By Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley, AFRO Sports
Chaos has settled and the NCAA Tournament has played itself down to the championship game. Villanova and Michigan will tip off Monday night in a highly accredited showdown. Both schools are classic and storied programs with deep history and championship banners. Villanova will open as the favorite but Michigan hasn’t lost a game in nearly two months. Cinderellas and party crashers aside, this may not have been the game fans were expecting but they’ll surely take it. Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO SportsDesk debate who’ll cut the down the nets as 2018 champions.
Villanova’s Jalen Brunson (1) shoots over Kansas’s Lagerald Vick (2) during the second half in the semifinals of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Saturday, March 31, 2018, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Riley: Ever since Michigan dropped Michigan State I’ve been keeping an eye on the Wolverines. Their defense is lock down, they hustle and they do it all without a five-star blue chipped on the roster. It’s a hard-working group who’s playing tremendous team ball right now which is what it takes for deep March runs and April finishes. They’re just hot. They have a big man in Moritz Wagner who’s averaging 19 points and eight rebounds per contest over his last three outings and 6-foot-6 guard Charles Matthews has developed into a first round pick. That one-two punch flanked by a group of seniors and a high-risk/high-reward guard in Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, make them a dangerous club.
Green: Michigan is playing good basketball right now but Villanova is just on another level. They’re extremely solid in their first seven-man rotation and that’s usually enough to beat teams into submission. They spread the floor but can still score inside and they’re coached by the championship-accredited Jay Wright. Villanova is a terror from coaching right down to that seventh or eighth man. Michigan has been playing well but this is a different caliber of college teams in the Wildcats.
Riley: Villanova has been playing well but we have yet to see them in a close game so far in the tourney. They’ve been dominant but things get closer the deeper you advance and they haven’t been tested late. That could be Michigan’s advantage. The Wolverines survived Houston and Florida State by a combined five points and have also handed out their share of drubbings and I like that makeup. Out of Villanova’s five tourney games, they’ve had a double-digit halftime lead in three of them but Michigan’s defense should help them weather early Villanova runs. If the game is close late, then Michigan has the game experience already to prevail. Hail to the Victors.
Green: Michigan finished No. 8 overall in scoring defense but Villanova finished tops in the country in points per game. Offense always beats defense and I’ll take the most efficient scoring unit in the nation any day over a defense that didn’t even finish in the top five. The Wildcats have at least five players who could lead the team in scoring and that ability always stretches a defense out and it will to Michigan’s. Any defense that has to cover that much ground always leaves itself vulnerable. The Wildcats have six players averaging double-figures this season and they all shoot above 35 percent from deep. That’s incredibly tough to defend and Villanova will call on its run-and-gun offense one more night this season to cut down the nets.