Predicting the Final Four and the College Basketball National Champion Part 1: Loyola Chicago vs Michigan
The 2018 NCAA Tournament has been one of the wildest in recent memory, and with only four teams remaining, we look at who will be moving on and winning the national championship.
This years’ March Madness has been one for the ages. From the opening round, where 16-seed UMBC took down #1 overall seed Virginia, to 11-seed Loyola-Chicago’s Cinderella run to the Final Four, the NCAA Tournament has been complete chaos. Michigan, Villanova, and Kansas have joined Loyola to set the stage for the Final Four, and it is time to take a look at the matchups, as well as who will ultimately be the 2018 college basketball National Champion.
It might sound crazy, but it’s looking like the Final Four game not featuring two 1-seeds may be the most interesting. Loyola’s journey has been a wild one, which kicked-off with them upsetting #6 Miami and #3 Tennessee in the first two rounds of the tournament. From there they defeated #7 Nevada (who had upset #2 Cincinnati) and then #9 Kansas State (who had upset #5 Kentucky). The South region of the bracket went haywire with upset and ended up with the Missouri Valley Conference Champions to represent it in the Final Four.
Michigan had wild road to the Final Four themselves. They ended up 4th in the Big Ten, and looked to be on the outside looking in the top-heavy conference that consisted of Michigan State, Purdue, and Ohio State. However, 13 wins in a row later (including four in the conference tournament and four more in the NCAA tournament), they are the hottest team in basketball. They defeated quality teams in Houston, Texas A&M, and Florida State on their path, and will be looking to return to the National Championship after winning it all in 2013.
I know Sister Jean wouldn’t agree with my prediction, but I believe that Michigan will end Loyola’s run in the Final Four. Loyola has beat good teams in this tournament, but not great ones. Michigan hasn’t either, but they proved themselves in conference play by beating very different, premier Big Ten teams, along with their NCAA Tournament victories.
One huge advantage for Michigan will be starting center Mo Wagner’s matchup Loyola’s big man, true freshmen Cameron Krutwig. The 6’9 Krutwig is a true center who lives on the block but will be forced to go to the perimeter to attempt to guard a taller (6’11), more athletic, and a more than capable shooter in Mo Wagner.
The fact of the matter is, Loyola and Michigan are actually similar teams. Both are all-around teams that have a deliberate offense but are efficient in transition. While I feel like Michigan’s offense will have a definite edge against Loyola’s defense, the game will really come down to whether Michigan’s strong defense will be able to affect Loyola’s highly efficient offense.
At the end of the day, I believe Michigan’s defense will prevail and with the mismatch, Mo Wagner will have on offense, the Wolverines will be on their way to the National Championship.