Final Four 2018 Schedule: TV Info and NCAA Tournament Bracket Breakdown

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2018

Clayton Custer hopes to lead the Loyola Ramblers to another upset in the Final Four.
Clayton Custer hopes to lead the Loyola Ramblers to another upset in the Final Four.David Goldman/Associated Press

It would be a mistake to call Loyola of Chicago a Cinderella team at this point.

Porter Moser's team has proved it can beat a slew of excellent teams and do it in a number of different styles.

However, now the Ramblers have reached the Final Four, they will be competing against the best teams in the tournament. If they are going to complete their sensational run, they will have to reach an even higher level of achievement.

Loyola goes into its meeting with Michigan having won 14 games in a row. The Ramblers have plenty of balance, with five players averaging in double figures. Clayton Custer is averaging 13.2 points per game and connecting on 52.7 percent of his shots from the field. Donte Ingram is second on the team in scoring with 11.3 points per night, while Marques Townes is right behind with 11.2 points per game. 

Aundre Jackson and Cameron Krutwig are also in double figures, and Krutwig is taking down 6.1 rebounds per game.

There's a lot more to Loyola's story than Sister Jean's support for the team. Moser has provided the groundwork of outstanding all-around team play, and they will need to use every facet of that against the Wolverines.

Moser said he would look back at his team's accomplishments after the season is over but that his focus is on preparing his team for the Wolverines.

"I've been preparing," Moser said, per Madeline Kenney of the Chicago Sun-Times. "It's been like this for weeks and weeks and weeks. ... You don't sleep. You're just so much about the next opponent. So I know there will be a time when I step back and look at how we've played this year and the impact it's had on the university, but right now, I'm in the moment."

Michigan is also on a roll, having won 13 games in a row. Prior to winning four straight games in the NCAA tournament, the Wolverines gained confidence by winning the Big Ten tournament.

Head coach John Beilein can look his players in the eye and tell them they belong in the Final Four and that they should be playing for the championship.

Moritz Wagner is averaging 14.3 points to lead the team, and he is also averaging a team-best 6.9 rebounds per game while shooting 52.4 percent from the floor. Charles Matthews is capable of taking over any game, and he is second in scoring with 13.0 points per game, while slick guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman is averaging 12.8 points and is not afraid to take the big shot when the game is on the line.

Michigan is a five-point favorite, and while it would not be a surprise to see Loyola fight hard and stay close, The Wolverines' Big Ten pedigree, athleticism and toughness may be the difference.

                 

Final Four Schedule

March 31

No. 11 Loyola of Chicago vs. No. 3 Michigan (-5), 6:09 p.m. ET; TBS

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 1 Villanova (-5), 8:49 p.m. ET; TBS

Odds are according to OddsShark.

Jalen Brunson has a legitimate chance to take Villanova to the NCAA title game.
Jalen Brunson has a legitimate chance to take Villanova to the NCAA title game.Elise Amendola/Associated Press

The nightcap between Kansas and Villanova has a chance to be a classic.

The Jayhawks are one of the premier programs in college basketball along with great names like Kentucky, Duke and UCLA, while Villanova has joined the list of elite schools since Jay Wright became head coach in 2001.

The Wildcats were the No. 1 team in the nation for much of the regular season before they hit a bit of a snag and the Virginia Cavaliers replaced them.

However, Villanova has righted itself and is once again playing championship-level basketball. Jalen Brunson is the key to the Villanova engine, and he is averaging 19.2 points per game and connecting on 52.7 percent of his shots from the field.

Mikal Bridges is providing excellent support, as he is averaging 17.8 points per night and connecting on 51.2 percent of his shots. Senior guard Donte DiVincenzo is adding 12.9 points per night, and he is not afraid to take clutch shots.

The Wildcats are an outstanding three-point shooting team, as they have connected on 40.0 percent of their shots from beyond the arc this season. However, in their regional final victory over Texas Tech, Villanova made just four of their 24 three-point attempts. They were able to lean on their defense and free-throw shooting to earn a 71-59 victory.

Kansas won the Big 12 regular-season and conference tournament title this year, and that league was the best in the nation. Bill Self's team outlasted Duke 85-81 in overtime in its regional final, and the Jayhawks should be strong enough to compete for 40 minutes against the explosive Wildcats. 

Kansas has an 11-2 record against teams in the RPI top 50, and they are led by Devonte' Graham, who is averaging 17.2 points per game.

Graham said the upsets in this year's tournament have helped prepare his team to be at its best every night.

"We just know we've got to be focused," Graham said prior to the victory over Duke, per the Associated Press (h/t USA Today). "If we slip up and don't come prepared, it's going to be the end of the season."

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