Michigan vs. Loyola-Chicago: Who has the edge?
James Hawkins of The Detroit News breaks down Saturday’s national semifinal game between Michigan and Loyola-Chicago (6:09 p.m., TBS/950).
Loyola is one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the nation — tied 16th nationally at 40 percent — and excels at sharing the ball with 15.9 assists per game. The Ramblers have no shortage of deep threats, led by top scorer and distributor Clayton Custer (45.4 percent on 130 attempts), while Ben Richardson (40.4 percent on 94 attempts), Donte Ingram (39.6 percent, team-high 74 made 3s) and Marques Townes (39.7 percent on 73 attempts) must be accounted for at all times. Aside from the Texas A&M game, Michigan has struggled beyond the arc, but is more than capable of making teams pay when it gets open looks. The Wolverines also boast two premiere perimeter defenders in Zavier Simpson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who have played a pivotal role in holding opponents to 26.2 percent (17-for-65) from 3-point range in the NCAA Tournament. Edge: Michigan
Loyola presents a unique challenge for Michigan because it starts four guards and one player who is taller than 6-foot-6: 6-9, 260-pound freshman center Cameron Krutwig, who does all his damage in and around the post. Krutwig hasn’t attempted a 3-pointer all season and is an underrated passer who averages roughly two assists per game, but will have his hands full guarding a big man who can dribble, drive and shoot like Moritz Wagner. Wing Charles Matthews (6-6), who has been on a tear, and forward Isaiah Livers (6-7) are both versatile defenders who can make life difficult for opponents. However, the Wolverines will face an intriguing situation when Krutwig isn’t on the floor and Loyola goes to a super small lineup. Edge: Michigan
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Both teams boast the sixth man of the year in their respective conference in seniors Duncan Robinson and Aundre Jackson. Both are leaned on heavily and can provide a scoring punch, as Jackson has recorded at least 12 points in three of the four tournament games, and Robinson has tallied double figures twice with several clutch baskets. Loyola’s reserve unit includes another sharpshooter in Lucas Williamson (42 percent on 3-pointers), while guard Jordan Poole has played just 11 minutes the last two games and center Jon Teske might see limited action due to the matchup. Edge: Even
Both teams have scrapped out wins and leaned on their top 10 defense to get to this point. Loyola has become the darling of the Big Dance with its thrilling last-second upsets and media sensation Sister Jean. There’s no doubt every fan not wearing maize and blue will be rooting for the Ramblers to continue their magical run this weekend. While Michigan doesn’t have a nun on its sideline, it has more playmakers and a secret weapon in assistant coach Luke Yaklich, who went 7-1 against the Loyola during his time at Illinois State. Michigan 64, Loyola 60