Michael Pellegrino Staff Writer
After two crazy weekends of one of the best events in sports, the NCAA tournament, we are down to the Final Four. Villanova is playing Kansas, and Michigan taking on the Cinderella of this year, Loyola-Chicago.
This year’s competition has been one of the wide-open and fun tournaments to watch. UMBC beating Virginia was historic, Loyola’s run has been nothing short of miraculous, and in one region none of the top four seeds made the sweet sixteen. This chaotic region is where the ramblers of Loyola-Chicago look to continue their run against the Michigan Wolverines. Loyola has gotten to this point by playing simple basketball. Taking their time on offense, making easy layups, and forcing turnovers from their opponents. It will be Michigan’s job to change the pace of the game in a way that favors Moritz Wagner and Zavier Simpson and their speed.
Stats are usually quite important at this point in the college basketball year, however Loyola is a team that does not quit, something not coming up in the box score. Both of their first-round games against Miami and Tennessee came down to their last possession, and they were able to finish these games strong. What is most intriguing about this matchup is that both teams come in absolutely red-hot. Michigan has won 13 straight, dating back to the regular season, and Loyola has won 11 straight, so something has to give.
In the second matchup of this year’s Final Four, we have two blue-blood programs battling it out, between Villanova and Kansas. Villanova has dominated their way through this tournament, taking care of Radford, Alabama, West Virginia and Texas Tech, winning every game by double digits. Jaylen Brunson has proven to be one the most unique playmakers in the country, not only elevating his game, but his teammates, such as Omari Spellman, Mikal Bridges and Donte DiVincenzo. This team lights it up from outside, shooting 40% from the three-point line, and 50% overall from the field. Kansas has gotten to this point through its pure grit and determination. A blue-blood program that is at its first Final Four since 2012, seniors Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk are showing no signs of stopping their season, after grinding an OT win against Duke in the elite eight.
This game should be the absolute best game of the tournament; both senior squads will not let this opportunity get away from them. Coaches Jay Wright and Bill Self will get their teams fully prepared, and throughout the game will change tactics in order to put their players in the best possible winning position. For Kansas, it is about stopping Villanova from shooting lights out. For Villanova, it is about controlling the pace of the game to play at their speed and not get out of it.
Villanova is looking for its second National Championship in 3 years, and Kansas is looking for its first title in 10 years, and ironically, they are in the same building this year as in 2008.