Michigan is headed to the 2018 NCAA Tournament championship game, ending Loyola-Chicago’s Cinderella run to the Final Four with a 69-57 win in the national semifinals.
Thanks to some well-timed offense and strong defense in the closing minutes, a 17-2 run helped the Wolverines turn a deficit into a comfortable lead. Junior forward Moe Wagner proved invaluable, giving Michigan some life in an otherwise disappointing first half and continuing his excellent play in the second half. He led all scorers with 24 points on 10 of 16 shooting and also added 15 rebounds to give Michigan a crucial advantage on the boards.
WHY MICHIGAN WON: Although they weren’t able to capitalize on a prolonged field-goal drought from Loyola-Chicago early in the first half, the Wolverines kept the game close enough to stay within striking distance. In the second half, they continued to get stops but also converted shots to rally and take the lead and then made free throws to put the game away. Wagner’s special performance got it done for Michigan.
WHAT IT MEANS: Michigan has now survived four subpar shooting performances in five NCAA Tournament games, including two games in which the Wolverines made less than 40 percent of their shots from the field. While it’s not ideal that they have only put together one standout offensive performance, the fact that the Wolverines keep finding ways to win should be encouraging. That kind of play likely won’t be good enough to win an NCAA Tournament title, but Michigan is due for another offensive breakout.
WHO STARRED: As detailed above, Wagner helped drive the winning performance from Michigan. Junior guard Charles Matthews was the only other Wolverines player in double figures, tallying 17 points.
WHO STUMBLED: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman struggled on offense all night, shooting 2 for 11 and scoring just 7 points. Zavier Simpson was kept off the scoreboard, making 0 of 6 shots. Additionally, the entire team with the exception of Wagner could have played better in the first half when Loyola-Chicago hung around during a slow start and ultimately entered halftime with a 7-point advantage.
WHO IS NEXT: Michigan will face either No. 1 seed Kansas or No. 1 seed Villanova in the NCAA Tournament title game on Monday at 9:20 p.m. ET on TBS.
— Ryan Ginn (@rmginn) April 1, 2018