Monday night’s NCAA men’s college basketball national championship game is the culmination of a long season and quite possibly the best March Madness tourney sports fans have ever seen.
In the end, the tournament did it’s job. It thrilled us, it kept us on our toes, it instilled belief in some underdogs and it brought fans and bettors alike an intriguing title game.
The best team in the nation is most definitely hitting the hardwood on Monday night. Sports bettors just need to figure out who that is.
That could be the #1 seed Villanova Wildcats, who sport the most explosive offense in the country.
The Wildcats lost just four games all year and blew everyone out – even Kansas – to get back to the championship game for the second time in the past three years.
Jay Wright got the monkey off of his back with a tense win over North Carolina three seasons ago, but tonight he has a shot at joining the elite ranks of head coaches in college basketball.
The same goes for Villanova’s offense, which has already broken records for three-pointers made in a season. With a win over Michigan, the Wildcats can park dynasty talk and go down as one of the greatest March Madness champions of all-time.
Of course, there is one game left and the team on the other side isn’t likely to go quietly into the night.
Michigan hasn’t been quite as dominant on the season, but they are no slouches. The Wolverines hail from the competitive Big 10, have gone 33-7 and have flexed their defensive muscle throughout this tournament.
Bettors knew Michigan had defensive bite, as they entered the tournament with the 6th best scoring defense in the nation. It didn’t fizzle like that of Virginia or Cincinnati, though.
The Wolverines held Montana 30 points below their season average in round one and proceeded to stifle Houston, Texas A&M and Florida State before knocking out this year’s top cinderella – Loyola-Chicago – in the Final Four.
As much of a title favorite as Villanova has built themselves up to be, it’s difficult to bypass the Wolverines, who are equipped with everything they need to be both special and Villanova’s kryptonite.
The question here is two-fold, however. Vegas doesn’t hate the Wolverines to potentially make it a game (+6.5 opening line), but Villanova is still the obvious favorite.
Bettors are then tasked with figuring out if this will simply be another Wildcats blowout win or if Michigan can defy the odds and either make this a game or somehow pull off a huge upset.
Let’s break this game down a bit further to see which way you may want to bet tonight:
The Wildcats have won every single game by double digits in this tournament. They cruised through the first two rounds with wins by 23+ points, topped a good West Virginia team by 12 and dispatched a stingy Texas Tech defense by 11.
Once in the Final Four, Villanova was as good as ever, opening their showdown with Kansas with a three-point barrage that instantly proved they weren’t going to be challenged.
Looking back, the Red Raiders were Villanova’s stiffest challenge and that had everything to do with Texas Tech’s strong defensive play.
The Red Raiders couldn’t put together enough offense to stage the upset, but they did hold the Wildcats to 16.7% shooting from deep (just four three-point makes!) and 71 points.
That is very encouraging for a Michigan team that can hang with anyone offensively, but thrives on a more methodical offensive pace that is led by a biting defense.
The Wolverines have a chameleon style of play, too. They seem to be able to morph their strategy to align with their opponent, giving them an opportunity to hang in any game and offering them a chance to pull a win out late.
That’s probably why Michigan lost just three games all year by more than 10 points. Considering one of those defeats came by the hands of a tough North Carolina team (ranked #13 at the time), Michigan’s ability to remain competitive is even more impressive.
Michigan can defend at the highest level and rank 6th in the nation at limiting the opposition. That impressive play is thanks to their pace at times, but also to strong perimeter defense.
Villanova has a tough challenge in front of them, as they’ll have to break a Michigan defense that allowed opponents to shoot at just a 33% clip from long range (56th in the nation) this year.
This is a showdown with the Red Raiders all over again, only this time the Wildcats have a much more capable offensive team going up against them.
John Beilein’s Wolverines aren’t as potent as Villanova from long range. They’re not as explosive of an offense in general, either. However, they absolutely can get hot from the three-point line and have one of the best two-way big men in the country on their side in Moritz Wagner.
Michigan’s exterior defense and offensive shooting are very key to this game, but it’s probably Wagner that will continue to be their lifeblood. He has the ability to dominate the glass, hit big shots from long range and also score inside.
He carried Michigan in their last game and if the rest of the Wolverines can help balance things out, I think they’re a real threat here.
The Wolverines hold the narrative. They have been very impressive (25-13) against the spread this year, they boast an elite defense and they have a dynamic offense. More importantly, they come off as more battle tested in this tournament and they’ve had to win games in a number of ways.
That isn’t to say Villanova’ tourney run isn’t impressive. It’s just come off as a bit too easy.
Their offense has still been so dominant that even when they run cold they’re still smoking the opposition. Kansas was one of the best teams in the country and a very capable opponent and they couldn’t touch the Wildcats.
Ultimately, I do think Villanova takes the win on Monday night.
The Wildcats possess the very best offense in the nation, one of the best coaches in history in Jay Wright and the fact that they haven’t been truly tested makes me think it’s unlikely they’re about to be upset.
That being said, John Beilein will be searching for his first ever championship. Michigan lost in the 2013 title game and hasn’t won since 1989, either, so this team will certainly come ready to play.
The Wildcats will win, but I love the extra value I can get at Bovada (+7) and I think there’s a decent chance Michigan’s defense and overall balance allow for them to be the first team to really push Villanova to the edge.
Villanova will ultimately respond and pull away late, but this is a big enough spread to pounce on the Wolverines with. If you want to go the extra mile and cheer on Big Blue, a handsome +275 Moneyline wager at Bovada certainly is attractive.
I don’t mind a light bet in that direction, but Michigan to beat the spread is the safer play.
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