The Michigan Wolverines were in a difficult position Saturday in the national semifinals against Loyola-Chicago, as they found themselves down by 10 points with slightly more than 14 minutes to play.
That's when Moritz Wagner and his teammates turned it on and flipped that deficit into a 69-57 win, ending the dream season of the Ramblers and earning a spot in the national championship.
Michigan has won 14 games in a row, and head coach John Beilein has his team streaking. As well as the Wolverines are playing, they may have to turn it up a notch if they hope to stay with the Villanova Wildcats for 40 minutes and pull off the upset.
Villanova comes into the championship game after routing Kansas 95-79. The Wildcats had a record-setting night in the national semifinals victory, as they made 18 three-point shots and never let the Jayhawks back in the game after running out to a 22-4 lead.
The Wildcats would clearly have a big advantage if they continue to shoot the way they did against Kansas. But head coach Jay Wright's team can play more than one way. They are an explosive offensive team, but the Wildcats can play hard-nosed defense and go to the boards as well.
They have the toughness to compete with the Wolverines if the game turns into a physical battle, and it will be hard to find a way to beat Villanova. The Wildcats are seven-point favorites, according to OddsShark.
If Michigan is going to have a chance to win the game, Wagner will have to be at his best once again. Wagner had 24 points and 15 rebounds in the win over Loyola, and he is the Wolverines' leading scorer with 14.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per night. Explosive Charles Matthews is averaging 13.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
Villanova is the leading scoring team in the nation with an average of 86.8 points per game. Brunson is the Wildcats' leading scorer and overall leader. He is scoring 19.2 points per night, and he will not hesitate to take over at any moment that he senses his team needs him to show off his skills.
Mikal Bridges is scoring 17.6 points per night in support of Brunson, and the Wildcats have four other players averaging in double figures. One of those players in Eric Paschall, who had a game-high 24 points in the win over Kansas and made 10 of 11 shots from the field.
The Wildcats have defeated Radford, Alabama, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Kansas to get to the title game. The closest games they have played in the NCAA tournament were 12-point wins over the Mountaineers and Red Raiders.
Michigan has defeated Montana, Houston, Texas A&M, Florida State and Loyola-Chicago to get to the title game. The Wolverines were one-point victors over the Cougars in the second round, and they would have been sent home after that game if freshman Jordan Poole had not hit the buzzer-beating shot against Houston.
The Wolverines will need to be at their best in order to stay in the game with the red-hot Wildcats.
Villanova is not likely to shoot as well as it did against Kansas, but Wright's team has all the other factors needed to win. Brunson is the best all-around player on the court, and he has excellent support.
No team has gotten closer than a dozen points against Villanova in the tournament, and we don't expect Michigan to break that streak.
Villanova wins the game by 13 or more points.