SAN ANTONIO — Villanova bombed its way past a blueblood to reach the national title game. Michigan got there by taking away Cinderella’s slipper.
This end to March Madness should be good.
A wild NCAA Tournament of upsets comes down to this: Villanova and its squadron of long-range shooters against Michigan and its ultra-stingy defense, Monday night at the Alamodome.
The Wildcats (35-4) turned a Final Four showdown with fellow No. 1 seed Kansas into a laugher, dropping in 3-pointers like they were playing pop-a-shot in the 95-79 rout. Villanova made a Final Four-record 18 3s in a record-matching 40 attempts, its second trip to the title game in three seasons never in doubt.
The third-seeded Wolverines (33-7) had a bit more trouble against the bracket’s favorite underdogs, overcoming a frightful first half to send Loyola-Chicago and Sister Jean packing.
The Wolverines had trouble scoring in their Final Four game to trail Loyola-Chicago by seven at halftime, before finding the right gear in the second to run past the underdog Ramblers 69-57 into the title game.
Their next task: Find some way to slow Villanova’s 3-ball roll.
The Wildcats were one of the most proficient 3-point shooting teams during the regular season and upped the 3 ante in the NCAA Tournament, knocking down a record 65 and counting. Villanova literally shot the lights out by the second half, when some scoreboards and upper-level lights went out for a few minutes and darkened the upper decks.
Michigan may have a better answer than Kansas had.
The Wolverines have fixed the one thing holding them back in past seasons, developing a lockdown defense so they no longer have to simply outscore opponents.
Michigan had the nation’s No. 3 defense efficiency-wise and put Loyola on lockdown in the second half, holding the Ramblers to 1-of-7 shooting from 3 to send Sister Jean Delores Schmidt to the exits early.
The Wolverines are seeking their first national title since Glen Rice and Rumeal Robinson rumbled through the bracket in 1989.