For the first time the darlings of the NCAA tournament didn’t need a last second signature three to oust their opponent. As Loyola saddles up for San Antonio, with their saintly sidekick Sister Jean in tow, they look to tame Michigan’s dominant defense.
The Ramblers proved they’re no slouches in the “D” department, but their prolific run is posting up against one of the finest forwards in the business. 6 foot 11 junior Moritz Wagner, the centerpiece of Michigan’s offense, leads the team with 14.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Loyola center Cameron Krutwig’s soft touch and adept passing skills have helped keep his team afloat, but Wagner around the rim will be an offensive thorn in Loyola’s Cinderella side.
Being a newly minted Jew for Jesuits, it’s tough to bet against an unselfish team who passes the ball and spreads the floor with so many shooters. On any given day, one of five players can break your heart with back door layups and transitional daggers from downtown. The Wolverines will be a fearsome foe, but BFF’s Ben Richardson and Clayton Custer’s clutch play will make certain that it won’t be Loyola’s last stand.
The Jayhawks aren’t the best bunch coach Bill Self has assembled, but they’ve gotten red hot at the right time. Coming off a mammoth overtime defeat against the Blue Devils, they have their sights set on avenging their loss against Villanova, the National Champs who beat them one step shy of the Final Four in 2016.
With the much-improved Malik Newman, who dropped 32 against Duke, including all 13 OT points, and senior standout Devonte’ Graham foregoing the NBA draft for one last hurrah, Kansas will be the Wildcats fiercest competitor this tournament – especially if 7-foot sophomore Udoka Azubuike is healthy.
Villanova, the sports book favorites to topple their fellow No. 1 seed, are banking on another Naismith Trophy with national player of the year Jalen Brunson leading the charge. Along with freshman Omari Spellman and the talented tandem of Mikal Bridges and fellow redshirt junior Phil Booth, coach Jay Wright’s starting five has plenty of offensive ammunition. Proficiency at three-point range, where they both shine, will be a determining factor and best of luck to whoever has the dubious honor of possibly facing Sister Jean’s destiny driven Ramblers.