#1 Villanova vs. #3 Michigan NCAA National Championship Preview

By College Basketball

We split our two Saturday Final Four plays, hitting Michigan and missing on Kansas. The Wolverines were down early but used a dominant last eight minutes to not only overtake, but pull away from, Loyola-Chicago. Villanova, meanwhile, led the whole way against Kansas and never let it get close in a 16-point win, it’s fifth double-digit win in the NCAA Tournament.

The Wildcats are the clear favorites in this game (-7) but the question is, are they big enough favorites? They’ve now won all five of their games by double-digits, as I just mentioned and they’ve covered all five rather easily. None of the five games have even been hanging in the balance, against the spread, in the final few minutes. So how many points is enough when it comes to evening the playing field against Villanova?

Free Pick

I ‘capped this game at -7 so I’m not looking to play a side. That spread, combined with a total of 145, suggests a final score of about 76–69 in favor of Villanova.

Now, Michigan’s defense has been good. It’s also gone up against some opponents that can make a defense look good. Loyola-Chicago more than proved itself to be competent, even in the Final Four; Florida State had a ton of athletes to throw at the Wolverines, but none were particularly skilled scorers; even in the Sweet Sixteen, Texas A&M wasn’t known this season for it’s prolific offense.

Michigan doesn’t exactly play slow, either. At least not when its opponent is ready to run. So not to expect Villanova to crack 80 feels a little bit unwarranted here. These ‘Cats have been in a National Championship before and I don’t expect there to be jitters for long. The offense was humming against Kansas, one of the best defensive teams in the country. Villanova will score against Michigan.

So it comes down to pace. The Wolverines were actually one of the faster teams in the Big Ten all season, as proven by some of its point totals against Purdue, Michigan State, and the entire conference, on average. If Michigan decides to run, as it has done this season, this game will go way over. In fact, both teams could be over 80.

But if it decides to try and slow down Villanova, first, there’s no guarantee it will work, second, both teams will at least score efficiently. Compared to tournaments of the past, these two teams are here because they could score and because they did just that. Michigan is at its best when it’s playing quick, attacking off the perimeter, driving, kicking, and shooting a lot of threes. Then forcing turnovers on the defensive end.

I don’t expect this game to be tight, slow, or for lack of entertainment. And I don’t suspect Michigan will hold Villanova under 80. Catch you next season, guys.

Free Pick: Over 145

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