Time: 9:20 p.m. ET
Stream: March Madness Live
Villanova is favored by 6.5 according to OddsShark.com
The Over/Under is 145 on ESPN
Last Time These Two Met
The last time these two teams played each other was 2014. Dylan Ennis and JayVaughn Pinkston were starters going up against the Wolverines at the Barclay’s Center in November. A game that Villanova Won on a go-ahead bucket by Pinkston and the game clinching block. Dylan Ennis lead all scorers for Villanova with 15. He also had a block on future Milwaukee Buck DJ Wilson. Villanova won the game 60-55.
Villanova and Michigan are the two hottest teams in college basketball. Moe Wagner shook off a 3-pointer slump against Loyola Chicago and Charles Matthews has been one of the most outstanding players on their side of the bracket. Villanova has shot the lights out from behind the arc, setting a new record for the number of threes in a season. Even better, they’ve outscored opponents by an average of 15.8 points this tournament. At any moment a run can start simply because an open three is hit and then the rain falls.
Michigan’s success comes from two factors. One is their stellar defense in the tournament, allowing .88 points per possession. According to KenPom, the Wolverines are the 10th best team in the nation when it comes to points from behind the arc, and during their 14 game win streak the Wolverines have held their opponents to 27% from behind the arc. The other key factor, Moritz Wagner. Wagner has the fundamentals to out-rebound most centers, the ability to defend the perimeter and the touch to nail threes. Don’t leave him open or you’ll pay.
Villanova’s buzz-saw of an offense is the hottest its been all season. Dropping Kansas with ease, Villanova has had an emergence of talent throughout the season. Mikal Bridges now shooting threes effectively, no longer a athletic finisher and wing defender. Jalen Brunson has upped his production and become the national player of the year, another trophy to add to his collection. Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall have not just grown, but have shined in the tournament. In fact, Spellman hes become a necessary cog in the Villanova machine. Villanova has the best offensive rating and is top 15 in defensive rating according to KenPom. In fact, they are also the most efficient team statistically. What makes Villanova such a good team is their focus on grit, fundamentals and shooting touch. While you can try to contain them by defending the 3-point line, Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth can easily drive to the basketball, or find a slasher to dish the ball to when the defense eventually caves in. Even scarier, when one player gets hot, they all get hot. A run, similar to the opening against Kansas, or the one in the final 5:30 against West Virginia to put them over the top. The versatility of each player on the roster is what gives Villanova such a potent defensive and offensive front. Switches happen automatically on defense, and the help comes within seconds. The ball movement on offense works to their advantage because the ball moves effortlessly.
The Omari Spellman-Moe Wagner matchup will probably decide the game. Both are mobile big men who can stroke it from 3. Even better, Both know how to bang down low and if you enjoy old school basketball, the rebounding and positioning war down low will be fun and frustrating to watch. Charles Matthews will most likely match up with Phil Booth and Donte DiVincenzo, which I can see him having his hands full with those two.
At the end of the day, I think this game comes down to the rebounding effort. If Villanova cleans the glass the way it did against Texas Tech, Villanova will win with ease. If not, look for this game to be hard fought as well as tough to watch. Michigan has great defenders, and some possessions for Villanova will have us scratching our heads on why some things just didn’t work out. Michigan is going to have to be quick about everything, and not get too far behind Villanova, matching shot for shot. That will be the toughest part for Michigan, not missing shots but how many shots can Michigan miss without Villanova blowing thme wide open.