The tournament shrunk from 64 to 32, from 32 to 16, 16 to 8, and now 8 to 4. As we head to San Antonio, four college basketball teams remain alive in the fight for the NCAA championship. There was a lot of tremendous action in the second weekend but personally I thought the first weekend was better, but it’s not really fair because there were about double the games in the first weekend.
Loyola-Chicago continued its cinderella story with a 78-62 victory over Kansas State that sent the Ramblers to the Final Four for the first time since they won the national title in 1963. Michigan withstood a late push by upset-hopeful Florida State and advanced to the Final Four with a 58-54 victory. Villanova played forty minutes of solid basketball en route to a 71-59 victory over Texas Tech. The best game of the weekend was hands down the final game, a matchup between blue blood programs in Duke and Kansas. It was a back and forth battle and Grayson Allen’s potential game-winning jumper at the end of regulation rimmed out in the most heartbreaking fashion. We got five extra minutes of basketball in this one and Malik Newman made it his five minutes. He took over in overtime and led the Jayhawks to the Final Four in an 85-81 nail biter.
Do you need advice on these Final Four Games? Well don’t fear because I am here to help. I’m going to preview and give you my pick for each of the Final Four games. Let’s get right into it!
(Saturday, March 31st, 2018)
#3 Michigan vs. #11 Loyola-Chicago
(6:09 p.m. EST, TBS; San Antonio, TX)
Preview: In the first Final Four Game, the Ramblers efficient offense will clash heads with a Michigan team ranked third in adjusted defensive efficiency. It will be Loyola-Chicago’s toughest matchup yet in the tournament and they may need more magic. Loyola-Chicago is no slouch on the defensive end either however, as no opponent of theirs has scored over 70 points in a tournament game. The Ramblers are fairly inconsistent when it comes to limiting turnovers, and this could pose a problem down the stretch against the Wolverines tough defense. Michigan defends the three pointer very well which has shown to be a must against Loyola-Chicago. If they can halt the hot shooting Ramblers just a bit, then Michigan may run away with this one. But they’ve gone so far and this cinderella story is one that I’m not sure is going to end just yet. LOYOLA!
Pick: #11 Loyola-Chicago 66, #3 Michigan 62.
#1 Villanova vs. #1 Kansas
(8:49 p.m. EST, TBS; San Antonio, TX)
Preview: This is a battle of the top remaining seeds and blue blooded programs in Kansas and Villanova. This will be the game of the tournament in my opinion and you could very well say the NCAA champion will be the winner of this Final Four matchup. Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges are expected to carry the load for the Wildcats and Villanova can get joy from three point range, which causes a bevy of problems for opposing defenses. Villanova can’t get stale on the defensive end either though and they must keep chomping at the bit defensively at the Jayhawks. Kansas certainly could use a player of the year type performance from Big 12 POY Devonte’ Graham. They could also use a performance like the one Malik Newman had in the second half and overtime periods against Duke in their Elite 8 win. Graham has struggled as of late and it hasn’t been fatal for Kansas, but against the star power of Villanova, Graham will have to show up for Kansas to keep it interesting.
Pick: #1 Villanova 77, #1 Kansas 72.