Only four semifinalists remain in the 2018 NCAA men's basketball tournament, and the field will be halved again Saturday during the Final Four in San Antonio.
Third-seeded Michigan draws 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago (and 98-year-old chaplain-turned-tournament-face Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt) in the final weekend's opener. Storied programs and fellow top seeds Kansas and Villanova will lock horns in the nightcap.
By Saturday's end, the hoops world will have the matchup for Monday night's championship.
But before getting ahead of ourselves, let's lay out everything you need to know about Saturday's slate, including odds, TV info and even predictions on how this will shake out.
Tournament TV Schedule
Saturday, March 31
No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago, 6:09 p.m. ET on TBS
No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 1 Kansas, 8:49 p.m. ET on TBS
Monday, April 2
National Championship, 9:20 p.m. ET on TBS
Final Four Odds
Michigan (-5.5) vs. Loyola-Chicago (Over/Under 129.5)
Villanova (-5) vs. Kansas (Over/Under 154.5)
Ramblers Finally Run Out of Gas
Every Cinderella is racing against time at the Big Dance, soaking up uncharacteristic national attention but also facing the threat of its carriage turning back into a pumpkin.
The clock is nearing expiration for Loyola-Chicago.
It wants to play the same game as Michigan. The pace will be deliberate. The offense will be perimeter-focused. The defense will be ferocious.
The problem is the Wolverines are better at this game.
They only lost two more games in the Big Ten (five) than the Ramblers did in the Missouri Valley Conference. Michigan is also a plus-46 for the tournament; Loyola-Chicago is a plus-20. And before chalking those numbers up to strength of competition, just realize each road through the left side of the bracket has traveled through three identical seeds—the sixth, seventh and ninth.
The Wolverines have the best defense in this matchup (and this tournament). They also have the toughest cover (and top pro prospect) in Moritz Wagner, a 6'11" junior hitting 39-plus percent outside for the second straight season. And they have the top perimeter stopper in Zavier Simpson, plus advantages in size, athleticism and depth.
That's too many obstacles to overcome, even for a club that may understandably believe destiny is behind it.
Prediction: Michigan 68, Loyola-Chicago 60
Wildcats Survive Shootout
Forget about bracket-busting and buzzer-beating—this is the best part of March Madness. These are two of the best teams in the nation, and they'll have 40 minutes to separate from their fellow juggernaut.
As an added aesthetic bonus, this battle will likely consist of all-you-can-handle perimeter shooting and gargantuan point totals.
Villanova leads the country in offensive efficiency. Kansas occupies the category's fifth overall spot. The Wildcats have drilled a blistering 41.4 percent of their triples at the tournament. The accuracy of the Jayhawks' spacers sits within a percentage point (40.6).
Both attacks feature multiple ignitable weapons.
For Kansas, it starts with seniors Devonte' Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, a tandem responsible for 220 threes this season. But there's also center Udoka Azubuike, who's a dunking machine and the nation's most accurate finisher by more than 50 percentage points. And there might not be a hotter player than guard Malik Newman, who totaled 77 points and 13 triples over the previous three rounds.
Villanova has an All-American combo in Jalen Brunson (first team) and Mikal Bridges (third team), who average a combined 37 points on 52 percent shooting (42.6 from three). There are four other double-digit scorers behind them, including stretch center Omari Spellman (team-high 44.6 three-point percentage) and Big East Sixth Man of the Year Donte DiVincenzo (third in points, second in assists and steals).
The eye test and statistical analysis all say this contest is close, but the Wildcats have too much in their favor not to survive and advance.
Villanova has a much better defense (14th compared to 40th). The offense is (slightly) more efficient and better spaced. It might have two picks to Kansas' none in the first round of this summer's NBA draft.
Big-game experience is another advantage for the 'Cats, since a lot of this roster was around for their 2016 title. Consistency counts as another edge, as Villanova has been more dominant throughout the year.
Save for jealousy of Jay Wright's fashion sense or hatred of all things Philadelphia, there aren't many reasons to pick against the Wildcats. So, we won't.
Prediction: Villanova 81, Kansas 76