Point/Counterpoint: Who will win the Final Four?



Loyola head coach Porter Moser cuts down the net after a 78-62 win against Kansas State in an NCAA Tournament regional final at Philips Arena in Atlanta on March 24, 2018. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

March Madness is all fun and games until a team such as Loyola bulls its way into the Final Four. It’s a great story, but at some point, that magic is going to run bone dry.

Sure, Loyola is on one heck of a run, but so is Michigan. Momentum can only get a team so far — both teams are running full steam ahead — but Michigan will move on when the final buzzer sounds.

Moritz Wagner is what you’d call a bucket-getter. He scored 14.3 points per game this season, and paired with his 6.9 rebounds a game, he’s a threat on the glass as well.

Two more Wolverines average 12.6 points per game apiece, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Charles Matthews.

Loyola hasn’t lost since Jan. 31, a 2-point loss to Bradley. Meanwhile, Michigan hasn’t dropped a contest since Feb. 6.

Since then, the Wolverines have taken down No. 2 Michigan State and No. 8 Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament before winning four NCAA Tournament games against Montana, Houston, Texas A&M, and Florida State.

I’m rolling with the Big Ten here. Do I get annoyed with the Loyola “fanbase”? Of course. Do I think the Loyola fans are coming out of the bushes at the same rate as Cub “fans” after their World Series win?

You bet. And it’s back to the bushes after this weekend.

Meanwhile, it’s harder for me to choose between Kansas and Villanova. After that win against Duke, I really, really wanted to pick Kansas (in all honesty, I think this game is a tossup). Devonté Graham is Mr. Do It All for the Jayhawks, scoring 17.2 points, dishing 7.3 assists, grabbing 4.1 rebounds, and averaging 1.6 assists per game this season.

But Villanova has blown through the competition during this year’s tournament, winning each game by nearly 16 points on average.

I think the dynamic duo of Jalen Brunson (19.2 points per game, 41.4 percent from 3-point range) and Mikal Bridges (17.8 points, 43.6 percent) will be too much for Kansas.

After Saturday, we’ll have our national championship matchup set.

Spoiler alert: Big Blue will end those Rambler dreams, and Villanova will be too much for Kansas coach Bill Self and Company to handle.


Loyola and Villanova

By Pete Ruden

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March Madness is one of the best times of the year, and no team exemplifies what March is all about more than Loyola-Chicago.

The Ramblers’ run to the Final Four has been one for the ages that sports fans will remember for a long time. Why not keep that magic going?

Sure, Michigan is also on an incredible 13-game winning streak that led to a Big Ten Tournament title and a Final Four appearance, but the Wolverines aren’t as consistent as their run suggests.

We can’t forget this is the same team that barely pulled out an overtime win against a 14-19 Iowa squad in the Big Ten Tournament.

When you put their tournament games side-by-side, Loyola has the more impressive road to San Antonio with wins over No. 6 Miami, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 7 Nevada, and No. 9 Kansas State.

Michigan’s best win is against Houston, a No. 6 seed, by 1 point. That came after a 61-47 win over Montana, which was not a pretty game of basketball. Sixty-one points against a No. 14 seed? Not great. It seems to me as if the Wolverines are prone to an upset.

Villanova, on the other hand, is a strong offensive team with no problem putting the ball in the bucket, led by Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges.

Brunson averages 19.2 points a game, while Bridges brings an average of 17.8 into the matchup with the Jayhawks.

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