NCAA Championship Game Preview
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NCAA TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREVIEW
Alamodome - San Antonio, TX
#3 MICHIGAN (33-7) vs. #1 VILLANOVA (35-4) - 9:20 p.m. ET, TBS
Go ahead and guess what is Villanova's favorite number? It's 3 ... of course.
It was the three-ball that propelled the Wildcats to this monstrous 35-win season - Villanova has an NCAA single-season record of 454 triples in all following Saturday's blowout win against Kansas and the 'Cats now are gunning for their third NCAA Tournament Championship (see 1985 and 2016).
So, it hardly takes a proverbial rocket scientist to figure out how best to beat this sweet-stroking squad - just don't let 'em take that many treys.
Easier said than done and that's why one key tonight is Michigan - sporting the country's eighth-best scoring defense (allowing 62.9 points per game) - not only has to jam up Villanova's passing lanes to the open three-point shooter but the Big 10 crew must limit overall possessions here and so that means slow-and-steady wins this race and classy "Big Blue" head coach John Beilein and Company have a shot if it can limit Villanova to no more than 50 field-goal attempts (yes, 'Nova shot 36-of-65 from the floor in the win against Kansas including those made 18 triples).
So, expect Michigan megastar F Mo Wagner (24 points and 15 rebounds in Saturday's come-from-behind 69-57 win/cover against 5.5-point pup Loyola-Chicago) to come out by/near the perimeter in attempts to deflect the passes of PG Jalen Brunson (18 points and 6 assists versus Kansas) and look for Michigan's guards to stick tight to the 'Nova backcourt and have 'em drive to the hoop instead - we won't be surprised if Michigan "goes big" for minutes at a time with Wagner and 7-foot-1 C Jon Teske serving as some backline defense.
Simply put, if Villanova is able to free-flow here and not feel some real defensive heat, then this could be a runaway game for the 'Cats once again.
Is Villanova's Eric Paschall (24 points on 11-of-11 FG makes on Saturday) gonna be lights-out again?
Is 'Nova frosh F Omari Spellman (15 points and 13 boards) gonna be a world-beater again?
On the flip side, can Michigan count on guards Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Zavier Simpson - a combined 2-of-17 FG shooting against Loyola - to get a much-needed wake-up call here against a Villanova team that can get careless on "D"?
Granted, the Michigan Wolverines have (famously) not had to defeat any seed higher than fifth in this tourney and the Wolverines must play their "A game" here or they'll get squashed. But beware the Beilein-coached team that plays with vim-and-vigor ... just ask Sister Jean and the Ramblers!
Here's the NCAA Tournament path to the Championship Game for both Michigan and Villanova: