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Michigan vs. Villanova is offensive potency vs. defensive might

Associated Press • Apr 2, 2018 at 6:30 AM

SAN ANTONIO — Something's gotta give.

That will be the case on Monday night in the national championship game when Michigan takes on Villanova at 9:20 p.m. at the Alamodome.

The Wildcats will be trying to win their second title in three years while the Wolverines will be looking for their second championship in program history.

It's a matchup that pits the best offense in the nation – Villanova scores better than 86 points a game – against one of the top defenses as Michigan ranks third in the country in defensive efficiency. Both of those strengths were on display Saturday in the national semifinals as Michigan limited Loyola-Chicago to 57 points and forced 17 turnovers while Villanova made 18 3-pointers in a 95-79 win over Kansas with six players scoring in double figures.

More: 'He was great': Charles Matthews is Michigan's unsung hero

"They're really good, really long defensively, really disciplined defensively," Villanova coach Jay Wright said of Michigan. "When you get to this point you know you're going to be playing great teams, so we know we have to be ready."

Which style prevails on Monday will ultimately decide the winner. Here's a look at some of the other keys to the game:

A battle with Brunson

As balanced as Villanova's offense is, the catalyst is junior guard Jalen Brunson, who was named this week as the AP Player of the Year and won the Oscar Robertson Trophy as national player of the year. He entered Saturday's game against Kansas averaging 19.2 points and 4.6 assists a game while shooting 41.4 percent from 3-point range. He's also athletic enough to play in the post, creating matchup problems for most teams, including the Wolverines.

Brunson was steady as usual in the win over Kansas, scoring 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting while handing out six assists. How the Wolverines choose to guard him will be interesting with sophomore Zavier Simpson likely getting most of the work.

Defending the long ball

Difficult shooting background or not at the Alamodome, defending the 3-pointer will be critical as the Wildcats enter the game hitting 40 percent from beyond the arc, including going 18-for-40 in the victory over Kansas. The Wolverines allowed opponents to shoot 33 percent from 3-point range entering Saturday's game before holding Loyola-Chicago to just 1-for-10 shooting the 3.

They likely won't limit the Wildcats to that low of a number on Monday, but allow them to shoot nearly 50 percent and that could be bad news for the Wolverines.

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Michigan was able to get past Loyola-Chicago without much help from Muhamad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who was just 2-for-11 shooting and finished with seven points, the second straight game he's failed to score in double digits. However, the Wolverines will need more from him Monday.

"Muhammad just wasn't himself," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "I think he was 0-for-7 in the first half. He missed some wide-open shots."

Game of possessions?

Michigan has always done a good job protecting the ball, and possessions will be valuable against Villanova. However, the Wolverines have turned the ball over 11 times in each of the last two games and had eight in the first half against Loyola-Chicago.

Sophomore guard Zavier Simpson struggled with four turnovers, three coming in the first half. Taking care of the ball will be vital to knocking off the Wildcats.

Michigan vs. Villanova: Who has the edge

BACKCOURT

Villanova junior Jalen Brunson, the national player of the year, heads the nation's most efficient offensive attack and is only averaging a ho-hum 17.6 points and 4.4 assists while shooting 49.2 percent from the field (40.7 percent on 3-pointers) in the NCAA Tournament. Redshirt junior Phil Booth is one of six Wildcats averaging at least 10 points and when he's in the starting lineup, Villanova is 28-1. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Simpson will have their hands full trying to contain the two and can ill afford to have a repeat of Saturday night's performance when they combined for seven points on 2-for-17 shooting. Edge: Villanova

FRONTCOURT

Like Michigan, Villanova can space the floor and spread defenses thin with all its shooters. Redshirt junior wing Mikal Bridges, a projected top-10 pick, redshirt freshman forward Omari Spellman, and redshirt junior forward Eric Paschall are all averaging at least 12 points and shooting at least 44 percent from the field (42 percent from 3-point range) in the tournament. Freshman Isaiah Livers hasn't been much of a factor on offense, but Charles Matthews continues to shine and has been the unsung hero for Michigan. Moritz Wagner will look to feed off one of the most impressive performances in a national semifinal game in some time. Edge: Villanova

BENCH

Villanova relies heavily on its experienced starting lineup, with the exception of redshirt sophomore guard Donte DiVincenzo, who is another vaunted deep threat. DiVincenzo is one of three Wildcats who has made at least 12 3-pointers and dished out 19 assists, but he's also tied for a team-worst 11 turnovers in the tournament. Michigan has four players who can play 10-plus minutes and provide a spark in Jordan Poole, Duncan Robinson, Jon Teske and Jaaron Simmons. The Wolverines are also 29-0 when Robinson scores at least six points this season. Edge: Michigan

INTANGIBLES

Villanova's Jay Wright and Michigan's John Beilein have both been here before. Wright captured a national championship with the Wildcats in 2016 and Beilein is looking to hoist the trophy after coming up short in 2013. Both teams have leaned on their strengths to get them to this point – Michigan on its stifling defense and Villanova on its explosive offense. However, Villanova's defense is no slouch either and it has pivotal big-game experience with four Wildcats on the roster who played for the 2016 title team. Edge: Villanova

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

Michigan vs. Villanova

Tip-off: 9:20 p.m. Monday, Alamodome, San Antonio

TV/radio: TBS

Records: No. 3 seed Michigan 33-7, No. 1 seed Villanova 35-4

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