This year's NCAA Tournament has been full of upsets and Cinderella stories, most notably that of the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, who are just the fourth No. 11 seed to ever reach the Final Four. However, they're set to face their toughest test yet in a Michigan Wolverines team that hasn't lost since early February.
Which of these teams will keep their dream season alive and play for a national championship on Monday? Here's our full preview and prediction:
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When: 6:09 p.m. EST
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio, TX
Spread: Michigan (-5.5)
Projected Starting Lineups
(3) Michigan Wolverines (32-7, 13-5 in Big Ten)
G Zavier Simpson (So.) – 7.5 ppg, 3.7 apg
G Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (Sr.) – 12.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg
G Charles Matthews (Jr.) – 13.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg
F Isaiah Livers (Fr.) – 3.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg
F Moritz Wagner (Jr.) – 14.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg
(11) Loyola Ramblers (32-5, 15-3 in MVC)
G Clayton Custer (Jr.) – 13.2 ppg, 4.2 apg
G Ben Richardson (Sr.) – 7.0 ppg, 3.9 apg
G Marques Townes (Jr.) – 11.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg
G Donte Ingram (Sr.) – 11.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg
C Cameron Krutwig (Fr.) – 10.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg
What they're saying about the Michigan Wolverines:
Why Michigan Can Win The National Championship Chat Sports)
Avoiding social media, Charles Matthews elevated his game when Michigan needed him most (MLive)
Michigan Basketball News: Wolverines Have Second-Best Odds To Win National Championship (Chat Sports)
What they're saying about the Loyola Ramblers:
How Loyola used information and skill -- not luck -- to reach the Final Four (ESPN)
Loyola: A Sports School Awakens (Loyola Phoenix)
Top 25 players at the Final Four (ESPN)
Keys to the game:
Balanced play from Loyola
Obviously, Loyola has some magic on their side as they've won three of their four tournament games on last-second shots. However, looking under the surface with this team, there's substance behind this run. They were among the most efficient teams in the country on both offense and defense during the season - which is why they were able to go blow-for-blow with four very good teams.
That efficiency is best shown with their balance. A different player has led them in scoring in each of their tournament games and six players average at least seven points per game - including five in double-digits. Can they continue to get contributions from everyone?
Will Michigan make their three-pointers?
This is where Michigan's offense is the strongest. They make over 36 percent of their shots from beyond the arc as a team but five rotation players shoot at least 37.5 percent from deep. Why is that important? 43.1 percent of the shots Michigan takes come from three-point range. They've used the three-point shot to go on runs and hold off comebacks in the tournament, something that has propelled them all season.
However, Loyola's defense has been superb in the tournament. They're giving up just 63.5 points per game and held both Nevada and Kansas State under 26 percent shooting from three-point range. This will be the biggest key to watch in this game.
Prediction: Michigan wins 74-71
I think this game will be closer than many Michigan fans will be comfortable with. Loyola's passing will allow them to find success against Michigan's defense, but I don't think the Wolverines will continue to shoot as poorly as they have during the tournament. Like most games in this tournament, it will be back-and-forth until the closing minutes.