Final Four 2018: Full Breakdown, Predictions and Stars to Watch

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystMarch 26, 2018

Final Four 2018: Full Breakdown, Predictions and Stars to Watch

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    There are only three games left in the 2018 men's college basketball season until we find out whether Kansas, Villanova, Michigan or Loyola-Chicago will be crowned national champion.

    The Ramblers and Sister Jean have already been one of the greatest Cinderella stories ever told, but is there a fairy tale ending waiting for them in San Antonio?

    Villanova has already won more games in a four-year span than any other program in NCAA history, but could the Wildcats put a bow on this dynasty with two more victories at the Final Four?

    Before we find out the answers to those questions, let's take a look back at how these four teams got to this point, who the most important and most underrated players will be and what each team's blueprint is to a national championship.

Loyola-Chicago Ramblers

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    Ben Richardson
    Ben RichardsonJohn Amis/Associated Press

    Record: 32-5, No. 11 seed in South Regional

    Path to San Antonio: 64-62 over No. 6 Miami; 63-62 over No. 3 Tennessee; 69-68 over No. 7 Nevada; 78-62 over No. 9 Kansas State

    Biggest Strength: Ranked No. 5 in effective field-goal percentage

    Achilles' Heel: Ranked No. 332 in offensive rebound percentageworst among all teams that made the tournament.


    How They Got Here

    For Loyola-Chicago, it's been three parts buzzer-beaters, a dash of Sister Jean and a pinch of Harry Potter/Gryffindor magic.

    The Ramblers captivated the nation in the first weekend of the tournament with their 98-year-old team chaplain, their gold and maroon scarves and their last-second heroics. First, it was Donte Ingram eliminating Miami with a last-second three-pointer. In the following round, Clayton Custer got one heck of a shooter's bounce on the game-winning shot with less than five seconds to go. And in the Sweet 16, it was Marques Townes who buried Nevada, draining a three-pointer with six seconds remaining on the clock.

    All told, they won their first three games by a combined margin of four points.

    In the Elite Eight, though, Ben Richardson (23 points, 6-of-7 threes) and Co. opted to assert their dominance early, jumping out to a 15-5 lead and eventually padding that margin to 23 points midway through the second half.


    Biggest Regular-Season "What If?"

    Based on where Loyola-Chicago landed on the overall seed list, there's no point in asking what would have happened if it had lost the Missouri Valley Conference Championship Game. We already know this Final Four team would not even have been invited to the Big Dance without that neutral-court win over Illinois State.

    Rather, the more uncertain question is: What if Custer and Richardson had stayed healthy all season? The former injured his ankle in the first half of the marquee win over Florida, which caused him to miss the next five games. The latter missed 10 games with a broken hand. Some of his time out overlapped with Custer's absence. Without those upperclassman leaders, the Ramblers suffered three losses in a span of four games.

    Had the veteran guards been available at their usual capacity, maybe Loyola wins those games, enters Selection Sunday with a 31-2 record and ends up as a No. 8 or No. 9 seed with a completely different path to the Final Four.

Michigan Wolverines

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    Moritz Wagner
    Moritz WagnerAlex Gallardo/Associated Press

    Record: 32-7, No. 3 seed in West Regional

    Path to San Antonio: 61-47 over No. 14 Montana; 64-63 over No. 6 Houston; 99-72 over No. 7 Texas A&M; 58-54 over No. 9 Florida State

    Biggest Strength: Ranked No. 3 in adjusted defensive efficiency

    Achilles' Heel: Shoots 66.2 percent from free-throw line as a team


    How They Got Here

    For the most part, defense has been the name of the game for the Wolverines. They shut down Montana in the first round, stifled Rob Gray Jr. in the second and held Florida Statea team that entered the night averaging 80.9 points per game on the seasonto just 54 points in the Elite Eight. Michigan's four opponents have shot a combined 37.9 percent from the field and 26.2 percent from three-point range.

    There was one noteworthy exception to the winning formula. Michigan was held below 65 points in its own right in three of the four games, but it exploded for 99 points in the Sweet 16 victory over Texas A&M. Eight different Wolverines made at least one three-pointer, shooting 14-of-24 as a team.

    None of the regulars shoot 40 percent or better from downtown, but everyone other than Jon Teske is more than capable of taking and making that shot. Thus, every now and then, Michigan catches fire and scores at will.

    But it's no surprise that the Wolverines are winning with defense, since it is what they have done all season. They have held 28 opponents below 70 points, putting together a 27-1 record in those games. If they can keep defending, they should keep winning.


    Biggest Regular-Season "What If?"

    What if Zavier Simpson had lost the starting job for good?

    The sophomore point guard started the first four games before getting relegated to the bench for more than a month. Freshman Eli Brooks was given the job for the next 12 games. However, his struggles in late December coupled with a monster performance (15 points, seven assists, two steals, no turnovers) from Simpson in the Big Ten opener against Iowa resulted in a switch back to the way they began the season.

    No one is going to confuse Simpson for Russell Westbrook, but he has been a key piece of this run for Michigan. Between the Big Ten tournament and NCAA tournament, he has averaged 9.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.0 steals against 2.0 turnovers over his last eight games.

    Would the Wolverines have gotten to this point if Brooks or Ohio transfer Jaaron Simmons was running the show?

Villanova Wildcats

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    Phil Booth (5), Eric Paschall (4) and Donte DiVincenzo (10)
    Phil Booth (5), Eric Paschall (4) and Donte DiVincenzo (10)Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Record: 34-4, No. 1 seed in East Regional

    Path to San Antonio: 87-61 over No. 16 Radford; 81-58 over No. 9 Alabama; 90-78 over No. 5 West Virginia; 71-59 over No. 3 Texas Tech

    Biggest Strength: Ranked No. 1 in adjusted offensive efficiency

    Achilles' Heel: Opponents shoot 74.9 percent from free-throw line


    How They Got Here

    For the first three rounds, Villanova got the job done the way it so often does: draining three-pointers. The Wildcats made 14 triples against Radford, 17 against Alabama and 13 more against West Virginia, shooting a combined 47.8 percent from downtown. Five different Wildcats made multiple threes in at least two of the three games.

    In the Elite Eight, however, they couldn't buy a triple, finishing a dreadful 4-of-24 from downtown. Instead, Villanova had to win with defense, clutch free-throw shooting and rebounding. The Wildcats also made it their mission to shut down Keenan Evans, and they succeeded.

    And that's what makes this team so scary.

    In years past, they lived and died by the three. This season, the deep ball is still Plan A, but there are plenty of backup options if that shot isn't falling. The Wildcats proved it late in the regular season against Seton Hall, in the Big East Championship Game against Providence and in the Elite Eight against an outstanding Texas Tech squad. 


    Biggest Regular-Season "What If?"

    What if Eric Paschall's injury had been more serious?

    The big man only missed two February games because of a concussion, but Villanova looked out of sorts without him on the floor. Jermaine Samuels and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree both had to play more minutes than usual, but neither one made much of an impact. Rather, Jalen Brunson took it upon himself to do a lot more scoring in those two games.

    It was during this time that the Wildcats lost to St. John's. And in Paschall's first game back, he did little in a loss to Providence.

    They also didn't have Phil Booth during that stretch because of a broken hand, but the Wildcats could have gotten by without him, since there are so many perimeter weapons on this roster. Can't imagine Villanova would be looking this good without Paschall, though, considering he had 12 points and 14 rebounds against Texas Tech.

Kansas Jayhawks

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    Devonte' Graham (4) and Silvio De Sousa (22)
    Devonte' Graham (4) and Silvio De Sousa (22)Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Record: 31-7, No. 1 seed in Midwest Regional

    Path to San Antonio: 76-60 over No. 16 Penn; 83-79 over No. 8 Seton Hall; 80-76 over No. 5 Clemson; 85-81 (OT) over No. 2 Duke

    Biggest Strength: Ranked No. 6 in effective field-goal percentage

    Achilles' Heel: Ranked No. 329 in offensive free-throw rate


    How They Got Here

    If you're a Kansas fan, you'll be happy to know you don't play another game until Saturday. That's plenty of time to schedule a manicure to repair the damage from all of the nail-biting you've been doing for the past two weeks.

    Even the 16-point first-round win over Penn was no walk in the park. The Quakers jumped out to a 21-11 lead 12 minutes into the game and were still within four points with less than 12 minutes to go in the game.

    After that, it was two straight four-point wins in which the Jayhawks darn near blew a big lead in the final 10 minutes, followed by an overtime win over Duke in which Grayson Allen's would-be regulation game-winner seemed to go in three times before falling out to force the extra five minutes.

    What else is new, though, right? With just a few exceptions, every Big 12 game seemed to go right down to the wire. Sometimes, that type of regular-season gauntlet ends up doing more harm than good, but in Kansas' case, it appears this team benefited from two months of close calls. At any rate, the Jayhawks never panicked.


    Biggest Regular-Season "What If?"

    What if Billy Preston had been eligible to play?

    For the masses who don't pay much attention to college hoops until March and have never heard that name before, Preston was rated by 247Sports as the 20th-best player in this year's class. The 5-star power forward was expected to be a huge piece of the puzzle for the Jayhawks, but he never appeared in a game after a mysterious incident involving a single-car accident.

    Because of that, Bill Self had to bring in Silvio De Sousa as a second-semester reclassified freshman just to have some sort of depth in the frontcourt. And after a slow start, the young big man has been surprisingly effective. He averaged 10.0 points and 9.7 rebounds in the Big 12 tournament with Udoka Azubuike sidelined by a knee injury, and he has been a capable reserve in the NCAA tournament.

    This weekend against Clemson and Duke, De Sousa had a combined line of 39 minutes, 13 points and 16 rebounds.

    Would Preston have been better or worse than that?

Biggest Storylines

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    Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt
    Sister Jean Dolores-SchmidtKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Can Loyola-Chicago Make History?

    We will never forget this Cinderella run, just like we'll never forget what No. 11 seed George Mason did in 2006 or what No. 11 seed VCU did in 2011.

    But now that Loyola-Chicago has become the fifth double-digit seed in NCAA history to reach the Final Four, could it become the first to play for a national championship?

    The other four teams in this positionthe aforementioned two and No. 11 LSU in 1986 and No. 10 Syracuse in 2016lost their Final Four games by an average margin of 12.8 points. Only VCU came within single digits, but even its 70-62 loss to No. 8 seed Butler left something to be desired.

    With Sister Jean in their corner, perhaps the Ramblers can go where no double-digit seed has gone before.


    Michigan Hoping to Undo Several Years of Heartbreak

    For Michigan, it has been "Close but no cigar" too many times lately.

    In 2013, the Wolverines made it to the national championship game, but Trey Burke and Spike Albrecht weren't enough to overcome Luke Hancockin a game that technically never happened as far as the NCAA is concerned. The following season, an Aaron Harrison last-second bucket knocked Michigan out in the Elite Eight. And last year, the team of destiny blew a late lead in a 69-68 loss to Oregon in the Sweet 16.

    Every team without a recent title has had a good helping of letdowns, but Michigan's seem to be crueler and more frequent than the rest.

    This team keeps hitting its peak at the perfect point in the season only to lose in devastating fashion. If the Wolverines become the latest buzzer-beating victim of Loyola-Chicago, their fans might be catatonic. But if they can win two more games, the rocky road will have been worth it.


    Villanova Trying to Cement a Dynasty

    At this time five years ago, Jay Wright and Villanova had just sputtered through a third consecutive lackluster season. Despite rebuilding the program from next to nothing to make a run to the 2009 Final Four, he was starting to get the dreaded label of a guy who couldn't win the big one.

    Over the past five seasons, though, Villanova has been arguably the greatest college basketball dynasty since the John Wooden era UCLA Bruins.

    After Saturday's win over Texas Tech, the Wildcats have an overall record of 163-21 (88.6 winning percentage) since the beginning of 2013-14. Because they lost in the second round in three of the last four NCAA tournaments, that dominance flew well below the national radar. But a second national championship in three years would make it impossible to deny how incredible this program has been for the past half-decade.

    Even if it falls short of that goal, 2014-18 Villanova (134-16) has already bypassed 1997-2001 Duke (133-15) for the title of most wins in a four-year span.


    Could Bill Self's "Worst Team" Win a Title?

    It's a narrative that permeated the entire regular season. Lack of both depth and 5-star talent made it seem as though this Kansas team was doomed to end the streak of Big 12 regular-season titles. At any rate, if you could somehow put this team on the court against any of its previous 13 iterations, it almost certainly would have been the underdog.

    But the Jayhawks won the league for the 14th consecutive year, earning their third consecutive No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and their eighth in the last 12 years. And now, they are in the Final Four for just the third time during that streak.

    It seems these guys aren't so short-handed after all.

    At times, the offense has completely vanished. (See: 82-64 season-ending loss to Oklahoma State and 80-64 February loss to Baylor.) But that has not been a problem in the postseason. The Jayhawks have scored at least 80 points in six of their last seven games, saving their best and most consistent play for when it matters most.

Stars to Watch

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    Charles Matthews
    Charles MatthewsEzra Shaw/Getty Images

    Clayton Custer, Loyola-Chicago
    Tournament Stats: 11.5 PPG, 4.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 57.1% 3PT

    The beauty of Loyola-Chicago is that it has featured a different star every night. But if there's one specific Rambler that opposing teams are going to worry about, it's the one who leads the team in points, assists and steals. Custer has at least three assists in every game dating back to the start of February, and he is shooting 49.4 percent from three-point range in his last 18 games.


    Charles Matthews, Michigan
    Tournament Stats: 16.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG

    It's hard to imagine where Michigan would be without the Kentucky transfer. Matthews has scored in double figures in all four games, including going for 20 points and 11 rebounds in the opener against Montana while the rest of the team struggled. He's not the most efficient scorer, but he's one of the only guys on this roster who can just go get Michigan a bucket when necessary.


    Moritz Wagner, Michigan
    Tournament Stats: 12.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 40.0% 3PT

    Despite missing all seven of his three-point attempts against Florida State, Wagner has been an indispensable piece for the Wolverines. That's because even when he's not shooting well, he allows Michigan to spread the floor on offense and makes this team tougher to score against on defense—even though he's not much of a shot-blocking presence.


    Jalen Brunson, Villanova
    Tournament Stats: 17.5 PPG, 4.0 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 42.1% 3PT

    Brunson is the type of star who knows when he's needed and saves his best for those moments. His numbers against Radford and Alabama were only so-so, but he was sensational in the Sweet 16 against West Virginia. The pressure seemed to bother everyone else on Villanova's roster but not Brunson. He had 27 points on 15 field-goal attempts with just three turnovers. His efficiency in big moments and the consistency he has played with all season long are the reasons many feel Brunson should be the National Player of the Year.


    Mikal Bridges, Villanova
    Tournament Stats: 16.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 45.8% 3PT

    Save for a dominant performance in the second half against Alabama, Bridges hasn't been anywhere near as explosive on either end of the floor as he was for most of the season. But he could turn that around at a moment's notice and become the guy who scored at least 18 points in each of the nine games prior to the start of the NCAA tournament. 


    Devonte' Graham, Kansas
    Tournament Stats: 16.0 PPG, 6.3 APG, 5.0 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 32.0% 3PT

    It's a testament to how good Graham was all season long that he has felt like a bit of a disappointment in the tournament in spite of these numbers. The senior point guard has tallied at least 20 combined points, assists and rebounds in each tournament game, and his veteran leadership has been critical for a team that keeps finding itself in close games in the final two minutes.


    Malik Newman, Kansas
    Tournament Stats: 21.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 44.8% 3PT

    If we had to pick a Most Outstanding Player of the tournament through four rounds, Newman would be the obvious pick. In addition to scoring all 13 of Kansas' overtime points en route to a career-high 32 against Duke, he has been efficiently aggressive in all four games. This hasn't always been the case, but for the past few weeks, Newman has looked every bit the part of his rating as the No. 8 overall recruit in 2015, per 247Sports.

Underrated Players to Watch

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    Marcus Garrett
    Marcus GarrettStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Ben Richardson, Loyola-Chicago
    Tournament Stats: 9.3 PPG, 4.5 APG, 4.0 RPG

    The senior point guard is significantly less under-the-radar after scoring a career-high 23 points in the Elite Eight win over Kansas State, but it was the first time this entire season that he scored more than a dozen points against a D-I opponent. Usually, his job is just to occasionally hit the open shot and be option 1B in the assist department. He has been sensational in that regard with 18 assists against just three turnovers.


    Lucas Williamson, Loyola-Chicago
    Tournament Stats: 5.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.3 APG

    Similar to Richardson, Williamson plays a lot of minutes without taking a lot of shots. But when he does shoot, the 42.0 percent three-point shooter often makes it. He's also arguably the best defender on the roster, though he only has one steal and one block thus far in the tournament.


    Jordan Poole, Michigan
    Tournament Stats: 4.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 66.7% 3PT

    Poole hit the incredible buzzer-beater in the second-round win over Houston, but the freshman shooting guard has otherwise been curiously absent. In the final three games in February, he shot 9-of-12 from three-point range and scored at least a dozen points in each game. Against Florida State, though, he played two minutes and didn't record a single statistic. But if anyone is going to do what Grayson Allen did in 2015 by coming out of nowhere for a big final weekend after a slow start to the tournament, Poole is probably the one.


    Collin Gillespie, Villanova
    Tournament Stats: 3.0 PPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.8 APG, 0.8 RPG

    The point guard of Villanova's future barely saw the floor on the second weekend of the tournament, but Gillespie has been quite the asset off the bench at various points throughout the season. He's shooting 39.1 percent from three-point range for the year.


    Marcus Garrett, Kansas
    Tournament Stats: 2.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 0.8 APG

    Garrett hasn't had much of an impact in the box score, but the versatile freshman is averaging nearly 15 minutes per game in the NCAA tournament. He's mostly out there for defense and to soak up minutes while primary contributors get a bit of a break, but those are crucial elements for a team that has had minimal depth all season long.

Loyola-Chicago's Blueprint to a Title

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    Donte Ingram
    Donte IngramDavid Goldman/Associated Press

    If all goes according to plan, these three things will happen and Loyola-Chicago will win its first national championship since 1963.


    1. The pack line defense continues to confound opposing offenses.

    When UMBC made history by upsetting Virginia, part of the immediate backlash was the suggestion that the pack line defensethough wildly successful during the regular seasonisn't a good tournament strategy and that Tony Bennett will never reach a Final Four until he abandons it. Ironically, the team that did make it out of Virginia's regional plays a nearly identical style. Loyola-Chicago has held three of its opponents to exactly 62 points, and the fourth wasn't much better at 68. Its last nine opponents have averaged just 58.2 points.


    2. Three-point shots keep falling.

    The Ramblers have made at least 38 percent of their three-point attempts in each of their four tournament games and are shooting 41.7 percent from downtown thus far. For some teams, that would be unsustainable. For the Ramblers, it's business as usual. They're 12th in the nation in three-point percentage and had a 16-game stretch (Dec. 30 through Feb. 21) in which they shot at least 40 percent 12 times. They also had a six-game span during nonconference play with a combined three-point percentage of 53.7.


    3. Keep the turnovers under control.

    Loyola defends well and shoots even better, but it does have a tendency to commit self-inflicted harm with live-ball turnovers. Each tournament opponent has at least seven steals against the Ramblers. Kansas State turned its seven steals into 12 points, and one of the reasons they needed a last-second bucket against Tennessee is because the Volunteers turned eight steals into 15 points. Loyola can't afford to keep giving away that many points now that the competition is tougher than any it has faced all year.

Michigan's Blueprint to a Title

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    Duncan Robinson
    Duncan RobinsonJae Hong/Associated Press

    If all goes according to plan, these three things will happen and Michigan will win its first national championship since 1989.


    1. The offense comes back.

    The blowout win over Texas A&M seemed like it might have been Michigan snapping out of an offensive funk from the first weekend of the tournament, but the Wolverines went right back to not remembering how to score in the following round against Florida State. Michigan wasn't exactly a scoring machine before the tournament, but it entered Selection Sunday averaging 74.5 points per game for the season and had scored at least 72 in each of its previous nine games. Getting back to scoring in the low 70s would be a big step in the right direction.


    2. No game becomes a free-throw-shooting contest.

    Michigan missed four free-throw attempts in the final 100 seconds against Florida State. Really, the Wolverines left six points at the charity stripe, because two of those misses came on the front end of one-and-one opportunities. They led by eight at the beginning of the sequence and only held on to win because the Seminoles missed four field-goal attempts in the last minute of the game. Between Charles Matthews (57.4 percent) and Zavier Simpson (51.1 percent), things could get dicey if there are a lot of free-throw attempts.


    3. Three-point defense remains a strength.

    Opponents have struggled to make three pointers all season long against Michigan, but that aspect of the game has been particularly impressive lately. Over the last nine games, teams have shot 42-of-164 (25.6 percent) against the Wolverines. Not once during that stretch did a single opponent shoot better than 39 percent, nor did any opponent make more than seven triples. Given the three-point prowess of the other remaining teams, it would be massive if Michigan's defense keeps that up for two more games.

Villanova's Blueprint to a Title

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    Jalen Brunson and Jay Wright
    Jalen Brunson and Jay WrightElise Amendola/Associated Press

    If all goes according to plan, these three things will happen and Villanova will win its second national championship in three years.


    1. Three-pointers start to fall again.

    When Villanova won the national championship in 2016, it was red hot for the first three games before struggling in the Elite Eight against a title contender from the Big 12. But in the Final Four in Texas, it caught fire again. As luck would have it, the Wildcats have followed that formula once again, stroking it from deep for three rounds before missing just about everything against Texas Tech. Can they now do in San Antonio what they did in Houston two years ago?


    2. Defense allows fewer than 75 points.

    The Wildcats certainly can win a track meet. They are 9-4 when giving up at least 76 points. No surprise there, since they average 86.6 points per game on offense. Hold the opposition to 75 points or fewer, though, and Villanova is a perfect 25-0 this season. And through four tournament games, it is allowing just 64.0 points.


    3. Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges fill in the gaps.

    Even if everything else is for the birds, Villanova can win games just on the merits of Brunson and Bridges. Both guys are in the top five of the Player of the Year standings, and each has had more than his fair share of huge performances this season. It has been more than two months since either failed to score at least 10 points in any game, and Brunson has yet to score less than 11 points all season.

Kansas' Blueprint to a Title

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    Udoka Azubuike (35) and Lagerald Vick (2)
    Udoka Azubuike (35) and Lagerald Vick (2)Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    If all goes according to plan, these three things will happen and Kansas will win its first national championship since 2008 and the fourth in program history.


    1. Udoka Azubuike stays out of foul trouble.

    Silvio De Sousa has been an excellent option off the bench, but there's no question Kansas is at its best when Azubuike is on the floor. He only played 19 minutes against Duke, but he still finished with nine points and eight rebounds while helping keep Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. under wraps. Whether the refs determine if Azubuike plays 15 minutes or 33 minutes against Villanova could decide who plays in the national championship.


    2. Malik Newman stays hot.

    There were a few times during the regular season when Newman went into takeover mode and popped off for 20 or more points, but he never stayed hot for more than a game or two. Until now. Since the start of the Big 12 tournament (seven games total), Newman has averaged 22.7 points while shooting 54.9 percent (28-of-51) from three-point range.


    3. Devonte' Graham keeps having some kind of positive impact.

    In the first game of the tournament, Graham lit up Penn for 29 points, six assists, six rebounds and three steals. Since then, he has struggled to find his stroke. He has averaged 11.7 points in the last three games, but he's shooting just 31.0 percent from the field. And yet, he has been a key piece of the offense, racking up assists and rebounds while playing nearly every minute of each game. As long as he keeps having a positive impact, advantage Kansas. If he starts shooting well again, major advantage Kansas.


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    VillanovaElsa/Getty Images

    No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago

    Saturday at 6:09 p.m. ET (TBS)

    What an incredible run it has been for the Ramblers from Loyola-Chicago, but beating Michigan at its own game might be asking too much from Sister Jean and Co.

    Michigan's perimeter defense is among the best in the nation. The Wolverines rarely allow three-pointers and their defensive assist rate is lower than that of any team Loyola-Chicago has faced all season. Thus, the Ramblers won't be able to probe the defense with passes as well as they usually do.

    The combination of Charles Matthews and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman will likely be too much for the Ramblers to handle. But if we're wrong about them, it certainly wouldn't be the first time.

    Prediction: Michigan 69-61


    No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 1 Villanova

    Saturday at 8:49 p.m. ET (TBS)

    Despite all of the chaos in the first two weeks of the NCAA tournament, we somehow have been blessed with one hell of a clash of the titans in the Final Four.

    And in typical 2018 college basketball fashion, both sides are going to attempt to win with a barrage of three-pointers.

    Assuming normal lineups when the game tips off, Udoka Azubuike will be the only guy on the floor who isn't a threat to tee it up from the perimeter. Yet, he might be the most important player in the game. If "Doke" is able to do whatever he wants in the paint on offense against Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall, that would be huge for Kansas. It would also be a big development if he's able to keep Jalen Brunson from efficiently running offense from the post.

    It's going to boil down to who is hotter from downtown, though. And even though the Wildcats just had a rough shooting performance against Texas Tech, I trust them just a little bit more. This one should be every bit as entertaining as Kansas vs. Duke was in the Elite Eight.

    Prediction: Villanova 83-80


    No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 3 Michigan

    Monday at 9:20 p.m. ET (TBS)

    If this is the game we get, it should be glorious.

    Michigan's perimeter defense against Villanova's perimeter offense is the classic unstoppable force or immovable object debate. The Wolverines have allowed 10 made three-pointers just three times all season and never more than a dozen. But you better believe the Wildcats will be looking to let it fly.

    Meanwhile, neither team draws fouls nor commits them at a high rate, and they both have a low turnover rate on offense. Translation: It should be beautiful basketball with minimal whistles or bone-headed mistakes.

    As great as Michigan has been for more than a month, I have to stick with my pre-tournament pick of Villanova to win it all. In a free-flowing game, the play of Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Donte DiVincenzo should win out over whatever Matthews, Abdur-Rahkman and Moritz Wagner bring to the table. But it ought to be another close, entertaining affair.

    Prediction: Villanova 74-68


    Statistics courtesy of and Sports Reference.

    Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.


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