Michigan vs Villanova NCAA Basketball Championship Picks
Combined these two teams have won 24 straight games – 14 for Michigan and 10 for Nova. That’s freaking impressive. While anyone with eyes can see that Villanova is the more explosive team, Michigan has proven it can also light up a scoreboard as it did in waylaying Texas A&M 99-72 in their Sweet 16 matchup. The Woleverines, however, prefer to play at a slower tempo in most games and have relied on crisp offense, solid three-point shooting, and sound defense to mount its 2018 postseason run.
While Michigan has far more plusses than minuses, it’s hard for any handicapper to ignore that Villanova is better in just about every major statistical category. The Wildcats average almost 13 points per game more than the Wolverines in addition to shooting a higher percentage from the field, grabbing more rebounds, dishing out more assists, and and blocking more shots per contest. They also average 6.5 steals per game compared to Michigan’s 6.4. Doubtlessly, all of these factors are the driving force behind Nova’s considerable favoritism in this game.
The line: Villanova -7 (-330) vs. Michigan +7 (+265)
Nova has covered the spread in all five NCAA tournament wins, proving its offensive prowess time and again. In its last three wins against West Virginia, Texas Tech and Kansas, the Wildcats were favored by no more than 6.5, but ended up winning each game by double digit margins. Only two teams have been within 12 points of Nova since February 28. It’s clear that the oddsmakers underestimated just how explosive this squad is – another reason for the hefty spread in this championship matchup.
As good as Villanova has looked, Michigan coach John Beilein has a way of taking teams out of what they like to do. This game will present a contrast of styles and Michigan is capable of hanging around – particularly if the three pointers are dropping. Michigan probably has to slow down Villanova to have any chance to pull the upset, but Villanova cannot affort to allow Michigan’s shooters to get in sync.
The total: O/U 145
Villanova averages an astounding 86.8 ppg and Michigan checks in at 73.9. Nova has broken the 80-point threshold in every game but one this tournament, while Michigan has exceeded 70 just once. With Nova’s collection of athletes and shot-makers, it’s hard to make them play a style other than fast. Of Michigan’s five tournament opponents, none were particularly gifted offensive teams.
I wanted to make a stronger case for Michigan when I handicapped this game, but I just couldn’t. In addition to Villanova’s statistical superiority, they also provide a better optic. I’m reminded of the fact that Michigan was bailed out by a desperation three-pointer from freshman Jordan Poole to beat Houston in the second round. The Wolverines also didn’t look comfortable against a lengthy Florida State team in the Elite 8. Nova is better than both those teams by a wide margin.
The oddsmakers are trying to entice enough people to take Michigan as a 7-point dog in a championship game and more than a handful of bettors will jump. I just see way too much Nova in this one.
As far as the total goes, 145 seems about right. The only way this game doesn’t go over is if Michigan doesn’t score enough points to “participate,” but even in the case of a Nova blowout I still see a final score around 82-65. That line of thinking, in essence, is what makes Villanova my primary play, but I’ll take a slight lean with far less risk on the over here.
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