How Will the Final Four Shake Out and Who Will Head to the Finals?
Sister Jean has given up taking L’s for Lent, and Loyola-Chicago simply continues to roll.
How crazy is it, that with all the upsets that this year’s National Tournament had in store, as the Final Four stage is set, two number one seeds remain?
The number three Michigan Wolverines have made it this far too. But then, there’s the Cinderella story that is the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers – the number eleven seed – a team very clearly under-seeded going into the tournament. Entering the dance, the Ramblers were winners of their final 10-games. One of the top offensive teams in the nation and the Missouri Valley Conference champions, here they are now, about to set foot in the Final Four of March Madness.
Call it Sister Jean’s godly luck, call it whatever you like – the Rambler are legit and they shall now take on the University of Michigan in the tournament semifinals.
How will the semifinals shake out? Who will head to the tournament finals? Let’s take an early dive into the two exciting Final Four matchups which will take place in San Antonio, Texas on March 31!
(11) Loyola-Chicago vs. (3) Michigan [-5.0]
The battle of the two most exciting teams in the tournament is set and something will have to give.
Despite both teams looking very different on paper, both programs sporting different playing styles, their path to the Final Four couldn’t be any more similar. Nail-biting finishes, buzzer beaters, and down to the wire competition.
After three straight nail-biting victories, the Ramblers blew out Kansas State to book their ticket to the Final Four. If there was any doubt about the Ramblers, there isn’t much of it left. The Ramblers are legit and they are eying their first ever National Tournament finals berth. Offensively, the Ramblers use unique schemes, more commonly seen on the NBA level. They thrive on great spacing and creating the extra pass. When the MVC champions play at their pace, they shoot an average of 50% from the field – a mark very difficult to defeat on the NBA level, let alone in college.
Head coach Porter Moser has it all down to a science and can create matchup nightmares for the opposing teams with his athletic five-guard lineup.
On the Michigan side, behind Moe Wagner, the Wolverines continue to win in whichever way possible. After rolling through March on their way to a Big 10 title, Michigan has struggled to play at a consistently high level throughout the tournament, but have continued to do just enough to slip out of games victorious. They remain a strong defensive unit and will ultimately need to beat the Ramblers at their own game – stretching the floor and making shots. If the Wolverines can do that and rely on their defense, they very well can punch a ticket to the Final Dance.
That is if Sister Jean doesn’t have anything to say about it.
Prediction: (11) Loyola-Chicago [+5.0]
(1) Villanova [-5.0] vs. (1) Kansas
The Villanova Wildcats are indisputably the best team in the tournament.
Unfortunately, in a single elimination game, being the best team in the tournament doesn’t always translate into a National championship. Nevertheless, the Wildcats have been playing as advertised, displaying all the tools necessary for a championship team. They have everything they need and now they must continue to keep it all together for just two more games.
With Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges in the back court, the Wildcats have a nearly unguardable guard tandem, and with the play of Eric Paschall and Omari Spellman up front, Villanova has a versatile and veteran team very capable of doing enough things right to come out victorious.
The Wildcats have an elite offence, can shoot from the perimeter, rebound effectively and take care of the basketball at a premier rate. This has really been Villanova’s tournament to lose since the Round of 64 and it continues to be exactly that.
As for the Kansas Jayhawks, they are fresh off a statement victory over Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils. Surviving overtime, it was the number one seed that would book its ticket to the Final Four.
If the Jayhawks hope to continue their tournament dream, they will have to continue to rely on their guard heavy offence. With Devontae Graham, Malik Newman and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk running most of the show, each of them will need to play a pivotal role if Kansas hopes to pull out a win against the tournament favourite Wildcats.
Above all, Udoka Azubuike will have to be an X-Factor up front. The seven footer will be need to be the equalizer for the underdog Jayhawks. For Kansas, Bill Self has been one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history, it will be up to him to devise the right plan to push Villanova out of the tournament and to propel the Jayhawks into the Finals!
Predictions: (1) Villanova [-5.0]