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NCAA Basketball National Championship Prediction 2018

Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova
After one of the craziest college basketball seasons in recent memory we have arrived at the finale: a clash between one-seeded Villanova and the three seed, Michigan. Villanova has been on of the rare constants in such a wild season, going 35-4 and rolling past teams en route to their National Championship berth, which included a stomping of Kansas in the Final Four. Meanwhile, Michigan has been less consistent, but there is no denying the great basketball they are playing. Following a thrilling, buzzer-beating win over Houston in the second round, the Wolverines have been on a mission, and come in to this one two days after ending Loyola-Chicago's miraculous run. This game is sure to keep scoreboard operators busy, and sure to be competitive, but only one will be crowned National Champs.

Even though they rarely reel in high-profile recruits (with some exceptions) and aren't the biggest name in the sport, there is no denying how much of a power Villanova has become. Head coach Jay Wright has had the Wildcats as the class of the Big East consistently for some time now, and now they stand just forty minutes away from their second National Title in three years. Wright has a roster well-suited for modern basketball, with an astounding amount of versatility and balance. Nearly every single player on this roster can shoot, and all help this team succeed in different ways. Point guard Jalen Brunson, the National Player of the Year, is the clear leader of this team. Brunson isn't a very flashy player and as Michigan coach John Belein explained, "He plays like an old man." Yet, he is extremely effective at creating for his teammates and using his craftiness to finish around the rim. Joining Brunson is a fantastic supporting cast that boasts big man Omari Spellman, swingman Mikal Bridges and underrated Donte DiVincenzo. Spellman is Villanova's most traditional big, but the youngster still can shoot and space the floor. He will be a tough matchup for whoever guards him, most likely the Wolverines' star big, Mo Wagner. Bridges and DiVincenzo are great offensive weapons, but their defense may be the most important thing for 'Nova here. Michigan's great selection of guards and wings will be incredibly hard to contain unless Bridges and DiVincenzo can slow them down significantly. Beyond that, Villanova does have some other weapons, but overall this team is not necessarily incredibly deep. So far, it hasn't hurt them in this Tournament, but it will be intriguing to see if Michigan, a team that loves to run, can exploit that lack of depth.

For Michigan, much of their success this year can be attributed to the addition of Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews and the improvement of Wagner and guard Zavier Simpson. Matthews was known primarily as a defender prior to arriving in Ann Arbor, but his size and strength has helped him evolve into a really dangerous offensive player. Wagner decided not to go to the NBA despite interest last off-season and the German center has shown an improved jump shot and better feel around the rim. And then there is Simpson, who combined with veteran Muhammed-Ali Abdur-Rakham give the Wolverines two incredible athletes that can score in a variety of ways. All of those guys should play a huge role, but the X-factors reside in the frontcourt, primarily Wagner and forward Duncan Robinson. Considering Villanova's lack of size, Wagner has the chance to have a huge day, especially if he can get Spellman in foul trouble early. Robinson, who started his college basketball career at the D3 level, is a sharpshooting four that really opens up this offense when he is playing well. However, Robinson has not had a great Tournament, and Michigan has really struggled when he has had issues. If the senior can play well and hit some big threes, it gives Michigan a chance to keep up with Villanova's terrific shooters.

Last year, Gonzaga-North Carolina had a Championship Game that felt incredibly old school. It was a very slow-paced game that was run through the post, reminiscent of a college basketball game decades ago, when dominant big men were the norm. That is not going to be the case this year as these two teams represent where the sport is going today: lots of threes and lots of shooting. Michigan probably will try and slow things down a bit to keep up with Villanova offensively, but this is still a game where both could drop 80-plus. It is also a battle that features two coaches who have been here before, and are some of the best in the business. Despite the momentum Michigan has built and their advantage of size and depth, Villanova is the pick here. The way Villanova is playing they look unstoppable, and picking against them just seems foolish. In a sport where parity reigns supreme, the 'Cats look poised to win their second National Title in three seasons.

1 comment:

Mike McGowan said...

Repeating my FB comment. Villanova by 10. I would prefer to not see the 8th Big 10 runnerup since MSU one in 2000, but not too vested with either team.

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