Michigan vs. Villanova
April 1, 2018
By Brian Edwards
Villanova (35-4 straight up, 27-12 against the spread) is seeking to become just the second team in NCAA Tournament history to win all six of its games by double-digit margins on the way to a national title. Michigan is in the way of the Wildcats, who are vying to win Jay Wright’s second national championship in the last three seasons.
The 2009 North Carolina Tar Heels won all six of their games by at least 12 points. Villanova can pull the same trick if it wins by that much Monday night at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
As of early Sunday night, most betting shops had Villanova installed as a 6.5-point favorite, although there were a few spots that had the Wildcats favored by seven. The total was in the 145-146 range, while the Wolverines were available on the money line for a +260 payout (paid $260 on $100 wagers). Wright’s club was anywhere from -320 to -350 to win outright.
For first-half bets, Villanova was favored by 3.5 points with a total of 67.5. The Wildcats were -220 on the money line in the first half, while the Wolverines were +180 (risk $100 to win $180).
Wright’s club won its 10th straight game and covered for the fifth consecutive time in Saturday’s 95-79 win over Kansas as a five-point ‘chalk.’ The 174 combined points soared ‘over’ the 154.5-point total.
Villanova raced out to a 22-5 lead and it was over that quickly. KU would get no closer than 12 the rest of the way and the Wildcats had their biggest lead, 67-45, with 12:59 remaining.
How hot was Villanova at the start? The Wildcats tied the Final Four record for the most 3-pointers made in a game, and they did so in the first half. When Eric Paschall hit a 3-ball just one minute into the second half, the record belonged only to ‘Nova.
‘Nova shot the ball at a blistering pace, splashing the nets at a 55.4 percent clip from the field. The Wildcats buried 18-of-40 treys (45.0%) and had a 20/9 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Paschall led the way with a game-high 24 points by draining 10-of-11 field-goal attempts and 4-of-5 launches from 3-point land. Jalen Brunson added 18 points and six assists, while Omari Spellman contributed 15 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots. Donte DiVincenzo produced 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists without a turnover. Mikal Bridges and Phil Booth finished with 10 points apiece, with Booth handing out six dimes.
Villanova is No. 1 in the nation in scoring with its 86.8 points-per-game average. The Wildcats are fifth in the country in FG percentage (50.1%), 12th in 3-point accuracy (40.1%) and eighth in free-throw percentage (77.9%).
‘Nova got to the Alamodome with wins over Radford, Alabama, West Virginia and Texas Tech. Brunson is one of five finalists for the Wooden Award and the junior guard is the key for the Wildcats, but they get contributions from six players who are averaging double figures. Brunson, who is the +350 ‘chalk’ at BetOnline.ag to win the Most Outstanding Player Award, is averaging 19.2 PPG and has a 182/69 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Bridges (17.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG) joins Brunson (41.3%) and Spellman (10.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG) in shooting 3-pointers at a high rate. Bridges has nailed 43.5 percent of his 3-balls, while Spellman has buried 43.9 percent of his attempts from long distance. Not only can Spellman and Bridges step out and shoot from distance, but they’ve combined to block 102 shots at the defensive end.
Villanova has compiled a 9-5 spread record and lost outright just three times in 14 games as a single-digit favorite. Meanwhile, Michigan owns a 7-0 spread record with five outright victories in its past seven games as an underdog. The Wolverines are 7-2 ATS as ‘dogs for the year.
Michigan (33-7 SU, 25-12-2 ATS) advanced to the finals for the second time since 2013 by rallying from a 43-34 deficit with 11:30 remaining to capture a 69-57 win over Loyola-Chicago as a 5.5-point favorite. The Wolverines held Loyola to only 14 points in the last 12-plus minutes of the game. The Ramblers entered the national semifinals ranked 15th in the nation in 3-point accuracy (40.0%), but they could make only 1-of-10 from long distance vs. Michigan.
Mo Wagner was the catalyst in the comeback with 24 points, 15 rebounds and three steals. Wagner hit 10-of-16 FGAs and 3-of-7 attempts from downtown. Charles Matthews, who earned Most Outstanding Player of the West Region with his play in the Tournament’s first four games, produced 17 points, five rebounds and three steals.
John Beilein’s team is ranked eighth in the country in scoring defense, limiting foes to merely 62.9 PPG. Michigan has held seven of its past eight opponents to 66 points or fewer. Whether that’s realistic with ‘Nova’s high-octane offensive attack remains to be seen.
Michigan is undoubtedly going to have to score more than its 61, 64, 58 and 69-point outputs in four of its five Tournament games. The Wolverines scored 99 in their blowout win over Texas A&M.
Wagner’s performance against the Ramblers was – by far – his finest of the postseason. Another effort like that is needed and Matthews’s steady play also needs to continue. Duncan Robinson, who averages 9.5 PPG and makes 39.0 percent of his 3-pointers and 89.1 percent of his FTs, needs to supply some offense.
Perhaps most important, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12.6 PPG) needs to play well. After scoring in double figures in six straight games, he’s scored only 16 combined points vs. FSU and Loyola. Abdur-Rahkman went 3-of-12 from the field against the ‘Noles, and he made just 2-of-11 FGAs versus the Ramblers and missed all five of his 3-point launches.
The ‘over’ is 26-13 overall for the Wildcats, although we’ll note that they have seen the ‘under’ hit in four straight games in which their totals closed in the 140s. The ‘over’ is on a 15-5 run for the Wildcats in their last 20 outings.
The ‘under’ is 20-16-2 overall for the Wolverines after cashing at a 4-1-1 clip in their five Tournament games.
Tip-off is scheduled for Monday night at 9:20 p.m. Eastern on TBS.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- Loyola-Chicago loses three seniors who earned significant playing time. Donte Ingram, Ben Richardson and Aundre Jackson are gone, but Clayton Custer, Cameron Krutwig, Marques Townes, Bruno Skokna and Lucas Williamson return. The Ramblers have signed a trio of three-star recruits for the 2018 class, so they’re probably a safe bet to get back to the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
-- If we discount Wager’s 0-of-7 effort from 3-point land vs. FSU, he has otherwise knocked down 9-of-15 (60.0%) treys in the Tournament.
-- We noted earlier how only one team has won all six of its games by double-digit margins. Since the Tournament expanded the field to 64 teams in 1985, Villanova is just the fifth squad to go into the title game having won its first five by double digits. Of those four previous teams, just one (UNC in 2016 – vs. Villanova on Kris Jenkins’s buzzer beater, of course) lost outright.
-- This is the fourth head-to-head meeting between these schools. They met in November of the 2014-15 campaign with ‘Nova collecting a 60-55 victory as a 4.5-point ‘chalk.’ The Wildcats also knocked off the Wolverines on their way to winning the 1985 national title over Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas at Rupp Arena in Lexington.
-- Michigan is looking for its first national title since beating Seton Hall in overtime at Seattle’s old Kingdome in the 1989 finals. Rumeal Robinson hit a pair of FTS in the final seconds after John Clougherty whistled Gerald Greene for a nonsense blocking call. That Michigan team sported future NBA players like Loy Vaught, Glen Rice, Terry Mills and Sean Higgins.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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