Villanova vies for 2nd title in 3 years vs. Michigan
| 2 months ago

No. 1-seeded Villanova will attempt to capture its second national championship in three years when it battles Michigan on Monday night in San Antonio.

The Wildcats (35-4), the top seed in the East, put on a shooting clinic in dispatching Kansas 95-79 in the national semifinal on Saturday night. They hit 18 shots from beyond the 3-point arc to set a Final Four record, breaking the previous mark of 13.

Michigan (33-7), which has already set a single-season record for victories, will play in its seventh national championship game in program history. The Wolverines rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half to upend NCAA darling Loyola-Chicago 69-57.

Villanova was unexpectedly led by junior Eric Paschall, who shot an incredible 10 of 11 from the field and finished with 24 points. Only UCLA's Bill Walton had a better shooting night in a Final Four matchup, when he was 21 of 22 in 1973.

The balanced Wildcats also received 18 points from Jalen Brunson along with 15 points and 13 rebounds from Omari Spellman.

Villanova has won games in a variety of ways through the NCAA Tournament. Even when 3-pointers weren't dropping in the Elite Eight against Texas Tech (4 of 24), the Wildcats found other ways to win -- like hitting 29 of 35 free throws.

Their defensive effort has been consistent through the entire season.

"Obviously we're very talented offensively," Brunson said. "We have a lot of weapons offensively, but when it comes to us staying together on defense, that's what makes it special and we're going to keep getting better and keep getting better (Sunday) and be ready for Monday."

Spellman, a freshman, is one of the best shooting big men in the country. If shots aren't falling, he'll look for other ways to win.

"Just coming out, ready to compete and defend and rebounding and continue to do what we do," Spellman said. "We don't pride ourselves on shooting the ball well. We pride ourselves on defending and rebounding, and that's our true measure of success in playing Villanova basketball. So we're definitely going to look to come out and do that on Monday."

Villanova won the national championship in 1985 and 2016, with a potential third title sitting one game away. Legendary coach Rollie Massimino guided the '85 team and he was in attendance in '16. He passed away about six months ago.

"You don't even -- you can't say it's a dream come true because you don't even dream about it. You don't dream about getting two out of three years, you don't think about it. I don't," Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. "So it's hard to even comprehend it.

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