SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The Latest on the championship game of the NCAA Tournament (all times local):
Villanova hasn’t needed any buzzer-beating shots so far in this NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats won each of their first five tournament games by double digits. They are only the fifth team to reach the championship game that way since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
The last team to do that was North Carolina in 2016, but the Tar Heels then lost in the championship game — when Kris Jenkins hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Villanova its second national title.
Those first three teams with double-digits sweeps into the championship game won titles — Michigan State in 2000, Duke in 2001 and North Carolina in 2009.
The late Rollie Massimino used to write a number on the board before games that he coached at Villanova and elsewhere, setting a target for the total of points allowed that he thought would guarantee victory.
For the Wildcats this season, that number is clear: It’s 75. Villanova is 25-0 this season when allowing 75 points or fewer.
And that might be a magic number of sorts for Michigan in the national title game as well: The Wolverines are 15-1 when scoring more than 75 this season, and a still-good —but nowhere near as good— 18-6 when they don’t surpass that number.
Michigan has only scored more than 75 points once during this tournament, when it beat Texas A&M 99-72 in the Sweet 16.
There’s quite a few statistically noteworthy items Villanova will be chasing on Monday night.
If the Wildcats beat Michigan, they’ll be the third team in NCAA men’s Division I history to win at least 36 games and the national championship — joining Kentucky (38-2 in 2012) and Kansas (37-3 in 2008).
Villanova has already set the national record for 3-pointers made in a season, and if the Wildcats score at least 59 points on Monday night they’ll also finish the year as the highest scoring team in the country for the first time since 1950.
The last team to lead the nation in scoring and win the NCAA title was North Carolina in 2005.
The only others to do it since the NCAA began compiling the stats were Ohio State in 1960 — and Loyola of Chicago in 1963.
When the AP Top 25 preseason men’s basketball poll came out, Villanova was a very respectable No. 6.
Michigan was an afterthought.
The Wolverines were unranked when this season began, and didn’t even crack the Top 25 for the first time until mid-January. Michigan was 39th in the preseason poll balloting, behind seven ranked teams that wouldn’t even end up making the NCAA Tournament — No. 10 USC, No. 14 Notre Dame, No. 15 Minnesota, No. 16 Louisville, No. 19 Northwestern, No. 22 Saint Mary’s, No. 24 Baylor.
Michigan wasn’t the only big preseason poll whiff: Virginia ended the regular season ranked No. 1, and the Cavaliers were also unranked to start the season.
Only four teams in the last 50 years started the season unranked and won the NCAA title — UConn in 2011, Florida in 2006, Syracuse in 2003 and Villanova in 1985.
There’s a reason so much of the talk surrounding the NCAA Tournament championship game is about 3-pointers.
Villanova is commanding that by making its case as the greatest 3-point shooting team in college history.
The Wildcats set a Final Four record with 18 3-pointers against Kansas to get to the title game against Michigan on Monday night. Villanova (35-4) also has 454 3-pointers this season and 66 during the NCAA Tournament, both records.
The Wildcats use a motion offense and can shoot 3s from every position.
Michigan’s goal will be to get Villanova away from the 3-point line and redirect shots. The Wolverines have been effective at both against other teams this season.
College basketball’s wild 2017-18 ride ends in San Antonio, where Villanova meets Michigan in the national championship game of the NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats are playing for their second title in three years under coach Jay Wright. The Wolverines are vying for their first championship since 1989 and to make up for the one coach John Beilein lost in 2013, at least a little.
This meeting on Monday night will come down to strength against strength.
Villanova is one of the greatest 3-point shooting teams in college basketball history, breaking season and NCAA Tournament records. The Wildcats blasted Kansas in the national semifinals, hitting a record 18 from beyond the arc.
Michigan rode its defense into the title game. The Wolverines are the nation’s third-most efficient team on defense and one of the best at defending the 3-point line.
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