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Final Four Picks 2018

Malik Newman, Kansas
3 Michigan Wolverines vs. 11 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers
Becoming just the third 11 seed to make it to the Final Four, Loyola-Chicago will try to do what the other two couldn't: win. George Mason and VCU, the other two, both were overmatched and saw their Cinderella runs continue, but I wouldn't overlook this Ramblers team as they prepare for Michigan, the West Region winner. Loyola has a balanced, well-rounded starting five that has great chemistry. Guards Ben Richardson and Clayton Custer have been playing together since high school, and big man Cameron Krutwig is a load to handle inside. This is not a team with an explosive offense, but an efficient one. They might not have the star power Michigan has at spots, but they should be able to keep up offensively. UM will be an obvious challenge for this Loyola defense, with a lot of versatility and a variety of weapons. Mo Wagner is the team's best player when he is on, and he works well with the Wolverines many different guards, namely veteran Muhammed-Ali Abur-Rakham and Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews. It will be interesting to see whether the Ramblers, who are not a very tall team overall, can match Michigan's size inside with Wagner and their length on the wing. Depth is also going to be a factor this late in the Tournament. While these teams have had a week to rest up, having fresher legs is obviously a huge advantage. Loyola does not have the depth Michigan has, and it will be interesting to see how that plays out over 40 minutes, especially when foul trouble comes into play. Loyola-Chicago has been maybe the coolest sports story of 2018 up to this point, but I think the magic will come to an end in San Antonio. Michigan is probably the best offensive team they've seen this Tournament, and the Wolverines have been flaming hot from three in their last two games. If they continue that trend and limit their turnovers, there should be no stopping Michigan from returning to their first National Championship Game since 2013.
Michigan by ten

1 Villanova Wildcats vs. 1 Kansas Jayhawks
While Virginia and Xavier both succumbed to upsets early in the Tournament, the other one seeds proved to be quite tough to finish. Villanova has not faced an easy road to get to the Final Four, but they have showed grit in grinding out tough wins over Texas Tech and West Virginia. Meanwhile, Kansas had to overcome an incredibly talented Duke squad to reach their first Final Four since the 2011-2012 team, which was overpowered by Kentucky in the National Championship. Villanova is the nation's best offensive team, even though they haven't shot the ball great over their last two games. Recently crowned Player of the Year Jalen Brunson is the engine that makes it all run smoothly. Swingman Mikal Bridges, versatile big Omari Spellman and Fordham transfer Eric Paschall are all huge contributors as well, and can all hit the three-ball at an impressive clip. Villanova presents quite the challenge for a Kansas defense that has been good, but not great, for much of the year. This is not a very big KU team, with very little experience in some places. They are especially thin in their frontline, where center Udoka Azuikbe has had knee problems, and freshman Silvio De Sousa has only been on campus since mid-January. Guards Malik Newman and Svi Mykhailiuk have had to play out of position for much of the season and have done a fine job. However, their lack of size and lack of much depth is something 'Nova could exploit, particularly considering it is one of their strengths. What will be very interesting to watch will be the point guard clash between Devonte Graham and Brunson. Graham is coming off a Big 12 Player of the Year season and has been one of the biggest factors to the Jayhawks' success all year long. Both are crafty, fundamentally sound guards, but whoever has a better day gives their team a significant leg-up. It should be quite a fun one, seeing two of the sport's most consistent programs battle it out. Kansas has overcome a lot of obstacles to have another superb year under head man Bill Self and I would not put it past them to stay alive. However, Villanova has proven they can have off days and still beat great basketball teams (see Texas Tech). Even if the Wildcats experience rust from having a week off, they have the type of team that can overcome it. Kansas will need to have a wonderful day from three and big contributions from Azuikbe to make it a close one, but I don't see that happening. The 'Nova train rolls on, and prepares for a shot at a second National Title in three seasons.
Villanova by seven

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