Everything you need to know about the championship game. The NCAA tournament championship game between Michigan and Villanova is set for Monday at 9:20 p.m. ET on TBS. You can stream it via March Madness Live. The broadcast team will be play-by-play man Jim Nantz, analysts Grant Hill and Bill Raftery, and sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson — the same crew that worked Saturday’s semifinal games.
Villanova is shooting for its second national championship in three seasons and third all-time, having also won this tournament in 1985. Michigan’s only championship came in 1989, and the Wolverines were last in the Final Four in 2013. That year, they lost the title game to Louisville in a result the NCAA would eventually vacate due to a Cardinals’ scandal.
What Michigan needs to do to win
The Wolverines need to guard the three-point line as voraciously as they have all season. Michigan has the best defense in the country, and the Wolverines have put a particular emphasis on defending the arc. Just 29.8 percent of opponents’ shots from the floor this season have come from deep, the fifth-lowest mark in the country.
Michigan’s offense needs to be more consistent than it was in a semifinal win against Cinderella Loyola-Chicago. The Wolverines started that game on a 10-for-35 dry spell from the field, before they started shooting brilliantly (15-for-24) for the rest of the game. Against Villanova, a 20-minute cold streak from the field would likely be fatal.
What Villanova needs to do to win
The Wildcats don’t need to be perfect, but in the same sense that Michigan needs to guard the three ball, Villanova needs to knock a bunch of those down. They set the all-time single-season record for made three-pointers during their semifinal win against Kansas, and their 18 made triples in that game shattered the previous Final Four game record of 13. Villanova shoots the three on almost 50 percent of its shots from the field, a huge number.
The three won’t always fall, even though Villanova’s a great shooting team. If it happens to be a cold shooting night from deep, the Wildcats will have to lean on Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Phil Booth, Omari Spellman, and the rest of their deep scoring cast to create some of their own shots closer to the basket. They might be fine doing that, but the most straightforward path to a ‘Nova win is draining a whole bunch of threes.
Prediction: Villanova’s going to win.
The Wildcats are 6.5-point favorites in Las Vegas. That seems about right, because Villanova has been the best team in college basketball all season. Michigan’s defense is great, but it’s going to be hard for the Wolverines to outscore the best offense in the sport, anyway.