What Each Team Needs To Do To Cut Down the Nets On Monday
Then there were four. Loyola Chicago, Michigan, Villanova and Kansas all made it out of their region for a chance to play for the National Championship in San Antonio. All four of these teams are more than capable of cutting down the nets on Monday night, and I’m going to tell you what each team needs to do for that to happen.
Kansas (1 seed in the Midwest)
After falling short in the Elite Eight the past two years, Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks finally break through with arguably their best team in a long time. They have the best backcourt in San Antonio with Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman and Devonte Graham. And if they want to finish the job off right, they are going to have to create easy shots for each other and stay away from isolation basketball. Villanova is a very good defensive team and if Kansas becomes stagnant on offense, Villanova will take advantage of it. The Jayhawks will also need to get out and run in transition so they can get easy looks before Villanova sets up their half court defense.
X-Factor: Malik Newman, throughout the entire postseason he has been playing like the player we thought he was coming out of high school. He is coming off the best game of his collegiate career, can he carry the momentum into San Antonio? If the answer is yes, he could be looking at two things. A national championship trophy, and his draft stock shooting up by the minute.
Villanova (1 seed in the East)
Throughout the entire tournament, Villanova has been dominant and looks like the clear cut best team in the country. They are statistically the best three point shooting team in the country with 436 made three pointers in 38 games (about 11 per game). But, in order to cut down the nets on Monday, they must develop other facets of their offense. The Wildcats are lethal from deep, but sometimes it can be their worst enemy. In their four losses this year they shot 35-127 from three (27%) as opposed to the 40% clip they have been shooting it at all year. Villanova has looked like the best team all postseason, but if they live and die by the three, they become extremely vulnerable.
X-Factor: Omari Spellman, He is the X-Factor to me for two reasons. One, you know what your going to get out of Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Donte Divincenzo, but the play of Spellman can make or break the Wildcats. And two, if his shot is on, he creates a mismatch nightmare because the opposing center has to come out and guard him. It also provides a unique versatility for Villanova on the offensive end.
Michigan (3 seed in the West)
If the Wolverines want to avoid getting upset by Loyola and have a chance at avenging the 2013 championship game loss, they need to come out with energy. Slow starts have been a problem for Michigan all year long and they were able to survive three of them in the tournament, but with the competition level and stakes this high, they are truly playing with fire if they come out flat. Michigan also needs to establish a paint presence through post-ups or drives early on in order to run Loyola off the three point line defensively. If Michigan can establish their inside out offense, they can be hard to beat.
X-Factor: Mo Wagner, the Berlin native has been inconsistent all year, but when he’s playing like himself the Wolverines are hard to stop. He creates a mismatch with his shooting ability and athleticism. If Wagner doesn’t settle for threes and can stay out of foul trouble, he should be in for a big night.
Loyola-Chicago (11 seed in the South)
On the first day of the NCAA tournament, the Ramblers were one shot away from going home, but Donte Ingram came through. Two days later they were in the same position, and Clayton Custer got a friendly bounce to send them to the second weekend. They are a team of destiny, but make no mistake, they belong in San Antonio. Loyola got here by out-executing their opponent and playing within themselves, if they do those two things they have a real shot at becoming the first ever 11 seed to advance to the national championship and the first 11 seed to win the national championship.
X-Factor: Clayton Custer, he is the oil to the car and he makes this team go. Custer scores, facilitates and just makes things happen for the Ramblers. He hit the game winner against Tennessee in the round of 32 and drew Marques Towne’s defender and then kicked it to him for a game sealing three against Nevada in the Sweet 16. When he has the ball in his hands, he makes things happen and anything is possible.
With just three games left in the 2018 college basketball season, it is definitely a bittersweet time (for fans like me). But there’s no better way to finish out the season than four of the best teams in the country battling it out for a chance to be crowned “National Champions.”
The road ends here.