By Hocine LOUKKAF on 03/29/2018
After an exciting tournament, the last four teams will battle in San Antonio for the supreme NCAA crown. Let’s take a look at the semi finals matchups and the strengths and weaknesses of each team.
#11 Loyola Chicago (32-5) vs #2 Michigan (32-7)
Loyola can thank UMBC and Buffalo for making the South region easier by beating Virginia and Arizona. Yet, the Ramblers also did their part of the job defeating best seeded #6 Miami, #3 Tennessee, #7 Nevada and #9 Kansas State, and beating the buzzer twice. The cinderella team of this Final Four, Loyola has used a suffocating defense, limitating three of its four opponents to 62 points (68 for Nevada) with a small ball rotation. They also shot 40+% from three, one of their main strengths on offense. The Ramblers don’t have a star. they’re a team first team second unit who will do their best to keep the dream alive.
After a strong finish in their conference with a Big 10 title against Purdue, the Wolverines could have been out of the Tournament in the second round without a buzzer beating three from Jordan Poole. They were more impressive against a strong Texas A&M team with 99pts scored and a nice looking 14/24 from three. With Moritz Wagner (12.5pts 5rbds) and Charles Matthews (16pts 7rbds), Michigan has an inside outside duo who will cause problems to the Ramblers. Wagner, who has had an average Tournament until now, will have a size avantage that could make the difference for the blue and yellow.
Prediction : Loyola has a variety of scorers and knows how to defend, but Michigan size and shooting will be hard to beat, Michigan wins it 72-65.
#1 Kansas (31-7) vs #1 Villanova (34-4)
After a 16pts win against Penn, the Jayhawks had to fight in every round, winning by 4 against all their opponents. The four-guards lineup has shot at least 36% from three in every game with 13/36 against Duke and 10/21 against Clemson. Malik Newman has been hot with an average of 25pts on 50% FG and at least four 3pts made over the last three games. Azubuike (11pts 9rbds per game over the last three games) and late addition De Sousa (10 and 6 rbds in the last two games) will be very important as the Jayhawks have been a very average rebounding team during the year.
For their second Final Four in three years, the Wildcats come with a chip on their shoulder. The best offensive team in the country with 86pts per game, Villanova won by at least 12pts in each of their four Tournament games, even scoring 90pts against WVU, one of the best defensive team in the country. They proved against Texas Tech that their defense could win on a bad offensive day (4/24 from three), limiting the Raiders to 59pts on 33% FG. Jalen Brunson (17pts and 4as per game in the Tournament) may be the best, or at least, most efficient player in the NCAA. Brunson is not alone as there are plenty of other weapons like Bridges (16pts per game) or the inside duo of Paschall (12pts 14rds vs Texas Tech) and Spellman (11pts 7rbds per game in the Tournament). Last but not least, four players (Brunson, Booth, Bridges and Paschall) were part of the winning team in 2016.
Prediction : The winner of this game will be the favourite in the title game. Kansas had a first test against Duke, but Villanova won’t miss two games in a row and has the experience of a Final Four. Villanova wins it 85-75.
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