March is officially coming to an end and that means the many late nights of keeping track of brackets, binging games and placing bets on teams is almost over too. As much as I love the adrenaline as the shot clock winds down, I’m guilty of occasionally shutting my eyes in hopes that three-pointer from downtown actually makes it into the basket.
Despite the rollercoaster of emotions that are associated with March Madness, it’s time to place final bets. Michigan, Loyola-Chicago, Villanova and Kansas have all secured the Final Four spots in March Madness.
With only one Big Ten school left in the series and SEC knocked out of the running, it was tough to bring myself to face the realization that Texas officially had no chance in playing in the National Championship.
I’ll admit, putting my March sadness aside was difficult, but the madness must continue. So here are my predictions for the outcome of the Final Four and who I expect to see prevail to go on to play in the championship in San Antonio, Texas on April 2.
Michigan (No. 3) vs. Loyola (No. 11) — Michigan likely to upset Loyola
Most basketball fans have realized that Loyola will stop at nothing to achieve their goal of bringing Illinois an NCAA Championship since their last win in 1963. I’m always rooting for the underdog and despite the No. 11 seed having the talent, endurance and offense to knock Michigan out of the running, Michigan has proved to adapt their skills to beat any team they face.
Although Loyola might have Sister Jean, Michigan has the fourth best defense in the country. After watching Michigan upset Texas A&M in the second round, it is apparent that they never miss a shot. Their quick tempo and familiarity of shooting outside the paint had the Wolverines raining threes throughout their entire 32 – 7 season.
Not to mention, the Big Ten conference school has the roster to pull out a win against the persevering No. 11 seed. Having such key players, such as 6’11″ Moritz Wagner and 6’8″ Duncan Robinson, will have Loyola caught off guard with their size, agility and high shooting percentage.
The roster is not the only reason the No. 3 seed has the upper hand. Michigan has also seemed to face more competitive teams with a 13 – 5 record within their Big Ten Conference. This isn’t to say Loyola has not faced their fair share of highly competitive teams, but Michigan might have the skill and experience needed to pull out a win in a high-intensity game.
The Wolverines have yet to appear in the final four since 2013 and even though this is way more recent since Loyola’s appearance nearly 55 years ago — March Madness has been proved that anything is possible. As both teams face off, both teams’ chemistry on the court will lead to a high-scoring game. However, Michigan’s occasional inconsistent offense can provide Loyola the leverage to gain a lead on the Wolverines.
Defensive-wise, Michigan is solid. If they can manage to perform just as equally as Loyola’s offense, then they are likely to upset the No. 11 seed to ultimately face off Kansas or Villanova in the championship game.
Kansas (No. 1) vs. Villanova (No. 1) — Kansas will Prevail
Alright, this was a tough one. As the battle of the No. 1 seeds will take place next Saturday, both teams have what it takes to leave San Antonio with a championship. However, after watching Kansas upset Duke in an insane overtime finishing 85 – 81, the Jayhawks have proved their on-paper stats do not define their team.
On paper, the Jayhawks are ranked fifth in offense and 42nd in defense in contrast to Villanova’s first in offense and 13th in defense. Statistically, Villanova might seem like the clear winner in this March Madness matchup, but Kansas has a seemingly stacked roster and momentum to claim the No.1 seed title.
As the NBA draft approaches, Kansas’ Malik Newman, Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk will all most likely secure spots on teams. With a roster this impressive, all three players served as major contributions to the Jayhawks success in the series with a combined average of 49 points per game.
Villanova might have Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson on their roster, but if the Jayhawks can manage to avoid turnovers and clean up their sometimes-inconsistent defense then Villanova’s superstars have no chance in obtaining a lead after the first half.
Being that both Kansas and Villanova are competing for the No. 1 seed, it is difficult to point out a quality the other team lacks. However, after watching the Big 12 school throughout the series, Villanova lacks a sense of uniqueness in comparison to the other teams in the Final Four.
Although Villanova has the shooting percentage and defense, the Wildcats lack the chemistry on the court and bond that flows so naturally for Kansas.
The Jayhawks’ head coach, Bill Self, is the reason for the team’s ability to camouflage their weakest areas on the court. After overcoming the rough start to their regular season, the Jayhawks managed to use every component of their team to finish 31 – 7 overall and go on to win the Big 12 Conference.
Kansas hasn’t appeared in the Final Four since 2012 and after overcoming their slow start to their regular season, the Jayhawks are hungry for a championship. Put these teams head-to-head and you’ll find that they are tied at a 3 – 3 record with both teams making it impossible to gauge the outcome of this matchup.
Based off the series so far, my bracket predicts Michigan vs. Kansas in the NCAA Championship. As far as who leaves countdown city with a championship, I predict Michigan takes it all.
March Madness is always throwing curve balls at fans. There is a slight chance my predictions could be completely tossed out of bounds, but if I’m right, then you heard it here first.
The Final Four begins Saturday, March 31 and the NCAA Championship will take place on April 2.