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NCAA National Championship 2018: 11 things to for watch Monday Michigan vs Villanova game

The NCAA tournament is a two-team duel now, and here are 11 things that might — or might not — happen Monday night in the Alamodome.

1. Villanova’s Jay Wright, say hello to the 13 coaches who have won multiple national championships. “You can’t say it’s a dream come true because you don’t even dream about it,” he said Saturday night, after the Wildcats crunched Kansas 95-79. “You don’t dream about getting two out of three years. You don’t think about it. I don’t.”

2. At the end of the day, after all the disarray of this NCAA tournament, a No. 1 seed is finishing one of the most dominant runs in memory. Villanova has won all five games by double digits, by an average margin of 17.8. The last champion to win all six by double figures was North Carolina in 2009. The throttling of Kansas, that included 13 3-pointers in the first half at one end and suffocating defense at the other, could not have been more impressive.

“They were unbelievable,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said from the wrong end of that score. “If I ever watch the game tape — which I know what happened, so I probably won’t — I’ll think more about how good Villanova was.”

And from the right end: “Just one of those nights,” Wright said. “We made every shot to start the game.”

3.) An ugly championship game. For Michigan’s sake, the uglier the better. Because if it’s an offensive show . . .

“That’s not what we hang our hat on, or shot-making ability,” the Wolverines’ Duncan Robinson was saying. “We hang our hats on the defensive end.”

Michigan has allowed one opponent to break 70 in regulation in seven weeks. That stat is about to get a stern challenge.

4.) The team record for 3-pointers in a national championship game is 12. Does anyone expect Villanova – after 13 in the first 17 minutes Saturday night – not to shatter it?

5.) Only the fifth meeting between these two schools in history. One was a 59-55 Villanova win in the second round in 1985, part of the Wildcats’ ride to the title. They’re not the No. 8 seed this time.

6.) Michigan becoming the 16th school with multiple championships, while ending the Big Ten’s 17-year title drought and becoming only the third No. 3 seed to win the title in 29 years. “It’s something we always talk about,” Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman said. “That’s how you’re remembered at the University of Michigan, it’s by championships.”

7.) Jalen Brunson adding the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four to national player of the year – a rare double, indeed. Not that he’s thinking much about it. “You cherish a championship and these bonds for a long time,” he said. “Those awards only last for so long.” Then again, he won’t win the MOP if teammate Eric Paschall goes 10-for-11 shooting and 4-for-5 in 3-pointers again.

8.) Moe Wagner, Michigan hero for the ages if he can pull this off.

9.) Villanova losing the edge after Saturday’s virtuoso performance.

10.) Or not. Doesn’t sound like they plan on it.

Not from Donte DiVincenzo: “When we came in (the locker room), we knew we were in the national championship game. You have to take that in for a second, you have to recognize it, and then you have to move forward.”

Nor Brunson: “We’ll try to be the best team we can be on Monday night. That’s all we’ve worked for, to be the best team we can be by the end of the year.”

Nor Omari Spellman: “Just coming out, ready to compete and defend and rebound and continue to do what we do. We don’t pride ourselves on shooting the ball well. We pride ourselves on defending and rebounding, and that’s our true measure of success in playing Villanova basketball.

“We will celebrate when the job is done.”

11.) And finally, Michigan a big enough underdog in some eyes to almost be Loyola — without the nun.

“We know they’re a great team, because they’ve gotten to this point,” DiVincenzo said.

“We’re still hungry. We feel like we can be national champions,” Abdur-Rahkman said.

That was right after Michigan’s victory, before he knew who the Wolverines would be playing. A few minutes later, Villanova led Kansas 22-4.

Villanova to meet Michigan in NCAA national championship 2018 game

It’s Final Four Saturday. San Antonio’s Alamodome is home to the semi-final round of the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament. The last four teams standing were No. 3 seed Michigan, No. 11 Loyola-Chicago, No. 1 Villanova and No. 3 Kansas. They will compete in the semi-finals for a chance to become this year’s national champion.

Michigan (32-7) defeated Loyola-Chicago (32-5) in the first game of the evening. The Wolverines were a -5.5 favorite and covered the spread, defeating the Ramblers by a score of 69-57.

And Villanova (34-3) defeated Kansas (31-7) with a final score of 95-79. Ahead of the game, the Wildcats were a five-point favorite to advance to the final.

Villanova defeats Kansas

Villanova wins 95-79 and will play in their second National Championship game in the past three years.

After their 11-point run in the first half, the Wildcats never looked back. They led by 15 at the half and kept a double-digit lead through the entire second half.

Eric Paschall led Nova with 24 points. Devonte’ Graham had 23 for Kansas.

Along the way they set a record. Their 18 3-pointers are now the most number of field goals outside the arc in a Final Four game.

The NCAA National Championship game is now set. Villanova will face No. 3 Michigan Monday night at 9:30 p.m. ET.

 

  • Villanova hits their first mid-range shot

    13:12: Villanova hits their first mid-range shot tonight. They have yet to attempt a mid-range shot or a free throw, but have hit 17 from outside the arc or 50% of the 34 they’ve attempted.

    11:58: Commercial time out. Villanova has a 20-point lead over Kansas, 67-47.

  • Second half is underway

    Villanova started the second half empty. As Kansas turned down the court, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk was fouled and made both his free throws.

    Taking the ball down the court, Phil Booth’s shot is blocked, but Eric Paschall got the rebound and sank his fourth jump shot from 3-point range. Villanova is up 50-34 over Kansas.

Villanova leads Kansas at half

At the half, Villanova leads by 15. The 47 points the Wildcats have scored is the most Kansas has allowed in the tournament so far. Villanova is 13/26 from 3-point range.

Jalen Brunson leads the Wildcats with 13, while Devonte’ Graham leads the Jayhawks with 10.

The story of this game has been Villanova’s shooting from outside the arc. Villanova is 17-for-33, Kansas 13-for-30. The difference, thus far, is Villanova’s 13 three-pointers. All but seven of their shots have been from behind the three-point line.

The Wildcats’ 13 3-point field goals ties a Final Four record for most 3-point shots made.

Another record for Villanova

Villanova has held a 3-point shooting clinic Saturday evening. The Wildcats are 15-of-27 on field goals tonight. Thirteen of those are 3-pointers.

Meanwhile, Kansas is 11 for 24, shooting 2-of-4 from downtown.

​Kansas goes on a 7-point run

The Jayhawks have scored seven unanswered points, cutting Villanova’s lead in halt. Coming off the bench, Silvio De Sousa scored five in the past two minutes of play. Villanova is up 28-15.

 

 

Nova breaks NCAA 3-point record

The Wildcats broke the NCAA men’s basketball single season record for made 3-pointers Saturday — and there’s still 12:46 to go in the first half. The teamhit 443 3-pointers this year.

They lead the Jayhawks 22-4.

​Villanova is on fire

Villanova came out the gates hot and immediately went on an 11-o run. The Wildcats lead the Kansas Jayhawks 16-4.

Freshman forward Omari Spellman leads the team with six.

Next up: Kansas vs. Villanova

Kansas and Villanova are warming up ahead of tip-off. The winner will meet Michigan in the national championship. The game is scheduled for Monday night at 9:20 p.m. ET on TBS.

This is Villanova’s second Final Four appearance in the last three years. Kansas is returning to the city and arena where it won its last NCAA title in 2008, CBS Sports writes.

Michigan defeats Loyola-Chicago

On the shoulders of junior Moritz Wagner, the Michigan Wolverines have defeated the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers 69-57.

Michigan went on a 38-16 run to close the game. Wagner lead Michigan with 24 points and Charles Matthews had 17.

The Wolverines will play for its first NCAA national championship since 1989 on Monday.

For Loyola-Chicago: Cameron Krutwig led the Ramblers with 17 points. Custer finished with 15 on the night and a career-high 14 rebounds.

​Loyola-Chicago looks for a prayer

Down eight points with only a minute left, the Ramblers have begun fouling Michigan to conserve time on the clock. Michigan leads 68-57.

​Michigan leads by 10

The Wolverines are up 61-51 against the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers. Michigan junior Moritz Wagner leads the team with 24 points with 2 minutes to go.

Marcus Towns leaves, returns to game after quad injury

Marcus Towns leaves, returns to game after quad injury

Marcus Townes momentarily left the game after dealing with cramping in his left thigh. He’s now back in the game with 6:02 to go. Michigan leads 51-47.

​Michigan closes the gap

The Wolverines have cut the 10 point deficit to a 3-point lead. Loyola-Chicago leads 47-44 with 7 minutes to play. Michigan fifth-year senior Duncan Robinson hit two big 3-pointers in the second half. He currently has six points. His team is 28-0 when he scores six points or more.

Loyola-Chicago leads by 10

For the second time tonight, Loyola went up by 10 points over Michigan. The Ramblers lead the Wolverines 41-31.

Clayton Custer now has 9 points for the Ramblers. They’ve answered back every time Michigan has scored.

Ramblers lead Wolverines at halftime

The Ramblers are leading the Wolverines 29-22 at halftime. Cameron Krutwig and Marques Townes lead Loyola-Chicago with 8 points each. Meanwhile, Moritz Wagner has 11 and Charles Matthews has 8 points for Michigan.

Loyola-Chicago is 24-0 when leading at halftime this year, according to ESPN Stats & Info

Ramblers take the lead back

Loyola tied it up with 6:47 left in the first half.

After some back-and-forth, Loyola went to the line and took two more. Towns added another bucket from inside the paint, securing a 9-point run for Loyola.

Half-way through the first half, Michigan up by one

After starting quick, Loyola was having trouble finding a bucket. Michigan went on a 9-point run. During that time, Loyola was 2-for-9. They could find the rim, but couldn’t get many to go down.

Then both teams just went over seven minutes without a basket on either side. Michigan has been suffocating Loyola, but the Ramblers are starting to find their way back into the game.

​Ramblers struggle to find their shot

Loyola-Chicago has struggled to find their shot early in Saturday’s game. They’ve missed their last six shots. After a 9-0 run, Michigan leads 12-4 with 12:30 to go in the first half.

 

Michigan vs. Loyola-Chicago starting lineups

Michigan is the home team in tonight’s game. Here’s the starting five:

Zavier Simpson
Charles Matthews
Moe Wagner
Isiah Livers
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman

The starter’s for Loyola-Chicago are below:

Marques Townes
Ben Richardson
Clayton Custer
Donte Ingram
Cameron Krutwig

 

 

 

Michigan® silences Loyola-Chicago to make National Championship™ game

Michigan returns to the national championship game for the first time since 2013, with a 69-57 win against Loyola in a national semifinal of the 2018 Final Four on Saturday, March 31. Find the score, live updates and stats for the Final Four game.

Michigan advances to the National Championship Game on Monday, April 2, to play either Villanova or Kansas.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Michigan-Loyola score, live updates

FINAL: Michigan 69, Loyola 57. Moritz Wagner scored 24 points and Charles Matthews added 17 in the win against Loyola.

Second half

Michigan 68, Loyola 57 (0:27.9, 2H): Michigan is securing its ticket to the national championship game by hitting late free throws against the Ramblers.

Michigan 59, Loyola 51 (3:27, 2H): Michigan is now running away with the game, after a 3-pointer by Wagner.

Michigan 51, Loyola 47 (5:48, 2H): A quick swing has given the lead back to Michigan. Wagner hit a huge 3-pointer with 6:59 left in the game to tie the game at 47-47, followed by Poole’s free throws and Charles Matthews’ layup — a seven-point swing for the Wolverines.

Loyola 47, Michigan 44 (7:31, 2H): Michigan continues to chip away at Loyola’s lead, after Jordan Poole’s layup, but Loyola lost Townes to a left leg injury (cramping, per CBS) with 7:31 left in the second half. Townes had eight points and seven rebounds for the Ramblers

Loyola 45, Michigan 42 (10:06, 2H): And there’s Duncan Robinson. Robinson hits his second 3-pointer to cut Loyola’s lead to 3 midway through the second half. It’s only Michigan’s fourth 3-pointer, but it could be a big one. The Wolverines need to take advantage of their outside shooting.

Loyola 43, Michigan 37 (11:42, 2H): Jaaron Simmons hits his first 3-pointer to cut Loyola’s lead to 6. The Wolverines are 6 for 12 from the floor in the second half, but Loyola has made four of its last five shots.

Loyola 41, Michigan 31 (14:00, 2H): Charles Matthews cut Michigan’s lead to 5, but the Ramblers answered with their first 3-pointer of the night, from Clayton Custer. Loyola is 1 for 5 on 3-pointers.

Loyola 32, Michigan 24 (18:47, 2H): Krutwig opens the second half with a three point play to open Loyola’s lead to 10 points, but Michigan answers with a quick basket.

Duncan Robinson was on the floor as Michigan opened the second half. The Wolverines need a spark from behind the perimeter; they went 0 for 3 on 3-point shooting in the first half.

HALFTIME: Loyola 29, Michigan 22: Krutwig hit a turnaround jumper with less than 40 seconds left in the half, and after Wagner missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 17.8 seconds left, Donte Ingram’s jumper just before the buzzer opened Loyola’s lead to seven points.

Wagner has a double-double for Michigan: 11 points and 11 rebounds. Krutwig, Townes and Aundre Jackson each have eight points for the Ramblers, who are 10 for 24 from the floor.

Michigan is 9 for 31 from the floor — Wagner and Charles Matthews are a combined 8-for-16 on shooting.

First half

Loyola 21, Michigan 19 (3:40, 1H): This game is defense first. The Ramblers are 7 for 18 from the floor, while Michigan is 8 for 27. Furthermore, a 9-0 run has helped lift Loyola to its first lead.

Loyola 17, Michigan 15 (5:53, 1H): Loyola ties the game on Cameron Krutwig’s layup, then takes the lead with 5:56 left in the first half of Krutwig’s two free throws.

Michigan 12, Loyola 10 (9:19, 1H): Marques Townes hits a jumper as the shot clock expires to cut Michigan’s lead to 2 points. Still, Michigan’s size is making things difficult for Loyola, particularly the play of 7-foot-1 Teske and the 6-foot-11 Wagner. The Ramblers are 3 for 5 in the paint — a low number, and evidence they’re having trouble creating chances inside.

Michigan 12, Loyola 4 (12:38, 1H): Jon Teske hits a layup to stretch Michigan’s lead to 8. Michigan keeps making stops, and keeps getting baskets. Loyola is 2 for 11 from the floor, and Michigan is capitalizing off transition. Michigan also has 13 rebounds so far, including four by Wagner.

Michigan 6, Loyola 4 (15:55 1H): The Wolverines hit a pair of early 3-pointers from Moritz Wagner and Charles Matthews to take the lead against the Ramblers. Michigan’s defense is strong, early, and not allowing Loyola to create a presence under the net.

Pregame: Ann Arbor is buzzing for Michigan’s first Final Four game since 2013. In San Antonio, the Wolverines are on the court at the Alamodome, ready to tip off against Loyola.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Michigan-Loyola time, game information

Michigan and Loyola-Chicago play at 6:09 p.m. ET on Saturday March 31, 2018.

  • Time: 6:09 p.m. ET.
  • Date: Saturday, March 31, 2018
  • Location: Alamodome, San Antonio
  • TV channel: TBS, which can be found here.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Michigan-Loyola TV channel

The 2018 NCAA Tournament game between Michigan and Loyola-Chicago is on TBS.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Michigan-Loyola how to watch online

You can watch the Michigan-Loyola-Chicago game online with NCAA.com’s March Madness Live.

How can I listen to the Michigan-Loyola-Chicago game on the radio?

The Michigan Sports Marketing Network, headed by flagship stations WWJ (950 AM) in Detroit and WWWW (102.9 FM) in Ann Arbor, will have the call. Matt Shepard provides the play-by-play, and Terry Mills is the analyst. The game also can be heard on Sirius 84, XM 84 and Internet 84.

Michigan-Loyola-Chicago basketball preview

Michigan faces Loyola-Chicago in the first of two national semifinal games Saturday night in San Antonio. It’s the Wolverines’ first appearance in the Final Four since 2013. It’s also the first meeting between the Wolverines and the Ramblers in nearly 40 years.

Michigan (32-7) enters the Final Four on a 13-game winning streak, which dates back to Feb. 11. The Wolverines swept their four Big Ten Tournament games en route to their second consecutive tournament championship. They have handled every sort of situation during their NCAA Tournament run, from Jordan Poole’s game-winning 3-pointer in the final second of a 64-63 win against Houston on March 17, to a 99-72 blowout of Texas A&M in the Sweet Sixteen on March 22.

Charles Matthews led the Wolverines with 17 points in a 58-54 win against Florida State in the Elite Eight on Saturday in Los Angeles. Matthews, a junior guard, has averaged 16.5 points in the Wolverines’ four NCAA Tournament games.

Loyola (32-5) comes out of the South Region as the No. 11 seed. Ben Richardson led the Ramblers with 23 points in a 78-62 win Sunday against Kansas State.

Clayton Custer leads the Ramblers with 13.2 points per game. Donte Ingram averages 6.3 rebounds per game, while Cameron Krutwig averages 6.1 rebounds per game.

The Ramblers are the fourth No. 11 seed to reach the Final Four, joining LSU (1986), George Mason (2006) and VCU (2011).

Loyola enters the Final Four as the winner of 14 consecutive games — the nation’s longest current winning streak. The Ramblers beat Miami, Tennessee and Kansas State to earn their first trip to the Final Four since 1963. Loyola also looks for its first national championship since 1963, when it beat Cincinnati.

The Wolverines defeated Loyola 84-80 in the second round of the 1964 NCAA Tournament in Minneapolis. Michigan lost to Duke in a national championship semifinal in 1964, the Wolverines’ first appearance in the Final Four. This is the fourth meeting between Michigan and Loyola and the first since 1969, when the Ramblers defeated the Wolverines 112-100 in Chicago.

NCAA Final Four 2018 Results: Opening®National Championship

Michigan and Villanova are the two remaining teams in the 2018 NCAA Tournament after they each won their respective Final Four game on Saturday night. The third-seeded Wolverines are now the hottest team in the country after ending No. 11 Loyola-Chicago’s miraculous run through the bracket, having won 14 straight games dating back to early February. They’ll match up with the top-seeded Wildcats, who just finished making fellow No. 1 Kansas look as pedestrian as the other four opponents they had previously dismantled across the opening two weeks of March Madness.

It’s an intriguing national championship game matchup, but one that may not be a close one if the odds are any indication. Villanova opened between a 6.5- and 7-point favorite, depending on the shop, which is the largest spread on a title contest since Duke was favored by seven against Butler back in 2010. The bookmakers were wrong on that one, however, as Gordon Hayward memorably had a chance to win an improbable championship for the Bulldogs with a half-court heave that was just off the mark. The Wildcats haven’t had any trouble covering the spread so far during the Big Dance, going 5-0 for backers and winning their five contests by an average margin of nearly 18 points. Michigan hasn’t been as dominant during its NCAA Tournament run, but started off the Final Four with a statement victory over the Ramblers, winning by 12 points to easily cover the five-point spread.

Chris Fallica noted that 6.5-point favorites haven’t done that well against the spread in the title game and only marginally better straight up:

Both the Wolverines and Wildcats have been amongst the most profitable teams to bet on during the 2017-18 season. Despite seeing regularly inflated lines, ‘Nova has gone 27-12 against the spread. The program has been favored in all 39 of its matchups so far and has lived up to expectations as the odds-on favorite (5-1 at the start of March Madness) to cut down the nets in San Antonio. Michigan has performed similarly against the spread, compiling a 25-12-2 record this season. The school has covered in eight of its last 10 outings and was a great bet to win it all at 10-1 back on Selection Sunday.

With only one game left to determine a national championship, hoops handicapper Jon Price is back with his final March Madness bracket prediction. The Vegas pro has been imploring readers all month long to take Villanova to win its second title in three years and still feels that the Wildcats aren’t going to lose, but may not like them as much laying seven points. Before getting to his quick pick—an in-depth betting preview of Monday’s game will be coming soon—take a look at the scores from Saturday’s Final Four games, then check out the complete schedule, start time, TV and live streaming info so you can watch online, opening odds and more for the 2018 NCAA Tournament National Championship Game. Then read on for a quick recap of all the Final Four results, highlights and much more.

2018 Final Four Results

Final Four Matchup            Odds Results
No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago UM -5.5 UM 69 – LCHI 57
No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 1 Kansas NOVA -5 NOVA 95 – KU 79

2018 NCAA Tournament Championship Game Viewing Info, Odds And Pick

Date Time Matchup (TV) Odds O/U Pick
Monday, April 2 9:20 p.m. No. 3 Michigan vs. TBD (NOVA/KU) NOVA -7 145 NOVA

Final Four 2018: Michigan vs LoyolaChicago Live Stream, start time, date, picks

Third-seed Michigan takes on 11-seed Loyola-Chicago in the 2018 NCAA Tournament Final Four on Saturday at 6:09 p.m. ET. Michigan opened as a three-point favorite, but the line quickly moved to 5.5. The over-under, or total number of points Vegas thinks will be scored, is 129.5, up one from the opening line.

Before picking a side in this huge March Madness 2018 game, you need to see what the SportsLine Projection Model is saying. The advanced computer model enters the Final Four on an astonishing 8-1 run on 2018 NCAA Tournament picks.

It’s also been crushing its selections on Michigan, going 4-0 in the NCAA Tournament on point-spread picks in games involving the Wolverines. Anybody following the model is way, way up.

Now the computer has simulated Loyola-Chicago vs. Michigan 10,000 times and come up with some surprising results.

We can tell you it’s calling for 119 points to be scored, clearing the under with 10.5 to spare. And it also has a strong pick for one side of the spread, saying it hits in almost 60 percent of simulations. You can get that pick only over at SportsLine.

The model has taken into account Loyola’s stunning run through the NCAA Tournament that has the Ramblers (32-5) in the Final Four for the first time since 1963, becoming just the fourth 11-seed ever to make it this far.

They survived three nail-biting matchups to open the tournament before putting together a dominant 78-62 win over Kansas State in the Elite Eight. Loyola’s defense hasn’t given up more than 68 points in any NCAA Tournament game and now has the look of a legitimate title contender, flanked by chaplain Sister Jean.

But standing in the way of this Cinderella story is Michigan — a team that has also experienced plenty of madness this March.

The Wolverines (32-7) needed a clutch buzzer-beater to survive Houston in the second round. They then rolled through Texas A&M in the Sweet 16, but had to hold off a late charge from Florida State in the Elite Eight to advance to San Antonio.

They also rely on a tough defense that gives up an average of just 63.1 points and held FSU to 54. Offensively, 6-foot-11 forward Moritz Wagner is the player to watch; he’s averaged 15 points over the last three contests.

Both squads have been money against the spread this season, with Michigan going 22-13 and Loyola posting a 24-9 mark.

Final Four 2018: Villanova vs Kansas Live Stream, start time, date

It took a career-high 32 points from Malik Newman along with an overtime period, but the Midwest Region’s No. 1 seed, Kansas, is advancing to the Final Four where it will meet Villanova, the No. 1 seed that emerged from the East Region.

While the Jayhawks have been battling — their last three games were decided by four points — Villanova has been snoozing. The Wildcats have yet to win by fewer than 12 points in the NCAA Tournament, and have now gone more than a month since last taking a tally in the loss column.

That really tells the story of these teams and their trajectory all season: Villanova has been absolutely dominant for significant stretches this season. Kansas, on the other hand, lost three times at home this season. That’s as many as KU has lost at Allen Fieldhouse since the 1998 season. And yet, KU won the league outright by flashing its resiliency on the road.

Now we’ll soon learn if that same resiliency that got Kansas to the Final Four will be enough to give Bill Self his second title, or if Jay Wright and Villanova can win its second in three seasons.

Viewing Information

  • Location: Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas
  • When: Saturday, March 31 at 8:49 p.m. ET
  • TV: TBS
  • Stream: March Madness Live
  • Follow: CBS Sports App

NCAA™ Final Four 2018: Kansas vs Villanova matchup, pick ® predictions

In the glorious history of the NCAA Tournament as conceived by Hall of Famer Dave Gavitt – with the 64-team bracket that turned this event into a phenomenon – there have been 68 semifinal games played at the Final Four.

Kansas vs. Villanova will be only the 12th in all that time to be contested by two No. 1 seeds.

So what we’ll get when the Jayhawks and Wildcats take the floor at the Alamodome is a rare treat: a game between two teams that have excelled throughout the season. Each had its momentary lapses, and each has surged through March with three consecutive conference tournament victories, and four more in the tournament that matters most.

Final Four matchup:

Kansas vs Villanova

How to watch

The Final Four matchup between Kansas and Villanova will tip at 8:49 p.m. ET. It will air on TBS and can be live-streamed on NCAA(dot)com or the March Madness Live app.

No. 1 Kansas

Coach: Bill Self, 3 Final Fours, 1 NCAA championship
Overall record: 31-7
Scoring leader: Devonte’ Graham, 17.2 ppg
Rebounding leader: Udoka Azubuike, 7.1 rpg
Assists leader: Devonte’ Graham, 7.3 apg
Famous non-athlete alum: Actor Don Johnson

No. 1 Villanova

Coach: Jay Wright, 3 Final Fours, 1 NCAA championship
Overall record: 34-4
Scoring leader: Jalen Brunson, 19.2, ppg
Rebounding leader: Omari Spellman, 7.8 rpg
Assists leader: Jalen Brunson, 4.6 apg
Famous non-athlete alum: Playwright David Rabe

Best individual matchup: Kansas C Udoka Azubuike vs. Villanova C Omari Spellman

It’d be so easy and so obvious to say the battle between All-American point guard Devonte’ Graham of Kansas and Sporting news Player of the Year Jalen Brunson is the one to watch. There is plenty of glamor there. But the game is more likely to be decided by how these two very different big men contend with one another. Azubuike may be the strongest player in Division I basketball, so overpowering that 118 of his 207 baskets this season were dunks. Those fuel a shooting percentage of .772 – 87 percentage points better than the No. 2 player in field goal accuracy. Spellman is a .446 3-point shooter with 62 makes on the season.

When Spellman encountered foul trouble early in Villanova’s second-round game against Alabama, it revealed how dangerously thin the Wildcats are at that position. Spellman has no choice but to be careful in defending the inside. The good news about guarding Azubuike is that if you let him catch it in his preferred space, he’s so overwhelming you might as well get out of the way and allow him to rip off the rim.
Kansas must decide how to contend with Spellman’s ability on the perimeter, and his ability to advance the basketball when given enough space. The Jayhawks believe Azubuike moves his feet well enough to cope with the challenge; he does well in ball screen defense. Few of KU’s Big 12 opponents featured a big man so adept away from the goal. Now, there’s a chance the Jayhawks could get two in three days, were they to win and face Michigan in the final.

Critical coaching decision

Villanova seems likely to be putting Azubuike into pick-and-rolls all evening. KU will have to decide how it wants to defend those situations. It seems unlikely KU would risk foul trouble by trapping. Would KU be bold enough to have him hang back and dare the Wildcats to shoot from deep? Hedge hard and risk foul trouble? Azubuike is the most important player on the floor because there’s no one else like him. KU can sub him out now with Silvio De Sousa, and he’s been terrific all month, but he’s so inexperienced the Jayhawks must be careful with how much work they ask him to .

Most eye-popping stat: 7

If Villanova converts seven 3-pointers at the Final Four – whether in the semifinal against Kansas or, if they’re fortunate, the semi and championship game – the Wildcats will set a new NCAA Division I record for 3-pointers made in a season. The old record was established in 2006-07 by VMI, which played an all-out, uptempo style and hit 442-of-1383 from long distance. That represented 38 percent of the baskets made by the Keydets. Villanova gets just about as much of its offense from long distance.

Get to know: Villanova redshirt junior guard Phil Booth

You should know him well already, because he ws the surprise hero of the 2016 NCAA championship game. When Villanova chose to abandon its customary offensive approach in the final against North Carolina and rely on isolations, it was Booth who best was able to exploit his matchup and wound up with 20 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field and 6-of-6 from the line. You have an excuse if you’ve forgotten, though, because Booth missed nearly all of the 2016-17 season with an injury, and he has been a quite role player for most of this season and all of this tournament. He also missed seven games at midseason with a broken hand. He still can deliver a scoring outburst when necessary and available; he scored 20 points in a big win over Gonzaga and 21 in the first of two victories over Xavier. But otherwise he functions as a connector and does his job beautifully.

The pick: Villanova

This has been the best team in college basketball from the start of the year, and though Kansas has closed the gap this ought to be another step forward for the Wildcats. Were this game played at the end of February rather than now, they would be an overwhelming choice to win. Kansas is a different team because of shooting guard Malik Newman’s surge. He is averaging 22.7 points in March tournament games, and that has made KU a different team to defend. There isn’t as much pressure on Graham to manufacture opportunities for himself. He can spend a lot of his time running the show. Villanova’s advantage isn’t huge, but its ability to keep the Jayhawks spread on defense should provide driving and shooting opportunities that give the Wildcats the advantage.

Loyola Chicago’s NCAA Final Four 2018 run: how an underdog restored a city’s basketball™ glory

There was a time when Chicago was synonymous with basketball excellence, a major point of civic pride. Michael Jordan and the Bulls of the 1990s ruled the city and inspired a generation of devout fans. As one of them myself, I loved every minute of the Bulls’ glory years, and spent countless hours in my driveway pretending to be Scottie Pippen tasked with hitting a last-second shot or Dennis Rodman snagging a tough rebound. Basketball gave me a sort of joy that I hadn’t known before, and it was all thanks to the Bulls’ dominance.

It felt like the winning would never stop, but one day it just … did. After clinching the team’s sixth championship in eight seasons, Jordan called it quits for the second time in 1999, abruptly ending the team’s dynasty and ushering in a new dark age for basketball fans across the city. We’d had no idea just how great we had it, and even less of an understanding of how bad it was about to get.

The following season, the team finished dead last in the Central Division, as they did for three more years. It wasn’t until the 2004-05 season that the Bulls returned to the playoffs, and even then, they were knocked out fairly easily in the first round. They reached the Eastern Conference finals during the 2010-11 season, inspiring hope of a new dynasty, only to be blown out by LeBron James’ Miami Heat in five games. Then Derrick Rose, a homegrown prodigy who emerged from Chicago’s South Side to become the youngest NBA Most Valuable Player in history, wrecked his knee the following season and was never the same, returning the city to a default state of post-Jordan malaise.

The truth is, simply, that there hasn’t been much basketball in Chicago worth getting excited about in nearly two decades. That extended to the college game: None of the four Division I schools within city limits – Loyola University Chicago, DePaul University, Chicago State and the University of Illinois at Chicago – had even reached the tournament in 14 years until the Ramblers made the field as an No11 seed earlier this month.

But that’s all changed dramatically over the past fortnight as the Catholic school on the city’s North Side has made an improbable run to the Final Four of this year’s NCAA tournament. Loyola last made the national semi-finals in 1963, winning the title when the tournament was a silhouette of the billion-dollar cultural event it’s since become. But it had been 33 years since they’d even earned an invite to Big Dance.

For Chicago fans, Loyola’s Cinderella run is a welcome chance to step out of the cold shadow of Jordan’s statue outside the United Center and once again feel what it means to be excited about local hoops. Looking around, you can’t miss it. The city is draped in the school’s maroon and gold colors, local bars are holding viewing parties, and campus bookstores are packed with fans ready to jump on the Loyola bandwagon. Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the team’s 98-year-old chaplain, has found herself elevated to national celebrity and treated as a sort of nonagenarian rock star. There’s a feeling of electricity buzzing through the city, a sense of early-spring joy, making it a positively delightful time to be a fan. To be sure, there’s a lot of pressure on the young Ramblers to make their city proud, but in Chicago, their age might just be their most valuable asset.

There’s not a single player on the Loyola squad old enough to remember the Jordan-era Bulls – and maybe that’s a good thing. When the Bulls took the court to begin their record-setting 72-win season in November 1995, Ramblers stars Clayton Custer and Marques Townes were just four and two months old, respectively. Nobody on the Alamodome court will remember John Paxson’s series-clinching three-pointer in the 1993 NBA finals or the time Jordan laced up his shoes and dominated the Utah Jazz while fighting off the flu. Nobody will remember what it’s like to live in the city where on-court excellence is an expectation and losing is all but unacceptable. To them, this is a new phenomenon and a chance to create their own legacy without being haunted by the ghost of greatness past. It’s a good thing for players and a great thing for fans.

Whether they take home the title or return empty-handed from their trip to San Antonio, Chicago has a lot to be thankful for when it comes to the excitement these young men have given us. It’s good to remember what it’s like to feel optimistic about basketball in Chicago, a welcome break from two decades of mediocrity. With the Bulls once again in full rebuild mode after the departures of Rose and Jimmy Butler, this year’s Loyola run may just be a temporary reprieve from the new normal. Nothing will ever be able to fill the Jordan-shaped hole in Chicago basketball fans’ hearts, but the Ramblers’ unforgettable run is the next best thing.

NCAA Final Four: Danny Manning recalls Kansas’ improbable 1988 NCAA™ title run

Dejected. Downtrodden. Lost.

Those adjectives best describe the morale within the Kansas Jayhawks’ locker room following a home loss to rival Kansas State. It was KU’s third straight loss and, more significantly, ended a 55-game home-winning streak that dated to 1984.

Postgame, Kansas junior Milt Newton told reporters: “It hurts so much. Right now, I feel like the world is over.”

The world may not have been over, but all signs indicated that their season was. The loss represented a long fall from grace for a team that entered the 1987-88 season ranked seventh nationally and won eight of its first 10 games.

After a respectable start to the season, the team faced an abundance of adversity, but Allen Fieldhouse remained its safe haven.

Regardless of how bad things got, KU had its home streak to carry it through. In a year full of lows, the end of the streak was likely the lowest point.

By losing to K-State, the safe haven was infiltrated. There was nowhere else to look for hope. Nowhere but their coach, Larry Brown.

Brown remained upbeat, imploring his team to start a new streak. The Jayhawks wouldn’t right away, but their streak came soon enough — and just at the right time.

What the 1988 Kansas Jayhawks accomplished over the next nine weeks — culminating in a national championship — was much more remarkable than any win streak.

This is their story, told through the memory of 1988 National Player of the Year Danny Manning.

‘Keep pushing’

Four days after falling to K-State, the Jayhawks suffered another home loss, this one at the hands of No. 4 Oklahoma. The team that had won eight of its first 10 games then lost eight of its next 10.

With just a month remaining in the regular season, this preseason top-10 team was in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament.

How do you come back from such a low point? For Manning, it was simple. Trust in your coach.

“We’re going through that rough stretch and Coach Brown is like, ‘We’re close, we’re close,” he said. “‘We’ve got to keep pushing, we’ve got to keep battling.’”

At the time, Brown had already amassed 15 years of head coaching experience at the collegiate and professional levels. He was a three-time ABA Coach of the Year who had also led two schools to the Final Four. When he spoke, players trusted him.

His messages of belief and tenacity resonated with Manning and the rest of the team.

“When you finally do get that breakthrough … maybe it’s four or five possessions in a row that give you a chance to win that game, or maybe it’s making plays down the stretch to win those games that you start to [think] ‘OK, let’s go. Let’s build on this.’”

Build. That’s exactly what the Jayhawks would do.

After losing to the Sooners, KU finished the season winning nine of its last 11 games, re-establishing itself as a tournament team in the process. The 21-11 Jayhawks earned an at-large bid to the 1988 NCAA Tournament as a No. 6 seed.

But in March, you only need a ticket to the dance to make magic.

NCAA Tournament

Bob Devaney Sports Center, home of KU’s conference foe Nebraska, played host to the first and second rounds of the 1988 NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region.

The 6-seed Jayhawks made the 3.5-hour trip to Lincoln, Neb., to open the tournament in familiar territory. Their first opponent was the 11-seed Xavier Musketeers. Kansas came away with a 13-point win.

No. 6 Kansas 85, No. 11 Xavier 72

After its conquest of Xavier, KU faced 14-seed Murray State, a team primed to complete its second upset of the weekend after knocking off 3-seed N.C. State. A valiant effort from the Racers resulted in a narrow KU win. Sweet 16 bound.

No. 6 Kansas 61, No. 14 Murray State 58 

Next up was a date with 7-seed Vanderbilt in what then-assistant coach Alvin Gentry would call a favorable matchup. It was certainly favorable for Manning, who finished with 38 points in another 13-point win.

No. 6 Kansas 77, No. 7 Vanderbilt 64 

Survive. Advance. Kansas was on to the Elite Eight, where it would face Kansas State for the fourth time in less than two months. The team hoped this meeting would end much differently than the last two.

Pontiac, Mich.; March 27, 1988 

The only thing worse than losing is losing to a rival.

When KU and K-State met in late March, the Jayhawks had already experienced the misery of falling to their rivals from Manhattan twice that season.

The rivals’ three earlier meetings set the stage for the fourth in Michigan. Only this time, the stakes were higher. No, this wasn’t just for bragging rights or conference positioning — an opportunity to play in the Final Four was on the line.

After trailing by two at halftime, the Jayhawks outscored K-State by 15 in the second half for a 13-point victory and a trip back to the Final Four.

Kansas left no doubt about which team was the best. All that was left was to be the best team in the nation. But two more hurdles remained.

NCAA Final Four

The bright lights and media frenzy can be unnerving. It’s easier to become distracted when you’re on the biggest stage in college basketball.

Manning was among the older Jayhawks who were making their second Final Four appearance in three years.

“We knew the Final Four was an exciting time,” he said. “Having experienced it in Dallas in 1986, our seniors and upperclassmen kind of had a feel for it.”

But this year was different. It was the 50th anniversary of the Final Four. The lights were even brighter.

The host was Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo. A mere 40 miles from KU’s campus.

The distractions were amplified.

Manning knew that as a senior, it was part of his role to help keep the team focused.

“We knew with it being that close to our campus there was going to be a lot of energy and a lot of excitement,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that we didn’t get caught up in all of that. It’s hard not to. But as an upperclassman, that was kind of the deal.”

Even Manning admits he was amazed at what came with playing so close to campus.

“All of a sudden, you go to the open practice and it’s pretty much sold out. It’s an open practice and people can’t get in,” he said. “Then it’s kind of like, ‘Wow, an open practice. Not a game. An open practice.’ Then it starts to hit you.”

Manning admits that it was hard to remain focused.

But the upperclassmen’s message to the rest of the team was simple: “Let’s make sure we get into our game mode. Let’s make sure we get our prep time in and understand what we need to do.”

KU had quite the task: Stop the 2-seed Duke Blue Devils.

The theme of redemption continued.

Six weeks prior to the national semifinal, Duke became the third team to infiltrate the safe haven of Allen Fieldhouse. The Blue Devils used overtime to give KU its third home loss of the year.

But the Jayhawks weren’t intimidated by having to face teams against whom they’d been unsuccessful against in the regular season.

“You always had comfort once you’ve played somebody one time and that second or third time rolls around from the standpoint of having a good feel of what they like to do and understanding personnel,” Manning said.

In committing 21 turnovers, KU didn’t play a perfect game by any means, but Manning’s stellar play and contributions from Milt Newton, Chris Piper and Kevin Pritchard propelled the Jayhawks past Duke for the outcome they desired.

No. 6 Kansas 66, No. 2 Duke 59 

Eight weeks earlier, KU was in danger of missing the tournament. It was now just one win away from basketball immortality.

National championship

One team stood between KU and its second national title in school history: the mighty Oklahoma Sooners.

The Sooners’ high-octane offense averaged more than 102 points per game, a stark comparison to the 75.3 the Jayhawks averaged.

At 35-3, Oklahoma spent much of the year ranked in the top five nationally. OU completed a 2-0 sweep of Kansas during the regular season, including that 73-65 win within the confines of Allen Fieldhouse. The Sooners dominated the Big 8 Conference, winning its regular season and tournament championships.

Again, an opportunity for redemption. Again, KU wasn’t intimidated.

“For us, we watched tape after we lost to [Oklahoma] early in the season. Both times,” Manning said. “We felt like [we had a chance] if we handled their pressure, because they come out and are a very active team defensively — they turn you over and score in the open court.”

With one day in between the national semifinal and national title game, the Jayhawks had to rely on their knowledge of Oklahoma’s team and personnel to prepare.

“Make sure you fulfill your role, do your job. … I think guys had that mindset stepping out on the court.” Manning said. “You like playing Oklahoma, because they’re going to play fast. It’s going to be an up-and-down game. They’re going to score some points and we’re going to score some points, and those are always fun games that you want to play.”

In the first half, both teams played fast and scored a lot of points. After 20 minutes of play, the teams found themselves back where they began. Tied.

Halftime: No. 1 Oklahoma 50, No. 6 Kansas 50 

For a team that averaged a shade over 75 points per game, scoring 50 in the first half is nothing short of impressive, but it wasn’t the Kansas brand of basketball.

In Brown’s halftime speech, he encouraged the Jayhawks to play their game.

“We’ve played at the pace that they like to play at,” Manning recalled Brown saying. “Now let’s play at a pace that’s more beneficial to our team.”

“We’re kind of looking around like, ‘Hey we’re doing pretty good getting up and down, but OK, we’ll see how this ends up going,’”

You could say it ended up going pretty well.

“For us, it came down to certain plays: us getting to the free throw line, us taking care of the basketball, us going to get 50-50 balls … situations when we get an opportunity to score because of that effort and energy and down the stretch. It was guys playing as a team.”

No free throws were bigger than the two Manning sank to give Kansas an 83-79 lead with five seconds remaining. It would end up being the last points of the game.

Final: No. 6 Kansas 83, No. 1 Oklahoma 79 

The 1988 Kansas Jayhawks were national champions.

‘Bedlam reigns in Kansas City’

As the buzzer rang, Kemper Arena was a scene of madness.

Oklahoma players stood in shock, seemingly unable to process their season coming to an unsuccessful end.

The Sooners’ last-second heave caromed off the backboard and fittingly into the hands of Manning, who led the way in the championship game with 31 points, 18 rebounds and five steals. With the ball in his hands, an elated Manning was swarmed by his teammates, Kansas cheerleaders and photographers.

Brown, in a different state of disbelief, was embraced by the rest of his coaching staff. He led, his team believed, and they all were champions.

Then came the phrase that still defines the season: Danny and the Miracles. But Manning didn’t see it that way.

“That nickname … kind of rubbed me a different type of way because basketball is a team game and everyone has to sacrifice for a whole.”

Yes, Manning was brilliant throughout the tournament, averaging 27.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and two steals per game, but a look at any box score from that run will show that the contributions from the rest of that Kansas team were not minor.

Manning did not hesitate to distribute the credit among his teammates.

“It was Chris Piper, it was Archie Marshall it was Milt Newton,” he said. “We came in together and our journey was on the same path.”

He continued, praising Kevin Pritchard, who “was someone that missed a late part of the season but came back for the tournament and really helped propel us and put us in a situation to play for a national championship.”

From Manning’s perspective, the team was able to reach the pinnacle because everyone held one another accountable on the court. There was only one prerequisite to be able to demand more of your teammates: Play hard.

‘Can you believe this?’

Kansas City; April 4, 1988 

Calm. Reflective. Introspective.

The madness from the arena floor came to a halt once Kansas reached its locker room.

Manning set the scene: “After the game was probably the coolest part. … We’re just sitting in the locker room, waiting to do media, waiting to do whatever we have to do before we go back to the hotel and you’re sitting there just reminiscing.”

It was a deviation from the usual locker room after a championship win. For these individuals, the journey was as important as the destination. After overcoming adversity to make history, this team needed time to truly relish the moment.

“It kind of hits you that this is the last time that we’ll ever be together,” Manning said. “This is the last time that we’ll ever play a game together.”

Their world as they knew it was over. Nine weeks earlier, the world was on top of them. This time, they were on top of the world.

As the media made its way into the Jayhawks’ locker room, the madness resumed. The proximity of the Final Four to KU’s campus was once a distraction, but now it enhanced the championship experience.

“You get back to the hotel and it’s a mob scene,” Manning said. “People are all around the hotel — family, friends, our fans — and you’re going into the hotel and it’s just a crazy fun atmosphere.

“Just about all you can say is, ‘Wow. Can you believe this?’”

Yes, 30 years later, the story of the 1988 Kansas Jayhawks is still hard to believe.

It’s crazy how Michigan’s ® Final Four roster was assembled™

The story of how Michigan’s Final Four roster was assembled is anything but conventional. Loyola-Chicago is an intriguing Cinderella, and Kansas and Villanova surely have some unexpected contributors. But only one team in San Antonio has key players discovered everywhere from Division III to email spam folders.

Duncan Robinson, a part-time starter who won the Big Ten’s Sixth Man of the Year award this season, started his career at Division III Williams College, a private liberal arts school in Massachusetts with 2,000 undergrads.

The 6-foot-8 Robinson led the Ephs — it rhymes with Chiefs and is a shortened version of the first name of the school’s founder, Ephraim Williams — to the 2014 national championship his freshman season, the same year Michigan went to the Elite Eight.

After the season, both programs underwent major changes. Williams’ head coach, Mike Maker, took a new job. Michigan lost three sophomores somewhat unexpectedly to the NBA, plus a transfer and a graduating senior. Spots were open, and Maker — who had been an assistant under John Beilein at West Virginia — called Beilein to suggest he consider Robinson.

Robinson is believed to be the first basketball player to transfer from Division III to Division I and receive a scholarship. He has started 49 games at Michigan and ranks fourth in program history in 3-pointers made.

Fellow senior Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman knows there are talented players at the lower-levels of college basketball — his dad was a Division III coach at one point. “There are some players that fall through the cracks for whatever reason,” he said.

And yet he often talks with Robinson about his improbable journey to a Big Ten school. Abdur-Rahkman can relate, given that he was a two-star recruit from Allentown, Pennsylvania, ranked outside the top-400.

A phone call from a local basketball junkie tipped off Beilein that Abdur-Rahkman was perhaps being overlooked. For the same reason Beilein was willing to bring in a transfer, he took a shot on an unheralded prospect: “All of a sudden we were looking for warm bodies,” Beilein said in February.

Abdur-Rahkman, of course, has been much more than that for the Wolverines. In Saturday’s Final Four matchup with Loyola-Chicago, Abdur-Rahkman will become the program’s all-time leader in games played.

The guard is joined in the starting lineup by Moritz Wagner, a Berlin native who wasn’t even set on playing college basketball a few years ago. A former Beilein player, Johannes Herber, had played for the same junior national team as Wagner. Herber emailed Beilein video of Wagner, but the coach didn’t see it among his many messages until a few weeks later, at which point he emailed Wagner.

That email ended up in Wagner’s spam folder and went unread for weeks. “I felt bad,” Wagner said. “Two weeks later I discovered it, and I was shocked. He had texted twice. I thought, ‘I’d better answer this guy.'”

Beilein eventually visited Wagner in Berlin — “I asked for a big German dinner and a beer. I got both of them,” he said — and was struck by Wagner’s personality, even on a short elevator ride in his apartment. “I said, ‘If this kid’s good at all, I’m going to give him a scholarship, because he was so engaging.'”

Wagner got that scholarship and, as a junior, is Michigan’s leading scorer and rebounder this season.

On this team, the fact that Charles Matthews transferred from abasketball powerhouse Kentucky or Zavier Simpson arrived only after other point guards spurned Michigan at the final hour barely register on the radar.

“It’s crazy we all came to this team on different paths,” Abdur-Rahkman said Thursday. “We mesh well together.”