I pulled together the SB Nation sites for the teams participating in the Final Four to break down the matchups and give everyone a one stop shop for learning about these teams. This is part three of a five part series that started Wednesday night and runs through Friday.
Up next, we look at the strengths of each of our opponents.
Editor’s Note: I’m joined on this panel by Anthony Broome from Maize and Brew, Jack Brooks from VU Hoops, and Russell Steinberg from Mid Major Madness. If you missed the previous installment in this series, you can find it here:
What is the one thing about your opponent that will help them the most in winning a national title?
AB: The thing that Loyola-Chicago has going for it is the 11-seed number next to their name. Because of that, people have overlooked what has been a very good basketball team since this thing began and they have shown they can hang with anyone on a given day. It would be foolish for Michigan to assume they’re playing on Monday night because if they walk in with that mentality, chances are they will not be.
RS: Michigan is a different team now than we saw, even in the regular season when they went 13-5 in the Big Ten. They’ve flipped a switch. What’s impressed me the most is that they’ve been able to win in every way imaginable — opponents won’t be able to throw the Wolverines off their game. They can out-shoot you like they did against Texas A&M or win ugly, like they did against Florida State.
JB: It’s very difficult to win a national title without a stellar floor general, and if they beat Villanova De’Vonte Graham would certainly carry on that legacy of great point guards. The upperclassman leadership that De’Vonte and Svi provide for that team, surrounded by other talented players in their own right is a recipe for success.
AM: The talent is phenomenal on this Villanova team, and their analytics back that up. They are the number 1 rated offense in KenPom, and Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges are both national player of the year contenders (at least on KenPom). The pure talent level of this team is going to be difficult for their opponents to handle.
What specifically about your opponent worries you in your matchup with them on Saturday?
AB: The easy answer would be Sister Jean and that vibe she has about here, but Michigan has had three of its worst offensive performances in a long time in four games played in this tournament. If they are not able to get the offense going from the perimeter they could be playing with fire despite their ability to succeed with defense.
RS: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Charles Mathews both terrify me, and really, Michigan has kind of turned into an unstoppable death machine. That doesn’t bode well. I’m also curious to see what the plan is against someone like Mo Wagner. I’m not sure Loyola has faced someone quite as versatile as him.
JB: Villanova’s largest flaw is defending the three, and Kansas can definitely shoot. Their four guard lineups allow for an offense similar to Villanova’s motion offense, and Udoka is an imposing paint presence which could halt drives by Brunson, Booth and DiVincenzo.
AM: Villanova has a tight rotation of great players, lead by Brunson and Bridges. I’m not sure who on Kansas will be able to defend those two, and that doesn’t even factor in the contributions of Omari Spellman and Donte DiVencenzo. And while Udoka Azubuike is an imposing presence inside, all these guys can pull up from mid-range and be successful. If Kansas can’t figure out how to handle all the pieces simultaneously, it will be a very long night for the Jayhawks.
Be sure to check back tomorrow morning, when we tear down the opponents we just built up.