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  1. #1376  
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    Villanova-Michigan head to title game
    March 31, 2018

    SAN ANTONIO (AP) Michigan has shored up the deficiency that always held it back, becoming one of the nation's best defensive teams, not one of its worst. Out-shooting teams, no longer necessary.


    This new-found stinginess has the Wolverines within reach of their first national title since Glen Rice and Rumeal Robinson rumbled through the bracket in 1989.


    But their biggest test yet comes on college basketball's brightest stage: Villanova and its squadron of long-range shooters with a national title on the line.


    Michigan is good on D, but if the Wildcats shot like they did against Kansas in Saturday night's Final Four nightcap, it may not matter what the Wolverines do.


    ''I feel bad for Kansas,'' Villanova coach Jay Wright said. ''They're a great team, we just made every shot.''


    Michigan (33-7) reached the title game by taking away Cinderella's slipper, sending Loyola-Chicago and Sister Jean home a game short of completing their divine run.


    Villanova bombed its way past a blueblood to get there.


    The Wildcats (35-4) turned a Final Four showdown with fellow No. 1 seed Kansas into a laugher, dropping in 3-pointers like they were playing pop-a-shot in the 95-79 rout. Villanova made a Final Four-record 18 3s in a record-matching 40 attempts, its second trip to the title game in three seasons never in doubt.


    That's an NCAA record 442 from the arc this season - and they're still counting.


    ''That's as good a team as we've played that I can remember,'' Kansas coach Bill Self said.


    The third-seeded Wolverines (33-7) had a bit more trouble against the bracket's favorite underdogs, overcoming a frightful first half to send nun-turned-motivator Sister Jean Delores Schmidt headed to the exits early.


    The Wolverines trailed the bracket-rambling Ramblers by seven at halftime, found the right gear in the second and have a title-game appearance no one outside of Ann Arbor saw coming when they were middling in the Big Ten just a month ago.


    Now they're done playing the favorite for a night, it's back to the underdog role against Villanova.


    ''The whole villain thing, you guys love to write about it, talk about it, but at the end of the day it's just basketball, you know?'' Michigan big man Moe Wagner said. ''And we just try to win. That's all we do.


    Their next task: Find some way to slow Villanova's 3-ball roll.


    The Wildcats were one of the most proficient 3-point shooting teams during the regular season and upped the 3 ante in the NCAA Tournament, knocking down a record 65 and counting. Villanova broke the Final Four record with 13 in the first half and literally shot the lights out by the second, when some scoreboards and upper-level lights briefly went out and darkened the upper decks.


    ''It was one of those nights where we were able to make shots and that's what the lead looks like,'' said Villanova's Jalen Brunson, who had 18 points and six assists.


    Michigan may have a better answer than the Jayhawks had.


    Tired of watching victories fizzle away through defensive deficiencies, coach John Beilein made a philosophical change, putting an emphasis on that side of the ball.


    It's worked out well.


    Michigan had the nation's No. 3 defense efficiency-wise and put Loyola on lockdown in the second half, forcing the Ramblers into a rash of turnovers to race away.


    ''We always talk about getting the domino going,'' Loyola coach Porter Moser said. ''They closed that gap of opportunity in a hurry.''


    Villanova has a way of doing that, too.


    The Wolverines may have an answer in Wagner.


    The German big man carried Michigan through its struggles in the first half by using his size advantage against the smaller Ramblers, snagging five offensive rebounds to notch a double-double by halftime.


    Wagner finished with 24 points and 15 rebound to join Hakeem Olajuwon and Larry Bird as the only players to have at least 20 points and 15 rebounds in a national semifinal game.


    ''He's unbelievable. He's one of those dynamic scorers from the post, he's a great passer, made some unbelievable passers today with both hands,'' Villanova assistant coach Ashley Howard said. ''He's a guy they can play through. We'll watch tape, try to figure out the best way to approach going into Monday night's game. It's going to be a challenge and we're looking forward to it.''
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    Sunday’s 6-pack


    Lowest opening day payrolls in major leagues:


    30) Oakland A’s $67,475,833


    29) Chicago White Sox $72,202,000


    28) Tampa Bay Rays $78,219,329


    27) Pittsburgh Pirates $86,344,999


    26) Milwaukee Brewers $90,030,700


    25) San Diego Padres $95,652,133


    Quote of the Day
    “These last 4 years have been a blessing, and I just got really emotional [when walking off the floor.]”
    Kansas senior Devonte’ Graham, after his college career ended Saturday night


    Sunday’s quiz
    Who was last college basketball team to win the national title as lower than a #2-seed?


    Saturday’s quiz
    Bob Brenly managed the Arizona Diamondbacks when they won their only World Series title.


    Friday’s quiz
    Don Mattingly was manager of the Dodgers before Dave Roberts.


    ************************


    Sunday’s List of 13: Wrapping up a sports Saturday


    13) Michigan 69, Loyola 57— Ramblers were up 7 at the half; other than Wagner, Wolverines were 4-23 in first half, but Michigan scored 47 points in 2nd half, after only 22 in first, and they move on to the national championship game Monday night.


    Loyola shot 39.8% on the arc for the season; they were 1-10 in this game.


    12) Villanova 95, Kansas 79— With 6:52 left in first half, Villanova led by 14 and already had seven guys who made at least one 3-pointer- this game was 22-4 at one point, and was reminiscent of Villanova’s dismantling of Oklahoma in the national semis two years ago.


    11) I’ve thought a lot about this, asked lot of people about it and still cannot find a decent reason to bat the pitcher 8th. Mets/Phillies are doing it this year with new managers.


    Tony LaRussa used to do it, Joe Maddon has done it, which gives the idea credibility, but they did not do it in playoff games, which makes me a skeptic.


    10) Scheduling quirk: AL West Houston Astros/Texas Rangers do not play this season after July 29th. All 19 of their meetings are before then.


    9) Asdrubel Cabrera is the first ballplayer in 103 years to bat cleanup on Opening Day, then bat leadoff in the second game of the season.


    Only one instance Interweb folks could find where a guy batted leadoff on Opening Day, then batted cleanup in the second game of the year— Hall of Famer Tim Raines, in 1989.


    8) Obscure Stat of the Day: White Sox pitcher James Shields is the first pitcher since 1908 to allow four 1st-inning runs on Opening Day, but then go on to win that game.


    7) Baltimore Orioles won in walk-off fashion in their last three Opening Day games.


    6) Sporting News basketball writer Mike DeCourcy is from Pittsburgh; when Jeff Capel got the Pitt Panthers coaching job earlier this week, DeCourcy wrote an article about the Pitt job, and wrote about how Pittsburgh “….isn’t a basketball town.” Uh oh.


    Why would you want to coach in the ACC at a school that isn’t in “a basketball town”?


    5) Gonzaga will stay in the WCC next season, instead of bolting to the Mountain West.


    4) A guy at SouthPoint Casino in Las Vegas risked $130,000 on Michigan to win SU; he got $50,000 for his trouble; after the Wolverines won, he quickly put the $50,000 on Kansas, +5.


    3) Seems like the Arizona Diamondbacks wear a different uniform every night; I’m thinking it has to be at least a little distracting, especially early in the season.


    2) Phillies’ rookie manager Gabe Kapler took his starting pitcher out in the 4th inning last nite in Atlanta, but there didn’t seem to be anyone warming up when he did it. The reliever took a long time to get to the mound and Braves manager Snitker got tossed when he objected to the pitcher being allowed his eight warmup tosses even after taking forever to get on the field.


    1) Xavier Silas got signed by the Celtics this week; its been six years, over 2,100 days since he last played in the NBA. I remember seeing him play in an AAU tournament in Orlando when he was in high school— his dad James Silas was a terrific player in the ABA.


    Imagine how great it must be to wait over six years and finally get that call again to play in the NBA? There had to be times he thought it would never happen, but it did.
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  3. #1378  
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    NCAAB
    Dunkel


    Monday, April 2




    Michigan @ Villanova


    Game 601-602
    April 2, 2018 @ 9:20 pm


    Dunkel Rating:
    Michigan
    79.489
    Villanova
    81.639
    Dunkel Team:
    Dunkel Line:
    Dunkel Total:
    Villanova
    by 2
    152
    Vegas Team:
    Vegas Line:
    Vegas Total:
    Villanova
    by 7
    145
    Dunkel Pick:
    Michigan
    (+7); Over









    NCAAB
    Long Sheet


    Monday, April 2



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    MICHIGAN (33 - 7) vs. VILLANOVA (35 - 4) - 4/2/2018, 9:20 PM
    Top Trends for this game.
    VILLANOVA is 27-12 ATS (+13.8 Units) in all games this season.
    VILLANOVA is 27-12 ATS (+13.8 Units) in all lined games this season.
    VILLANOVA is 18-9 ATS (+8.1 Units) when the total is 140 to 149.5 over the last 2 seasons.
    VILLANOVA is 27-12 ATS (+13.8 Units) as a favorite this season.
    VILLANOVA is 12-2 ATS (+9.8 Units) in all neutral court games this season.
    VILLANOVA is 15-3 ATS (+11.7 Units) after a non-conference game this season.
    VILLANOVA is 12-2 ATS (+9.8 Units) when playing on a neutral court this season.
    VILLANOVA is 15-3 ATS (+11.7 Units) in non-conference games this season.
    VILLANOVA is 9-2 ATS (+6.8 Units) in all tournament games this season.
    VILLANOVA is 11-2 ATS (+8.8 Units) in a NCAA tournament games over the last 3 seasons.
    VILLANOVA is 25-9 ATS (+15.1 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record this season.
    VILLANOVA is 16-6 ATS (+9.4 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record after 15 or more games this season.
    MICHIGAN is 25-13 ATS (+10.7 Units) in all games this season.
    MICHIGAN is 25-13 ATS (+10.7 Units) in all lined games this season.
    MICHIGAN is 15-5 ATS (+9.5 Units) in all neutral court games over the last 2 seasons.
    MICHIGAN is 10-2 ATS (+7.8 Units) in road games when playing with one or less days rest over the last 2 seasons.
    MICHIGAN is 15-5 ATS (+9.5 Units) when playing on a neutral court over the last 2 seasons.
    MICHIGAN is 15-5 ATS (+9.5 Units) in all tournament games over the last 2 seasons.
    MICHIGAN is 19-11 ATS (+6.9 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record this season.
    MICHIGAN is 15-6 ATS (+8.4 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record after 15 or more games this season.
    MICHIGAN is 13-6 ATS (+6.4 Units) versus good offensive teams - scoring 77+ points/game this season.

    Head-to-Head Series History
    There were no past matchups in this series during this time period.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------






    NCAAB
    Armadillo's Write-Up


    Monday, April 2



    Since 1990, when a #1-seed plays lower seed for the national title, the favorite is 10-5 vs spread.


    Villanova beat Michigan 60-55 in Brooklyn in Nov 2014, teams’ last meeting.


    This is biggest spread in a national title game since 2010, when 1-seed Duke (-7.5) nipped 5-seed Butler 61-59.


    Last five national title games were all decided by 6 or fewer points, with underdog winning SU three of last four years.


    In this tournament, Michigan has played seeds #14-6-7-9-11; they’re stepping way up in class here. Wolverines finished T4 in a down Big 14 this season- they played three starters 33:00+ as they battled from behind to win Saturday night. Michigan is 16-3 outside Big 14; they’ve won 14 games in row- their last loss was Feb 6. Wolverines are #205 experience team that plays pace #324- they’re #4 team at protecting the ball. Michigan is 8-4 vs teams ranked in top 30- their opponents shoot 33% on arc (#55).


    Villanova won national title at buzzer two years ago; Wildcats are 12-1 in its last 13 NCAA tourney games- they played six guys 28:00+ in fairly easy win over Kansas Saturday. Villanova is #282 experience team that plays pace #160- they make 40% of their 3’s. Wildcats were 18-40 on arc vs Kansas, 18-25 inside arc. Wildcats are 18-0 outside the Big East, where they finished 2nd to Xavier.








    NCAAB


    Monday, April 2



    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Trend Report
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Michigan Wolverines
    Michigan is 11-3 ATS in its last 14 games
    Michigan is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
    The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Michigan's last 5 games
    Villanova Wildcats
    Villanova is 5-0 ATS in its last 5 games
    Villanova is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
    The total has gone OVER in 15 of Villanova's last 20 games
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  4. #1379  
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    SIZE=4]NCAA Tournament's biggest betting mismatches: National Championship[/SIZE]
    Monty Andrews


    The Wildcats have proven to be deadly from 3-point range during the tournament, if the Wolverines defense can't stop them, will they be able to keep up?


    For a tournament that provided some of the biggest moments and most stunning upsets in NCAA history, the Final Four was surprisingly short of drama. Both the Michigan Wolverines and the Villanova Wildcats cruised to double-digit victories in their respective semifinal matches, and will compete for the national championship Monday night in San Antonio. The Wolverines roared back from a seven-point halftime deficit to top Loyola-Chicago 69-57, while the Wildcats rolled to a 95-79 rout of Kansas.


    Villanova has easily been the most impressive team in the tournament - and oddsmakers have rewarded that dominance by making the Wildcats a whopping 6 1/2-point favorite to capture second NCAA tournament title in three years. Yet, despite winning all five of their March Madness games by at least 12 points, they won't be getting a pushover in the final - Michigan clamped down hard in the second half of their triumph over the fan-favorite Ramblers as they seek their first NCAA championship since 1989.


    Michigan Wolverines vs. Villanova Wildcats (-6.5, 145)


    Michigan's struggles from deep vs. Villanova's incredible 3-point shooting


    The primary focus in this one will be on how Michigan's vaunted defense handles a Villanova offensive attack that has emerged as the best in the country. The Wolverines' defensive pressure is sight to behold, as Michigan held four of its five NCAA Tournament opponents below 65 points. But it won't matter how defensively adept the Wolverines are if they can't score enough points - and when it comes to converting from beyond the arc, these two teams aren't even close.


    Michigan has two days to re-learn out how to hit a 3-pointer - and given how the Wolverines performed from long range in its previous two games, head coach John Beilein had better make it a priority at practice. After going 14-of-24 from 3-point territory in a third-round rout of Texas A&M, Michigan went on to hit just 11-of-50 attempts from beyond the arc in subsequent victories over Florida State and Loyola-Chicago. And a similar showing Monday night will make this game a laugher from the start.


    Make no mistake, the Wildcats will face plenty more resistance from long range than they did in their emphatic victory over the Jayhawks, when they established a Final Four record with 18 3-pointers. But few teams have been able to tame Villanova, one of only 19 Division I teams shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc for the season. And with six different players - including all five starters - hitting multiple 3s in the Final Four, there could simply be too much firepower from deep for Michigan to handle.


    Wolverines' free-throw follies vs. Wildcats' fantastic foul shooting


    It's clear the Wolverines won't be able to claim their first national title in 29 years by trading 3-pointers with the Wildcats; Michigan was fortunate to escape with a win over the Ramblers despite making just seven of their 28 attempts from deep. But that isn't the only mismatch the Wolverines will have to deal with - Michigan has been one of the worst free-throw-shooting teams in the country this season, and that could be their undoing against a Villanova team that has been dead-eye from the line.


    Beilein has worked with his players all season in an attempt to remedy their foul-shooting woes - but between having them focus on positive outcomes to "thinking about the ones (they) love" - a suggestion made in jest - nothing has worked. Michigan is converting at a 66.2-percent clip through 40 games; only 30 Division I schools have fared worse. And despite showing signs of improvement during the tournament, the Wildcats were just 12-for-18 in the victory over Loyola-Chicago.


    Villanova hasn't needed any gimmicks or remedies; the Wildcats are one of the top-shooting teams from the free-throw line, making their foul shots at a 78-percent rate - good for ninth in the country. Villanova shot better than 82 percent in each of its previous three games before going just 5-for-7 against the Jayhawks - but they were shooting so well from 3-point range that they really didn't need the foul shots. If Michigan can't stay out of foul trouble Monday night, Villanova could run away with this one.


    Michigan's elite ball-security vs. Villanova's struggle to force TOs


    Bettors might read those first two sections and wonder if there are any reasons to take the Wolverines. And as it happens, there are. In addition to boasting one of the most formidable scoring defenses in the nation (63.0 ppg against, eighth-best in the country), Michigan is also one of the most careful teams in the country with the basketball. If the Wolverines can limit turnovers they way they have for the majority of the season, they should have an edge over a Villanova unit that hans't done well at forcing turnovers.


    The Virginia Cavaliers - remember them? - are the only team in the country better at keeping turnovers to a minimum than Michigan, which has committed just 9.2 per game. The Wolverines boasted a 17-11 turnover advantage in their triumph over the Ramblers, and have put up a plus-20 turnover margin over their previous four tournament games, averaging just nine turnovers per contest over that span. It's a major reason why they've attempted an average of three more field goals per game than their opponents.


    When you have an offense as prolific as Villanova's, you can be forgiven for showing a few cracks on defense. But with this game expected to be a slower-paced affair than the Wildcats are used to, it's worth noting that they don't generate many turnovers, averaging just 13 per game - ranking outside the top 150 among Division I teams. Villanova has also lost the turnover battle in each of its previous three tournament games; extending that streak to four could very well cost the Wildcats the national title.
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  5. #1380  
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    NCAA Tournament Championship Game betting preview and odds: Michigan vs Villanova


    (3) Michigan Wolverines vs (1) Villanova Wildcats (-6.5, 145.5)


    Villanova is one win away from its second national championship in three seasons, but its final hurdle appears to be a daunting one. Michigan owns the longest winning streak in the nation at 14 games and will attempt to upset the Wildcats when the teams square off Monday in San Antonio in the NCAA Tournament title game.


    Villanova was a good 3-point shooting team in 2015-16 when it won the national championship (highlighted, of course, by Kris Jenkins' championship-clinching 3-pointer at the buzzer), but the Big East champions have taken it to a new level this season. The Wildcats set a Final Four record with 18 3-pointers in Saturday's semifinal victory over Kansas and have made at least 13 3-pointers in four of their five wins in this event. “It’s our best offensive team. We’ve had some good ones. This is definitely our best," said Villanova coach Jay Wright, whose squad hopes to hand Michigan its first loss since Feb. 6. The Wolverines defeated upstart Loyola Chicago on Saturday, rallying from a 10-point second-half deficit to move to the brink of their first title since 1989.


    TV: 9:20 p.m. ET, TBS


    BETTING STATS:





    LINE HISTORY: Villanova opened as high as 7-point chalk and money coming in on the Wolverines saw that line drop down to -6.5 at most books heading into game day. The total hit the betting boards at 146 and has been bet down slightly to 145.


    WHAT SHARPS SAY: A team on a fourteen game win streak will battle a team that may have played the sharpest Final Four game ever. Michigan has utilized strong on ball defense to offset rusty half court offense. Yet they started to get a rhythm against Loyola with transition field goals off of turnovers. Could that be the momentum they need to jump start their offense? If not Villanovas Jay Wright may have his second title in three years." - Zack Cimini.


    ABOUT MICHIGAN: The Wolverines won their final six regular-season games, followed by a 3-for-3 run in the Big Ten Tournament and a smooth surge through the first five games of the Big Dance, although they have yet to defeat a team seeded higher than No. 6 in this event. They have given up more than 63 points only once in this tournament and harassed Loyola into 1-of-10 3-point shooting and 17 turnovers, while Moritz Wagner (24 points, 15 rebounds) handled the bulk of the burden offensively. Charles Matthews added 17 points, but fellow starting guards Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Zavier Simpson combined for seven points on 2-of-17 shooting and must be better against the Wildcats' talented backcourt.


    ABOUT VILLANOVA: With Wooden Award finalist Jalen Brunson leading the way, the Wildcats are the top scoring team in the nation (86.8 points), which provides a nice contrast with the Wolverines, who are eighth nationally in points allowed (62.9). Brunson had 18 points against Kansas, second on the team to Eric Paschall, who recorded 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting (4-of-5 3-pointers), while Omari Spellman chipped in 15 points and 13 rebounds and Donte DiVincenzo had 15 points off the bench. Mikal Bridges, potentially the top NBA prospect in this year's Final Four, had 10 points against the Jayhawks and is capable of erupting from 3-point range, as the junior has drained multiple 3s in 13 of the last 14 games.


    MATCHUP CHART:





    TRENDS:


    * Wolverines are 6-1-1 ATS in their last 8 games following a straight up win.
    * Wildcats are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 vs. Big Ten.
    * Wildcats are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 NCAA Tournament games.
    * Under is 3-0-1 in Wolverines last 4 games following a ATS win.
    * Under is 5-1 in Wolverines last 6 non-conference games.


    CONSENSUS: Consensus data is showing 67 percent of bettors taking the favorites from Villanova, while 76 percent of totals wagers are on the Over.
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    What to watch between Michigan, Villanova in NCAA title game
    April 2, 2018



    SAN ANTONIO (AP) A wild, entertaining season and one of the maddest Marches in college basketball history has reached its pinnacle.


    Villanova and Michigan, prolific offense vs. stifling defense, a national title on the line, Monday night in San Antonio.


    The Wildcats and their horde of long-range shooters are playing for their second title in three years, a chance to establish a mini dynasty. The Wolverines are after their first title since 1989, hoping to grasp the trophy that slipped through coach John Beilein's fingers in 2013.


    Before you kick back in the barcalounger, check out these story lines to keep an eye on:


    ---


    ALL THOSE 3s: Villanova has made a strong case as the greatest 3-point shooting team in college history. No hyperbole.


    The Wildcats (35-4) already have the NCAA record for 3-pointers in a season with 454, the NCAA Tournament record with 66 and blew past the Final Four record with 18 against Kansas.


    Villanova's motion offense and shoot-3s-at-every-position lineup has been a nightmare for teams in the NCAA Tournament; the Wildcats are fifth team to win its first five NCAA games by double digits. Three of those teams went on to win national titles: Michigan State (2000), Duke (2001) and North Carolina (2009).


    Michigan must find a way to run the Wildcats off the 3-point line and get them to miss at least some of the 3s they do get to have a chance.


    MICHIGAN'S D: If there is a team that can slow `Nova's 3-roll, it could be the Wolverines.


    Michigan (33-7) is the nation's No. 3 team in defensive efficiency and has held its five NCAA Tournament opponents to an average of 58.6 points per game.


    The Wolverines shut down Loyola-Chicago's 3-point shooters in the national semifinals and have been adept at limiting opponents' 3-point attempts by switching and jamming shooters along the arc.


    The concern even if they do limit Villanova's 3s: Back-door cuts.


    The Ramblers had a hard time getting the ball to cutters against the bigger Wolverines, but the Wildcats are long and have strong finishers at nearly every position.


    MO' MOE: Villanova's issue on defense will be finding a way to slow Michigan's Moe Wagner.


    The German big man is a match-up nightmare with his agility, pinpoint passing and ability to knock down 3-pointers. Loyola certainly had no answer for him; Wagner had 24 points and 15 rebounds to join Hakeem Olajuwon and Larry Bird to go for 20 and 15 in a national semifinal.


    Villanova big man Omari Spellman is athletic and mobile, but still may need help against Wagner, who is averaging 14.8 points and 7.4 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament.


    PACING: Michigan likes to play methodically, ranking 324th of 351 Division I in Kenpom.com's adjusted tempo ratings. Villanova is not the fastest team, coming in at 160 in tempo, but it's still a huge difference.


    The Wolverines will want this to be a grinding, low-scoring game and prevent Villanova from getting run-outs or 3-pointers in transition.


    BIG-TIME BRUNSON: Villanova will have the best player on the floor Monday night in Jalen Brunson.


    The junior guard has hauled in national player of the year awards this postseason and is a calming influence to the Wildcats.


    Brunson is not flashy, he just gets it done. He's averaging 19.2 points, 4.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds and is shooting 41 percent from the 3-point arc. He's also the player anyone would want with the game on the line.


    THE SIDEKICKS: Wagner and Brunson are the headliners for their teams, but both have excellent sidekicks.


    Mikal Bridges is that player for Villanova. The athletic junior forward is the Wildcats' second-leading scorer at 17.6 points per game and has made 14 of his 29 attempts from the 3-point arc. He's also a superb defender who can guard multiple positions.


    Charles Matthews was Michigan's second-leading scorer during the regular season, but has upped his game in the NCAA Tournament. The junior guard is averaging 16.6 points in the NCAA Tournament despite struggling on 3s - 4 for 17 - and is Michigan's second-leading rebounder at 6.8 per NCAA game.
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    Michigan's 3-point defense is key to upsetting Villanova
    April 1, 2018



    SAN ANTONIO (AP) Facing a team that shoots as well as Villanova, limiting the takes from 3-point range is about as important as limiting the makes.


    It just so happens that Michigan is among the best teams in the country at defending 3-point offense. If the Wolverines can pull an upset on Monday night and beat the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament championship game, the biggest reason is likely to be their ability to force Villanova inside the 3-point line.


    Villanova is coming off a record-setting performance in the Final Four victory against Kansas with 18 3-pointers, prompting fans to compare the Wildcats to the NBA's Golden State Warriors. Villanova is third in the country in 3-pointers made per game at 11.6.


    According to KenPom.com's advanced stats, Villanova is the most efficient offensive team in the country, and the Wildcats generate 40 percent of that offense from 3-pointers, which ranks 15th in the country.


    ''They can all shoot,'' Michigan center Moe Wagner said. ''Usually when you play a good team, there's usually something you can give up and make a defensive game plan. But that's not the case here. You know what? It's not supposed to be easy.''


    Facing Michigan's defense has not been easy, either. After last season, coach John Beilein hired Luke Yaklich, a longtime high school coach in Illinois who was working as an assistant at Illinois State, to be Michigan's defensive coordinator.


    The results have been stellar. The Wolverines have the third-best defense in the country by KenPom's ratings and pargicularly focus on stopping the 3-point shot.


    Michigan is 10th-best in the country in percentage of points allowed via the 3, according to KenPom. During the 14-game winning streak the Wolverines will take into the championship game, Michigan's opponents are shooting 27 percent from 3-point range.


    Maybe even more important, Michigan has held its opponent under their season average for 3-point attempts 12 times during the 14 games.


    Loyola-Chicago attempted only 10 3s in the semifinals, eight below its average. Florida State and Texas A&M were both held five attempts below their season averages in losing to Michigan in the NCAA Tournament. Houston took four fewer 3-pointers than it usually does in the second round against the Wolverines.


    ''You can't stop everything unless you have eight or nine guys and size across the board and unique skill sets on defense,'' Yaklich said Sunday. ''You just try to maximize the strengths of your individual parts on defense. The way we play is to make people take the tough contested 2s.''


    When the opposing teams do get 3-pointers off, there needs to be a hand in the face - obviously. But it's easier said than done, especially against teams that move the ball the quickly and have shooters all over the floor. No team plays the spacing game better than Villanova.


    ''It's just being able to contest without fouling,'' Yaklich said. ''It's an imperfect game. You can't hope people miss. You have to make them miss. You make people miss because you contest. Our contest rate is the backbone of how we play defense.''


    Yaklich said Loyola was a good tuneup for preparing for Villanova. During the regular season, Big Ten rival Purdue probably presented the most similar challenges as Villanova for Michigan.


    The Boilermakers beat Michigan twice in January, going 23 for 41 from 3-point range. The second loss, a 92-88 setback on the road, led to an especially tough film session with Yaklich and the players.


    ''It taught us all that we have to be more cognizant of the things we can control and not to take shortcuts on the little details, like how you get through screens and those type of things,'' Yaklich said.


    The Wolverines apparently learned their lessons. Michigan played Purdue again in the Big Ten Tournament championship game and the Boilermakers went 4 for 17 from behind the arc.


    To earn the biggest prize of all, Michigan's defense will have to conquer the toughest challenge yet.
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    More than 3s: Villanova must move ball, rebound vs. Michigan
    April 1, 2018



    SAN ANTONIO (AP) Villanova has made more 3-pointers than any team in NCAA Division I history and fittingly set a Final Four single-game record for made 3s to reach Monday's national championship game .


    It's made them a clear favorite to beat Michigan for their second national championship in three seasons. And sure, their ability to keep hitting from outside - even if it isn't at a record pace - against the Wolverines' tough defense will play a big role in reaching that goal.


    Yet there's more beyond the obvious glow from all those deep shots. They'll have to do a better job rebounding than they did in some of their few losses. And they'll have to keep the ball moving while racking up assists with a deep well of shooters on the ready, something they've done nearly all year.


    ''It's very good - we've been very unselfish this year,'' redshirt junior guard Phil Booth said Sunday. ''We know, always look for the best shot. Not taking too many 3s is what we've been doing a good job of. ... And when we get a lot of assists, good things happen.''


    Villanova (35-4) is atop KenPom's adjusted offensive efficiency at 127.6 points per 100 possessions. That's better than any team on other than Wisconsin in 2015 (129.0) dating all the way back to the 2002 season.


    They'll face a tough challenge against a Michigan defense ranked third by KenPom (90.4 points allowed per 100 possessions) and hoping for an uglier game compared to Villanova's free-flowing romp against Kansas in Saturday's national semifinals.


    Villanova kept the ball moving - sometimes whipping it around the perimeter, other times on drive-and-kickout plays - to stay a step ahead of the Jayhawks' befuddled defense, which left coach Bill Self in a perpetual state of exasperation through what became a 40-minute shooting show.


    By the end, Villanova had assisted on 12 of its Final Four-record 18 3-pointers, and finished the game with 20 assists on 36 baskets.


    ''It just gets everybody touches, everybody staying aggressive,'' redshirt junior Mikal Bridges said. ''It's kind of tough for maybe a guy throughout the whole game not touching the ball at all. You're just not going to be ready. It's just normal.


    ''But touching the ball every possession and moving without the ball, then when it swings to you and you're open or have to make a play, everybody has confidence in each other to make that play and find each other.''


    The assist-to-basket ratio can offer a glimpse of how well things are working for the Wildcats. They have assisted on 55.6 percent of their baskets in wins, but just 42.6 percent in their four losses - including 39.3 percent in a loss to St. John's on Feb. 7 and 34.6 percent in a loss to Providence a week later.


    Perhaps not coincidentally, Villanova struggled from outside in both of those games in particular. The Wildcats made 2 of 18 3-pointers in the second half of the loss to the Red Storm, then made 3 of 20 for the game against the Friars.


    The other thing to watch will be rebounding. Villanova was beaten on the glass in in three of its four losses, with Butler, St. John's and Providence offsetting misses by combining to average 13.7 second-chance points.


    Yet Villanova's work on the glass on a bad shooting day, along with a tough defensive effort, is why the Wildcats reached San Antonio. Villanova shot just 33 percent and went 4 of 24 from 3-point range in the Elite Eight win against Texas Tech, but took a 51-33 rebounding advantage that included 20 offensive rebounds.


    It's proof that Villanova can win even if those shots aren't falling.
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    Villanova, Michigan coach different styles for NCAA title
    April 1, 2018



    SAN ANTONIO (AP) Jay Wright's custom-tailored suits are as sharp as Villanova's 3-point shooting. The game-day attire for Michigan coach John Beilein is more reflective of his team's emphasis on old-school fundamentals and defense.


    ''At the end of the game tomorrow, he'll still look like George Clooney and I will look like Columbo by Peter Falk,'' Beilein said Sunday. ''I'd like to say Kevin Costner, but I can't go there.''


    For their drastically different styles, both in dress and how their teams play, one of them will be national champions Monday night. Wright will either get his second title in three seasons, or the 65-year-old Beilein his first in 40 seasons as a college head coach.


    Villanova (35-4), the No. 1 seed from the East Region, has set records for making 3-pointers - both for the season (454), the NCAA Tournament (66) and their 18 in the national semifinal game against fellow No. 1 seed Kansas.


    The title game in the Alamodome will be the first time in this NCAA Tournament that the third-seeded Wolverines (33-7) face a top-5 seed. They beat the Nos. 14, 6, 7 and 9 seeds in the West Region before overcoming a 10-point deficit after halftime Saturday night to be Loyola-Chicago, only the fourth No. 11 seed to ever make to the Final Four.


    Loyola made only 1 of 10 3s against the nation's No. 3 defense in terms of efficiency.


    After Kris Jenkins hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer against North Carolina to win the national championship two years ago, Villanova's first since 1985 under Rollie Massimino, the now 56-year-old Wright noticed people looking at him differently.


    ''Mostly positively. But sometimes if you don't handle it well they look at you negatively. They just look at you a lot more. You just get a lot more attention,'' said Wright, in his 17th season at Villanova after seven years at Hofstra.


    Beilein has an impressive coaching resume with 799 wins when including all his previous stops - at Erie Community College in New York, Nazareth, LeMoyne, Canisius, Richmond and West Virginia. Missing is a national title.


    Of course, Beilein would love to have a championship - the Wolverines made to the 2013 title game and lost to Louisville. Louisville was later forced to vacate that 2013 title because of NCAA sanctions in the wake of an embarrassing sex scandal. It was the first time a Division I men's basketball program was stripped of a national championship.


    Going into his 1,260th game as a head coach, Beilein doesn't anticipate that winning a title, or not, will change how he sees his career.


    ''You hang in there and you just do your absolute best every single day. And someday you're going to say, I gave it everything I had, and if I'm falling into my grave, that's OK too,'' Beilein said. But you just do everything you can to be the best coach, the best mentor, the best teacher, the best husband, the grandfather, father every day, and you go do it again. And that's all I want to be.''


    Michigan is in its seventh national title game. The Wolverines have won only one, beating Seton Hall in overtime in 1989.


    Since his first coaching job as an assistant coach at Division III Rochester in 1984, Wright has been crossing paths with Beilein, who at the time was at LeMoyne College, also in New York. Wright said Beilein had an advantage in recruiting back then because he could offer scholarships while Wright could not.


    ''You'd be on a guy and you'd just hope you wouldn't see John in the gym. And like, in April, he'd pop in and he'd see you,'' Wright said. ''You'd say, `Are you going to take him, John?' He goes, `Yeah, I'm sorry but we're going to take him.''


    They coached against each other in the Big East, after Wright got to Villanova and when West Virginia was still in that league.


    These Wolverines with 6-foot-11 Moe Wagner are similar to some of Beilein's teams at West Virginia, like the ones that made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances more than a decade ago with big man Kevin Pittsnogle.


    ''They remind me of John's West Virginia teams. Wagner kind of reminds me of a modern-day Pittsnogle, thinned down, eating healthier, a little more skilled,'' Wright said.


    After Michigan wrapped up the first national semifinal game Saturday by finally putting away Loyola, the favorite underdogs with Sister Jean on their side, Beilein didn't get a chance to tune into the Villanova game until after halftime.


    By then, the Wildcats had already matched the Final Four single-game record with 13 of their 3s. They had a double-digit lead throughout after jumping ahead 14-4 in the first 4 minutes and added 10 more points before Kansas scored again.


    ''I'm sure glad I didn't get to see it,'' Beilein said. ''It was an offensive clinic against a very good defensive team.''


    On Monday night, it will be up to Beilein's very good defense to try to prevent another one.
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    NCAA Latest: Not much public faith in Michigan upset of Nova
    April 1, 2018



    SAN ANTONIO (AP) The Latest on the championship of the NCAA Tournament (all times local):


    7:45 p.m.


    Turner Sports and CBS Sports officials say the two Final Four games drew an average of 13.4 million viewers across the cable networks and primary streaming app where it aired.


    That's down from an average of 16.8 million viewers who watched the national semifinal games on the broadcast flagship CBS last year. Gonzaga beat South Carolina and North Carolina beat Oregon, both in close games, last year in what was the second-most viewed Final Four in the last 19 years.


    Michigan's win over Loyola-Chicago and Villanova's defeat of Kansas aired on TBS as well as TNT and truTV, which carried team-specific telecasts. The games were also streamed on March Madness Live. Michigan pulled away late to be beat Loyola 69-57, and then the Wildcats blew out the Jayhawks 95-79 in a game that was never close.


    Network officials say the numbers are up compared with two years ago, when the Final Four last aired on cable rather than CBS.


    ---


    2:30 p.m.


    The memory that stands out for Duncan Robinson from playing in the 2014 NCAA Division III Final Four with Williams College was losing the championship game after Wisconsin-Whitewater made a layup in the final second.


    Robinson, now a Michigan senior, is the only player who has played in both the Division I and Division III Final Fours. And now he gets another title shot when the Wolverines take on Villanova.


    ''As far as my freshman year ... when you go through something like that, a championship run, you're kind of forged together for, hopefully, life,'' Robinson said. ''Those guys on that team my freshman year are still some of my closest friends, as I know these guys on this team will be as well.''


    Robinson scored 9 points for Michigan in the national semifinal win over Loyola-Chicago.


    ---


    1:45 p.m.


    When Villanova's Jalen Brunson and Michigan guard Charles Matthews were high school standouts in Illinois, Brunson beat out Matthews for the state's Mr. Basketball award.


    Brunson and Matthews are contending for the same trophy again - the NCAA national championship.


    ''He deserved it, he won the championship,'' Matthews said.


    Sure, Matthews would have liked to win the high school honors back in 2015.


    ''I would rather win a title,'' said Matthews, who in five NCAA Tournament games has led the Wolverines with 16.6 points per game.


    ---


    12:15 p.m.


    Third-seeded Michigan doesn't have much support from the public when it comes to pulling off an upset of No. 1 seed Villanova.


    Oddsmakers in Las Vegas set the opening line for the championship game favoring Villanova by 5 1/2 points, and gamblers quickly pushed that to 6 1/2 points by backing the Wildcats. Sports book data compiled by Pregame.com shows bettors are overwhelmingly backing Villanova in every respect, whether gambling on the spread or the money line. There also appears to be consensus between sharps and casual bettors.


    Only about 3 percent of brackets filled out on Yahoo and ESPN platforms selected Michigan as a title winner, while Villanova was the most popular champion on Yahoo and just behind Virginia as the most likely pick for champion before the tournament began.


    ---


    11:30 a.m.


    Michigan has made a shift in recent years to transform into one of the country's best defensive teams. Villanova is dropping 3-pointers like pop-a-shot and making teams look far less skilled.


    Both teams are preparing Sunday for the final game of the NCAA Tournament, as March Madness bleeds into April for the championship game on Monday night.


    Michigan (33-7) got here by ousting Loyola-Chicago in the Final Four on Saturday night, sending home Sister Jean and her Ramblers, the fan-favorite underdogs.


    Villanova (35-4) turned a highly-anticipated matchup against fellow No. 1 seed Kansas into a rout, making a Final Four record 18 3-pointers and also becoming the most prolific long-range shooting team in NCAA history with 442 makes.
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    Moe's moment: Michigan big man Wagner living NCAA dreams
    April 1, 2018



    SAN ANTONIO (AP) When Moe Wagner gets frustrated during Michigan's practices, he'll sometimes turn away from his teammates and let loose with a loud, multisyllabic string of what his teammates can only assume are profanities.


    ''When he swears in German, that's the funniest thing ever,'' said center Jon Teske, Wagner's roommate. ''He'll make a mistake or something, and he'll just go off in the corner and (scream) these really long words. We'll be like, `What are you talking about?' But that emotion is a big part of him.''


    More than his size or his vocabulary choices, Wagner's passion for basketball is his defining feature to teammates and coaches at Michigan. That passion first got him fascinated with college basketball while growing up in a country where the NCAA system is largely unknown, and that passion spurred him to leave Berlin for Ann Arbor to experience it for himself.


    ''College basketball is crazy,'' Wagner said Sunday. ''It's something very unique, and I think people here don't (understand) how unique it is, because where I'm from, there's nothing like that.''


    Wagner nearly turned pro last summer, but he has turned his extra March at Michigan into a showcase during a series of impressive performances. With strength, skill and enough grace to tiptoe through the television broadcast crew while chasing a loose ball off the elevated Final Four court, Wagner is likely to play a major role in the Wolverines' attempt to upset mighty Villanova on Monday night.


    The rest of the Wolverines realize they're in their first NCAA Tournament championship game since 2013 largely because their 6-foot-11 center wouldn't allow them to lose to Loyola-Chicago.


    Wagner's teammates went 4 for 23 in the first half at the Alamodome, and Michigan fell behind the plucky 11th-seeded Ramblers by 10 points before Wagner took charge. The center piled up 24 points and 15 rebounds - including six offensive boards, more than the rest of his team combined - while the Wolverines roared back for a 69-57 win.


    Wagner joined Hakeem Olajuwon and Larry Bird as the only players to get 20 points and 15 rebounds in an NCAA Tournament semifinal. He even got the ultimate honor for a German baller: a tweet from Dirk Nowitzki - although Wagner had to be told about it, because he's trying to stay focused on basketball by deleting Twitter from his phone.


    ''That made my day,'' Wagner said. ''I looked it up right away. That was pretty special, because he's the G.O.A.T. for us.''


    Wagner has all proper respect for Nowitzki, yet his favorite player growing up was Kevin Garnett, and his teammates see his emulation of Garnett's physical, fiery style - hence the swear words.


    ''Obviously, he's a little crazy in the head,'' Wagner said of Garnett. ''But I appreciate that, because I'm a little crazy out there, too.''


    When a German coaching friend put Wagner on Michigan coach John Beilein's radar five years ago, Beilein could tell Wagner wasn't a normal teenager from their first phone conversation. The German kid was upbeat, personable and completely comfortable speaking with adults an ocean away - but Beilein could only scout him on film.


    So Beilein made a one-day trip to Germany. The coach met Wagner and his parents at the Berlin apartment, having a fruitful conversation over the big German meal and beer he had requested.


    ''When I got in the elevator with the young man, by the time I got out of the elevator, I said, `If this kid is good at all, I'm going to give him a scholarship,''' Beilein said. ''He was so engaging.''


    Wagner was just as eager to learn about Beilein after seeing him on television six months earlier in the 2013 NCAA Tournament finale.


    Many young Germans follow the NBA with the same fervor as their American counterparts, but even the concept of college basketball is unfamiliar. Wagner was already a college basketball fan five years ago, constantly staying up late to watch big games even while preparing for his own.


    Wagner was on a bus to Hamburg for a game when Michigan lost to Louisville in the Final Four that year. He downloaded the game a day later to watch with a friend who now plays for Alba Berlin, Wagner's former club in the Basketball Bundesliga.


    ''It's funny, because (the friend) watches my games now,'' Wagner said with a grin and a voice with barely a trace of a German accent.


    Wagner is now in the main event for this distinctly American version of his sport. Back home in the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood of Berlin, several bars are staying open until the wee hours to allow fans to get a look at the local guy in maize and blue.


    ''It's cool to have so many people interested, and to have such a big support system,'' Wagner said. ''My mom told me the other day that there are so many people who know me and who are calling them all the time. They want to be a part of it. They ask where to watch the games, and that's something that makes me very proud and happy.''
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    For Villanova's Bridges, it's more about winning than stats
    April 1, 2018



    SAN ANTONIO (AP) Mikal Bridges isn't worried about the numbers of shots he's getting within Villanova's highly efficient attack. And he doesn't always jump out when watching the Wildcats as he glides through that rolling-right-along offense.


    That makes him possibly the embodiment of why this Villanova team is preparing to play Michigan for its second national championship in three seasons.


    This is the rare NBA prospect who can stand out by blending in, the other half of the Wildcats' 1-2 punch behind Associated Press national player of the year Jalen Brunson. The 6-foot-7 redshirt junior made a huge leap from a year ago to develop into a top pro prospect, offering game-changing potential for Monday's final with his two-way defensive ability and 3-point range even if he's not always putting up huge numbers.


    ''My main role is to go out there and try to lead this team ... and always stay aggressive,'' Bridges said Sunday. ''I don't need that many shots because we just play off each other, see how the defense plays us, and we just make plays for each other.


    ''None of us cares about how many shots we take.''


    None of this is to say that Bridges fails to offer productive stats for the Wildcats (35-4). He's the East Region champion's No. 2 scorer (17.6 points) and rebounder (5.3) while shooting 51 percent from the floor, nearly 44 percent from behind the arc and about 85 percent from the line.


    He's also the team leader in steals (1.5) and is second in blocks (1.1).


    ''He's a complete player,'' Michigan coach John Beilein said.


    And yet, the guy projected as a possible top-10 NBA pick if he declares for the draft averages 11.9 shot attempts and has reached even 18 shots once all year.


    Villanova's 3-after-3-after-3 win against Kansas in Saturday's national semifinals offered an example. Bridges finished with 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting with two of the Wildcats' Final Four-record 18 3-pointers.


    Oh yeah, he also had a pair of blocks and steals, too.


    ''There's not too many guys like that,'' said teammate Phil Booth, one of four Wildcats to get up more shots than Bridges against the Jayhawks. ''Last night they focused a lot on him, showed him a lot of double teams and he was just making the right play - passing the ball, wasn't forcing anything.


    ''There's a lot of guys who would try to do too much and maybe try to take over. But he doesn't do that. He'll get shots when they come, but he's going to play defense, he's going to rebound, he's going to block shots.''


    Bridges played as a reserve on Villanova's 2016 national champion, then averaged 9.8 points in his first year as a starter as a sophomore. But after an offseason of work with the opportunity for a leading role, Bridges blossomed with a fast start that included helping the Wildcats win the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas in November.


    His mother, Tyneeha Rivers, described Bridges as a long-humble kid driven to do any little thing it takes to win games.


    ''It's something he wanted to do, and he's like, `OK, now it's my turn to step up to the plate and do it,''' she said. ''Mikal's a very competitive person and I think combined with his drive, he really has the strong urge of wanting to be successful and wanting to make a difference to help his team win.


    ''If you didn't know about him, you'd be, `Oh, he did OK' (against Kansas), but I think that's the beauty of Mikal. He's such a dimensional player. He can be what you need him to be.''


    Bridges, for his part, said he gained plenty of confidence through his offseason work and that he could ''kind of feel myself getting better every day.'' But, he said, even he didn't expect to have had quite this kind of climb.


    He'll get a final chance this season to add to it in the Alamodome on Monday night.


    ''Obviously it's kind of higher than I thought, where I'm at right now,'' Bridges said. ''But I always thought I was going to get better and better every day. I knew maybe one day I'd get in position to be a top player.''
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    'Nova, Michigan hook up
    April 2, 2018



    Wolverines Battle Super Nova


    The Villanova Wildcats are on the verge of creating the closest semblance of a dynasty that we’ve had at this level in forever. On Monday night, in front of the entire country, they will try to win their second championship in three years and their third overall. To do so, they have to get past a Michigan program that has constantly been on the verge, but never been able to get back to the top of the podium since 1989.


    Body bags have lined up in the wake of Villanova during the 2018 March Madness betting onslaught they’ve unleashed. They’ve gone a perfect 5-0 SU and ATS thus far, and laid waste to everyone in their warpath. It’s been an absolute gong show.


    The fact that they berated Kansas with a 45-percent performance from range that included 18-of-40 made longshots, while never letting the Jayhawks sniff a lead is ridiculous stuff. What makes Villanova so great ist hat they can beat you in so many ways, but their nation leading offence is virtually unstoppable and has too many weapons. Six players scored in double digits against Kansas.


    Heavy money is streaming in on Villanova already, which is only going to put this spread even higher. Currently favored at -6.5, I wouldn’t be surprised if the NCAA championship spread jumped way higher by tip-off.


    #3 Michigan Wolverines (33-7) vs. #1 Villanova Wildcats (35-4)


    Monday, April 2nd – 9:20pm ET


    NCAA Championship Spread – Villanova -6.5 (145)



    Michigan was on the ropes against a surging Loyola-Chicago who picked the absolute worst time to go cold. The Ramblers were doing just fine until Michigan started to heat up behind Moritz Wagner’s 24 points. The Wolverines hit the right shots at the right time, and Loyola-Chicago literally couldn’t buy a bucket. It was devastating for those of us that thought the Ramblers had enough to at least keep the game close.


    It was also the underlying trend for Michigan this entire tournament – they just keep getting lucky at the weirdest time. It’s not like the Wolverins played well in the Final Four. They shot just 42.4 percent from the field and hit just a quarter of their threes. The defense was pretty good overall, but it was more so that the Ramblers completely imploded more than Michigan playing airtight around their own basket.


    If you’re the kind of bettor that thinks that Michigan will be the team that can with horseshoes under their high-tops, then that’s fine. It’s impossible for a handicapper to suggest that they’re a good bet but that’s the whole point of gambling – you take your own shots. But just don’t make any mistake about how this works.


    Villanova has long been the best team in the tournament, and unlike every other target of hyperbole, they’ve had a habit of living up to that reputation. They’re the one team that simply won’t let up. Too many options. Too disciplined. Too damn good. Their offense alone is a reason to push the OVER.


    One of the elements about Villanova’s game is that they turn every game in to a track meet. A lot of teams can keep up, but even a red hot Michigan team will have trouble maintaining the scorching rate that Villanova sets. Everyone will be talking about Villanova’s new dynasty on Monday night while sadly making Michigan the bridesmaid again.


    NCAA Championship Pick – Villanova -6.5 (OVER)
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    On eve of championship, Final 4 coaches let their hair down
    April 2, 2018



    ESPN's Jay Bilas picks Villanova to cut down the nets, then reminds ''AP Sports Special Events'' host Jim Litke and guest co-host Ralph Russo that even if the Wildcats do beat Michigan, two national titles in three years still won't guarantee future success. But USA Today college basketball writer Lindsay Schnell takes the opposite tack; she tells the hosts Villanova coach Jay Wright may already have found the winning formula.


    Litke and Russo also recap ''Casual Sunday'' at the Final Four, where the dress code is relaxed and coaches whose seasons have already been made talk frankly about what makes them tick. Also on the show: Tex-Mex and media buffets.
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    Closing act: An uncertain future looms for college hoops
    April 2, 2018



    SAN ANTONIO (AP) For the past three weeks, it's been all about buzzer-beaters, bracket-busters and basketball - a much-needed reminder about just how beautiful this game can be.


    For the next six months, it will be all about ugliness and uncertainty, while college basketball wrestles with the changes it must make to keep the sport alive.


    The 2017-18 campaign could very well be remembered as the season that ridded the upper echelon of college hoops of any last whiffs of the notion that it is all about amateurs, ''student-athletes'' and playing for nothing more than a scholarship and pride.


    An FBI investigation that resulted in the September arrests of 10 agents, coaches and businessmen with basketball ties did what the NCAA never really could - laid bare the inner-workings of a shady, money-grubbing business that's been teetering on the edge of the rulebook, and the law, for decades.


    ''The state of the game, there's no doubt, there's some question marks now,'' Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said.


    Between the FBI probe and other media reports, violations have been alleged at 28 schools, ranging from businessmen taking recruits' parents out to lunch to $100,000 payoffs to get them to sign with certain programs; 17 of those teams were in the March Madness bracket. A panel led by Condoleezza Rice is examining the problems and is expected to release a report, and its recommendations, on April 25.


    The president of the NCAA has promised action , but said he would not support anything truly game-changing - as in, rules that would fundamentally alter the amateur status of the ''student-athletes'' whose efforts are the underpinnings of the $1.1 billion the NCAA earned in 2017. The lion's share of that comes from the men's basketball tournament that brought Villanova and Michigan to Monday night's final.


    More significant change might have to come from the NBA, which is considering ending the "one and done" rule that calls for players to either be 19 or complete at least one year in college before becoming eligible for the draft.


    Passed in 2005, that rule altered the landscape of college basketball, putting the lie to the notion that these players - at least the very best ones - come to school to earn a degree. ''One and Done'' is often derided as the catchall explanation for everything bad about the college game.


    Changing the rule, however, won't necessarily change the roles of agents, AAU coaches, college coaches, middlemen, handlers and shoe companies, all of whom partake in what is essentially an unregulated, underground talent-acquisition business, the likes of which the NCAA hasn't the resources or rulebook to control.


    ''Any time there's money involved, isn't there always corruption?'' West Virginia coach Bob Huggins asked, rhetorically. ''We'll have to wait and see how widespread it is. If that's it, and you see it's only four (coaches) who were guilty, that's pretty good.''


    But Huggins, like most coaches The Associated Press talked to last week, says he has no idea what to expect.


    ''Nothing personal, but I'm the wrong person to ask,'' said Andy Enfield, the coach of Southern California, which fired associate coach Tony Bland after he was arrested in the FBI probe, accused of accepting $13,000 for steering two players to specific business representatives. Bland has pleaded not guilty.


    At risk are college basketball and, most notably, the future of a tournament that shows, time and again, exactly why the sport is worth saving.


    The MVP award for this year's tournament may as well have gone to a 98-year-old nun, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt , who willed her underdog team from Loyola-Chicago all the way to the Final Four as an 11th seed, while reminding fans that basketball, like life, is about more than mere winning and losing.


    The Ramblers weren't the only underdog to come up big.


    A tournament turned upside-down featured the first-ever 16 vs. 1 upset when Maryland-Baltimore County knocked off Virginia.


    ''A heck of a season,'' said Virginia's coach, Tony Bennett, ''with a heck of a loss at the end, of course.''


    Like the UMBC-Virginia game, the best of the tournament is often centered around upsets.


    It brings about an uncomfortable paradox: These three weeks invariably place a few spunky little-guy teams that presumably do things the right way against a few fearsome behemoth programs that presumably don't. It's the reason we watch.


    Yes, the sport is overdue for a good scrubbing. But if, someday, everyone really is playing by the same rules, will that ruin the event we love?
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  16. #1391  
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    Michigan, Villanova bring wild NCAA Tournament to a close
    April 2, 2018

    SAN ANTONIO (AP) College basketball's wild 2017-18 ride ends in San Antonio, where Villanova meets Michigan in the national championship game of the NCAA Tournament.


    The Wildcats are playing for their second title in three years under coach Jay Wright. The Wolverines are vying for their first championship since 1989 and to make up for the one coach John Beilein lost in 2013, at least a little.


    This meeting on Monday night will come down to strength against strength.


    Villanova is one of the greatest 3-point shooting teams in college basketball history, breaking season and NCAA Tournament records. The Wildcats blasted Kansas in the national semifinals, hitting a record 18 from beyond the arc.


    Michigan rode its defense into the title game. The Wolverines are the nation's third-most efficient team on defense and one of the best at defending the 3-point line.
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  17. #1392  
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    Monday's Best Bet
    April 2, 2018



    Monday's NCAA Championship Best Bet


    Michigan Wolverines vs. Villanova Wildcats - (TBS, 9:20 p.m. ET)



    The insanity that was the 2018 NCAA Tournament has led us to a championship game that pits a #1 seed vs a #3 seed, a relatively “normal” matchup and has the #1 coming in as heavy favorites. Without question, Villanova has looked like the team to beat all tournament and now they are one win away from winning their second national title in the last three years.


    That's quite a feat for Jay Wright's program, but the Michigan program has been in this situation before back in the early 90's. The program many are counting out and up against a basketball blue blood in the nation. Those early 90's championship games didn't exactly work out in Michigan's favor though. Will tonight's?


    Villanova (-7); Total set at 144.5


    Villanova enters the national championship game on a 10-game winning streak, with the last nine of those wins coming by double digits. The way this team has been playing they definitely deserve to be laying a healthy number like -7, but I'm no rush to lay it.


    Championship nerves and the likelihood we see the Wildcats regress rather largely from the shooting clinic they put on Saturday night against Kansas has made covering this number much tougher then many may believe tonight. That being said, I'm in no hurry to take the points with Michigan either.


    Michigan has won 14 games in a row entering the title game tonight and know the task in front of them is going to be challenging. Nobody in this tournament has really figured out how to slow down this Villanova Wildcats attack so far, and while Michigan does pride itself on it's defense, that unit is going to have to be lights out tonight.


    The higher scoring this game gets, the likelihood that Villanova walks off the court as national champions increases dramatically. So while some are saying Michigan's got to be ultra-aggressive early and attack pace with pace tonight, don't expect that to be the case for Michigan to try and find success. After all, they do have “time” on their side when it comes to slowing down the Villanova attack. Let me explain:


    Villanova, for all their greatness this year has shown a disparaging trend when it comes to quick turnaround games all year. It's not often that college teams play off just a single day (or less) of rest outside of early season and late season tournaments, but it's precisely that lack of rest that has hurt Villanova's shooting percentage clip all year.


    Let's look at the NCAA Tournament to start. Villanova has won five games so far, three of which were their first game of a weekend/round. They scored 87 points on 59.6% shooting against #16 Radford in Round 1, only to see that shooting percentage drop to 39.7% two days later in a 81-58 win over Alabama.


    Fast forward a week to Villanova's Sweet 16 game against West Virginia (off multiple days of rest), and you'll see that Villanova scored 90 points on 50% shooting in the victory. But just two days later they shot a dismal 33.3% from the floor in a 71-59 win over Texas Tech in the Elite Eight.


    I don't know if it's fatigue or what, but after shooting the lights out to the tune of 55.4% and making a record 18 three-pointers against Kansas on Saturday, history suggests that just 48 hours later we should expect a massive drop off in FG percentage from Villanova again tonight.


    This isn't the first time it's happened this year either, as in Villanova's three Big East tournament games (all played on successive days), they scored fewer points each time and went from 56.9% from the floor to 47.5% to 43.8% from the floor in the championship game. It's a pattern that can't be ignored tonight, especially against a team that's got a talented defensive system like the Michigan Wolverines.


    Yet, the problem for Michigan still remains despite all that. Yes, Villanova's shooting percentage is likely to come down big time based on the minimal rest they've gotten and past performances in similar situations, but the Wildcats have still won most of those games by double digits.


    It's Villanova's defense that get overlooked tremendously amid all their scoring talent, but it's that same defense that has held strong in Villanova's poor shooting games to come home with easy wins. It's why even knowing that Villanova's offense won't connect at a high clip tonight, still makes it rather tough to take all those points with Michigan.


    That's why I'm going to the total tonight and playing the low side of this number in a big way. Championship games always bring some nerves and a few minutes of settling in early (a good thing for 'under' plays), and with Villanova's offensive struggles on short rest in the past, Michigan will be content with their chances if this game turns into a race to 70.


    Neither of these teams have played consecutive 'overs' in this tournament (Villanova is coming off an 'over' in the Final Four), and Michigan's only 'over' ticket that got cashed this tournament was wen they shot the lights out from distance against Texas A&M last week. That's not going to happen against this stingy Villanova defense.


    So if forced to take a position on the side in this game, I'd tell you that Villanova wins SU but probably doesn't cover, but I do believe the total is the much better play from both a value standpoint and bigger margin of error possible. For all the pregame storylines about both teams being great shooting from beyond the arc, it will be the defenses from both sides that becomes the story of this game as it goes on, with something like a 70-66 win for Villanova.



    Best Bet: Under 144.5 points
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  18. #1393  
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    NCAA Latest: Villanova-Michigan title game all about the 3s
    April 2, 2018



    SAN ANTONIO (AP) The Latest on the championship game of the NCAA Tournament (all times local):


    12:40 p.m.


    There's a reason so much of the talk surrounding the NCAA Tournament championship game is about 3-pointers.


    Villanova is commanding that by making its case as the greatest 3-point shooting team in college history.


    The Wildcats set a Final Four record with 18 3-pointers against Kansas to get to the title game against Michigan on Monday night. Villanova (35-4) also has 454 3-pointers this season and 66 during the NCAA Tournament, both records.


    The Wildcats use a motion offense and can shoot 3s from every position.


    Michigan's goal will be to get Villanova away from the 3-point line and redirect shots. The Wolverines have been effective at both against other teams this season.


    ---


    11:30 a.m.


    College basketball's wild 2017-18 ride ends in San Antonio, where Villanova meets Michigan in the national championship game of the NCAA Tournament.


    The Wildcats are playing for their second title in three years under coach Jay Wright. The Wolverines are vying for their first championship since 1989 and to make up for the one coach John Beilein lost in 2013, at least a little.


    This meeting on Monday night will come down to strength against strength.


    Villanova is one of the greatest 3-point shooting teams in college basketball history, breaking season and NCAA Tournament records. The Wildcats blasted Kansas in the national semifinals, hitting a record 18 from beyond the arc.


    Michigan rode its defense into the title game. The Wolverines are the nation's third-most efficient team on defense and one of the best at defending the 3-point line.
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  19. #1394  
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    MONDAY, APRIL 2
    GAME TIME(ET) PICK UNITS



    MICH at VILL 09:20 PM


    MICH +7.0


    U 145.0
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    Nova's DiVincenzo wins most outstanding player of Final Four
    April 3, 2018



    SAN ANTONIO (AP) When Villanova was struggling with its shots in the first half, Donte DiVincenzo provided a wake-up call for the Wildcats.


    When Michigan tried to make a move on Villanova in the second half, DiVincenzo put down the uprising with 11 straight points and a wink toward the sideline.


    The Wildcats' sixth-man scored a career-high 31 points and won most outstanding player of the Final Four as Villanova beat Michigan 79-62 on Monday night for its second NCAA Tournament championship in three seasons.


    DiVincenzo, who was just a cheerleader for Villanova during that championship run in the 2015-16 season, had the first 30-point effort in a title game since Miles Simon did it for Arizona against Kentucky in 1997.


    The redshirt sophomore from Delaware broke his foot early in his freshman season and was limited to eight games and a medical redshirt.


    Against Michigan, DiVincenzo was the guy. He had 16 points on an assortment of drives and mid-range shots in the first half as Villanova started 1 for 8 from 3-point range.


    The Wildcats' offense, the best in the country with shooters all over the floor, perked up late and surged to nine-point halftime lead. The advantage quickly bulged to double-digits in the second half. Michigan had whittled it down 12 with about nine minutes left when DiVincenzo hit 3 from up top. The next time down he let another one fly - why not? - and after it swished through he looked toward the sideline and gave a wink.


    DiVincenzo finished 10-for-15 from the field, with five rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots. He had the highest scoring game for any single player against Michigan's stingy defense this season and became the sixth player in the last 40 years with a 30-point NCAA championship game.


    ******************


    Michigan unable to counter Villanova in title game defeat
    April 3, 2018



    SAN ANTONIO (AP) One by one, Michigan's starters trudged to the bench in succession while the final minutes of the NCAA Tournament championship game ticked away.


    The Wolverines had all tried to stop Donte DiVincenzo, and they had all failed as he delivered the highest scoring performance all season by a Michigan opponent in Villanova's 79-62 win.


    Yet the Wolverines' inability to counter with points of their own was just as costly.


    Charles Matthews, Michigan's second-leading scorer, managed only six points on 3-for-9 shooting. The Wolverines got no points in 22 minutes from Duncan Robinson, their fourth-leading scorer.


    Zavier Simpson needed a few late buckets to finish with 10 total points in the two Final Four games, and the Wolverines' top playmaker had just two assists. Michigan had only six total assists on 24 field goals.


    Even worse, the Wolverines' entire bench went a combined 3 for 12 while contributing only seven points - or 24 fewer than DiVincenzo, the Wildcats' extraordinary reserve.


    Michigan went a paltry 3 for 23 on 3-pointers, with only Moe Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman finding the net. The Wolverines missed 59 of their 73 3-point attempts over the final three games of the NCAA Tournament, and this time they couldn't make up for it.


    For the second time under coach John Beilein, Michigan couldn't find a defensive answer for a reserve on college basketball's biggest stage. Luke Hancock scored 22 points for Louisville during its victory over the Wolverines in the 2013 title game.


    The Wolverines were an underdog in this matchup at the Alamodome, but they got off to an encouraging start. For the first 10 minutes at the Alamodome, Michigan had an answer for everything Villanova had done so well on its roll through the season as likely the best team in the sport.


    Michigan played smart, aggressive perimeter defense against Villanova's outside shooters, preventing the Wildcats from using a barrage of 3-pointers to jump ahead, as they did against Kansas two days earlier. The Wolverines' defense was athletic and flexible enough to get a hand in most shooters' faces, and the difference in Villanova's offensive flow was dramatic.


    Moe Wagner's 25-point, 14-rebound performance against Loyola-Chicago two days earlier propelled the Wolverines into the championship game, and the German big man got off to another outstanding start against the Wildcats. Wagner slipped inside for a layup to put Michigan up 21-14 midway through the first half, and the Wolverines looked good.


    And then it all fell apart.


    Michigan didn't score again for the next 5:13, missing seven consecutive shots. DiVincenzo got rolling with a series of buckets, and his teammates leaped to a nine-point lead at halftime.


    *********************


    Villanova's Wright in select company with 2nd NCAA title
    April 3, 2018



    SAN ANTONIO (AP) Not all too long ago, Jay Wright was still one of those many standout coaches without a national championship despite repeated winning seasons and appearances in the NCAA Tournament.


    Less than two years and a Texas two-step of titles later, the sharp-dressed Villanova coach is now in very select company.


    With the Wildcats' 79-62 win over Michigan in the Alamodome on Monday night, Wright joined Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina's Roy Williams as the only active coaches with multiple NCAA titles. He is the 14th coach overall with more than one championship, a list topped by John Wooden's 10 at UCLA.


    Villanova waited 31 years to win another championship after getting its first with coach Rollie Massimino in 1985.


    Wright and the Wildcats didn't have to wait very long at all to add to that total. Only two days shy of the second anniversary of the title they won about 200 miles away in Houston, they were cutting down the nets again.


    ''I never dreamt of this,'' Wright said.


    The Wildcats wrapped up Wright's 17th season with 36 wins, a school record. It was his 422nd win at Villanova after 122 wins and back-to-back NCAA Tournaments in the last of his seven seasons at Hofstra.


    After making it to the Final Four in 2009, the Wildcats had a six-season span when they made the NCAA Tournament five times - and never got past the first weekend.


    That changed with their title run in 2016, before another loss in their second tournament game last season.


    Then in this wild NCAA Tournament with AP Player of the Year Jalen Brunson and Final Four MVP Donte DiVencenzo, who scored 31 points in the finale, the Wildcats were never challenged late. They won all six of their tournament games by double figures.
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