Should I Bet on Michigan in the College Basketball National Championship Game?
The matchup is set. Villanova brings the top offense in the country up against the top remaining defense - the top defense of the last two months, really - in Michigan. It's not the least predictable final ever - my son picked it in his bracket, and he is seven years old. But it should be a good game. And all bettors are asking themselves the same question right now - should I bet on Michigan in the College Basketball National Championship Game? Here are five good arguments for you:
Taking points is fun: Michigan opened up as 6.5-point underdogs in the game, which is the biggest spread since Duke opened favored by a touchdown against Butler in 2010. A team that has gotten this far is doing things right, so to be able to take them and get this many points doesn't ever feel like a bad idea - at least not when the underdog is a legitimate team that has played like they belong here.
Shooting threes is hard against Michigan: The five opponents Michigan has faced this year in the tournament have taken a total of 75 3-point shots. They have hit 18. That's a pitiful 24 percent. And only one opponent - Houston - has hit above that mark. This is a brutally-tough team to shoot threes on, and it has only gotten harder in the postseason. Loyola shot 40 percent from beyond the arc on the season, and they went 1 for 10 in the Final Four. Villanova rode threes to victory on Saturday night, hitting 13 in the first half and five more in the second. And they took 40. Michigan is going to anticipate that approach, and they are going to be ready to disrupt it. Michigan had the third-most-efficient defense in the country in the regular season, and that defense has improved dramatically in the postseason and is the only reason they are where they are. Villanova has an incredibly strong offense, but they are going to face a real challenge here. Two Villanova losses stand out as possible models for Michigan. Providence absolutely took the air out of the ball in the first half and was up 27-23 at the break. Villanova never recovered, and their frustration led them to shooting just 3-of-20 from beyond the arc. Providence won 76-71. And St. John's again slowed things down and was up by a reasonably slow 39-34 at the half. Villanova hit just 8 of 33 from deep and lost 79-75. Michigan is much better defensively than either of those squads, and you can be sure that the coaching staff will watch the tapes of those games out getting ready for this game.
Beilein is a wizard: With the win on Saturday night, John Beilein now has 16 tournament game wins in the last six years. That is more than anyone - he was tied with Roy Williams going into the Final Four. Jay Wright has won a title in that time, but he has won only 14 games. Beilein is better than anyone at in-game adjustments - especially at the half. And his attention to detail is perfectly designed for getting ready for games like this . Wright obviously knows what he is doing, but if I have to back one horse in a tight chess match it is going to be Beilein every single time and without a hint of hesitation.
They have been offensively impotent: This seems like an odd argument to make, but bear with me. Michigan deserves credit because they have really struggled offensively in this tournament. Four of their 11 worst adjusted offensive performances have come in their five tournament games. They were dynamite offensively against Texas A&M, but they have struggled otherwise. And yet they are one of just two teams to have won all five games they have played. They haven't played anywhere near capacity, and they are here. That tells you two things - the defense is really good, and they are really confident. This is a massive step up in class for them after a very fortunate tournament run, but as they showed in the Big Ten Tournament they elevate their game to their opponent. They have the pieces to click offensively, and this could be the game it happens.
They are freaking Michigan: I know you aren't all lifelong Michigan fans like me, so I will spell this out - they are the freaking Michigan Wolverines, and nobody has it better than us! That alone is reason to not only bet on them but to climb on the bandwagon while there is still room.
So, ask again - should I bet on Michigan in the College Basketball National Championship Game? Unfortunately for me, I think that the Villanova Wildcats can cover this line and I expect a dominant performance, so I can't recommend betting on the Wolverines in this spot.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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