LOYOLA (CHICAGO) RAMBLERS (32-5)
vs. MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (32-7)
NCAA Tournament – Final Four – Alamodome, San Antonio, TX
Tip-off: Saturday, 6:09 pm ET
Line: Michigan -5, Total: 129.5
A national title is within sight for Michigan—and Loyola, too.
Attentive college basketball fans knew that Loyola was under-seeded entering this tournament on the No. 11 line, and were hardly surprised when the team upset Miami and were not all that taken aback still when the Ramblers took down Tennessee. But winning two more games and heading to the Final Four in San Antonio? That was one development no one expected, but Loyola left no doubt as to whether it belonged with a 16-point takedown of Kansas State in the Elite Eight. Still, it can't be denied that they received some luck in terms of the quality of their opponents, and No. 3 seed Michigan will be best team they've seen this season when the two squads tangle on Saturday evening for a spot in the National Championship Game. After being saved with a buzzer-beating three-pointer in the second round, Michigan took advantage of its new lease on life with second-weekend wins over Texas A&M and Florida State. As head coach of Michigan, John Beilein is 68-43 ATS in games where the total is set between 120 and 129.5. Over the last five seasons, games between two teams with winning percentages of at least .800—one of which has one at least 15 of its last 20 (LOY)—are 32-9 Under against totals between 120 and 129.5.With five players averaging double-digit scoring, the Ramblers but a very balanced offense on the floor. But as the team leader in scoring and assists with 13.2 and 4.2 per game, respectively, G Clayton Custer is widely considered the team's best player. He's a deadly accurate shooter, too, shooting 52.7% from the floor and 45.4% from three. It was his jumper with 3.6 seconds left that lifted Loyola to its biggest upset yet, its second-round win over Tennessee. Two days earlier, it was a buzzer-beater from G Donte Ingram that allowed the Ramblers to advance past Miami. Like the rest of the squad, he does a little bit of everything: He leads the team in rebounding at 6-6, and also leads the team in three-pointers made. He's nearly a 40% shooter from beyond the arc. In the Sweet Sixteen, it was G Marquese Towns' turn to play the hero, with a late-game three-pointer to seal a win over Nevada. After scoring 15 total points in the tournament's first weekend, Towns had 31 combined points in the second weekend on 10-of-16 shooting. G Ben Richardson was quiet from a scoring perspective in Loyola's first three games of the tournament, but exploded with 23 points on 6-of-7 three-point shooting against Kansas State. It was his first time scoring more than 14 all season. He generally contributes in other ways, such as when he recorded eight assists and five rebounds without any points against Miami.
Michigan's 99-point outburst against A&M showed the ceiling of its offense, but was certainly not an example of what you can expect from this Wolverines team night in and night out. Then again, their grind-it-out 58-54 win against Florida State was on the other far end of the spectrum. It was a night to forget on offense for F Moe Wagner (aside from the fact that he cut down nets to go to the Final Four), Michigan's star player. He shot 3-of-11 from the floor and 0-of-7 from three to finish with 12 points, and played only 25 minutes due largely to foul trouble. He's now scored 12 points or fewer in three of four tournament games, and while Michigan can probably survive Loyola without him at the top of his game, they'd need him scoring more effectively to beat Villanova or Kansas. G Charles Matthews has been more consistent in March, scoring at least 17 in three of four tournament games. Against FSU he had 17 points (albeit on a game-high 14 shots) and a team-high eight rebounds. Joining him in the starting frontcourt for the Wolverines are Gs Zavier Simpson and G Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who scored nine apiece against the Seminoles. Simpson's role is typically as more of a facilitator, but Abdur-Rahkman could stand to score more for this offense. G Duncan Robinson is a three-point specialist off the bench, and he had seven points in 31 minutes against FSU.