far and will look to continue that trend.
They also share the ball well with 15 plus assists so they play the team game well. However, they rely on guard play with not a lot of size on a front line that tops out at 6’9”. That lack of size might harm them against the more athletic Michigan team than it did against Kansas State. The Ramblers, to their credit, have faced more athletic teams in this tournament and pulled out the victory.
What worries me about Michigan is their inconsistency on the offensive end. This is a rock solid team on defense, but they seem to have their offense go by the three ball. In their lone big win, they made 58.3 percent of their shots from deep. In the closer games? Just 31.3, 26.7 and 23.5 percent in their other three wins. If Loyola can keep Michigan from getting hot they can keep it close.
Both of these teams are on a roll, and it’s hard to discount the momentum that the Ramblers have built up. This game hinges on the Ramblers’ ball movement and if Michigan can get hot from deep and use their Big 10 experience to overcome the Missouri Valley school. I think the clock strikes midnight on the Ramblers on Saturday.
Kansas and Villanova, I really don’t care as much about. They’re both great teams and the winner of that game will probably be the National Champion on Monday night. The Wildcats and Jayhawks have both played outstanding basketball through this tournament, Villanova yet to win a game by single digits. They’ve been able to pull away from opponents in the tournament. Kansas, on the other hand, seems to get by with more timely shots with grit and determination.
Of course, I can’t pick Kansas because of Bill Self. Doesn’t he just look like a shady used car salesman?
Both teams are balanced offensively with five plus players averaging double digits per game. They also make 40 percent of their three point shots. If this is a close game, the Wildcats have an edge in free throw shooting. This one comes down to which team will make more plays. Sounds like a cop out but this is a toss up game. Still, like I mentioned, I just can’t pick Kansas.
So my pick for Monday’s title game is Michigan and Villanova. Villanova is probably the better of the two, but as we’ve seen every year in the tournament, the best team doesn’t always win. That said, I think in this case, the better team will win. Villanova stomped Xavier twice this season. They’ve been able to roll through the tournament against some really good teams. I don’t see the Wolverines stopping them in their quest for two titles in three years.
Regardless, men’s college basketball comes to an end on Monday night. It’s been a fun year with no team really stepping out as a front runner. I enjoy years like this where that one team isn’t counted on to win the whole thing. It creates more excitement and fun rather than just waiting for a team to get their crown.
Hopefully our men’s state schools at the D1 level can improve next season so we’ll have more Iowa flair in the tournament.