Villanova was trying to do something that hadn’t been done in a decade: repeat as college basketball national champions. The Wildcats (32-4), however, lost to No. 8 Wisconsin (27-9), 65-62, in the Round of 32 on Saturday.
“I had Villanova (winning the national title), but I knew they would struggle against teams that had inside presence,” CBS college basketball analyst Clark Kellogg said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I felt like they might have a chance to avoid that matchup vulnerability until later, but instead, Wisconsin, with (Nigel) Hayes and (Ethan) Happ, met them in that second round and got it done. It was a heck of a game, but the presence of Hayes inside, Haap was solid as well, and (Bronson) Koenig made big, big shots. I had Villanova repeating. After that, I looked at Louisville, Gonzaga and UCLA as teams I thought we might see in Phoenix.”
Louisville, however, was also knocked out in the Round of 32, falling to No. 7 Michigan, 73-69, on Sunday. The Wolverines have won nine of 10, including six straight since surviving a plane crash March 8.
One must wonder if that incident has helped Michigan on its current run.
“I think it certainly can be a factor,” Kellogg said. “They were playing excellent basketball prior to that unfortunate event with the plane before the tournament started, and when you’re playing well and you’re already confident, that type of scary moment, you get to the other side of it unscathed, now you feel a sense of greater gratitude and confidence and freedom, and you combine that with how this team has improved over the last six to seven weeks, then you’ve got something special.”
Seniors Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin combined for 42 points in an opening-round win over Oklahoma State, while sophomore Moritz Wagner scored 26 against Louisville.
As a team, Michigan shot 51.8 percent from the floor against Oklahoma State and 49.1 percent against Louisville. The Wolverines are shooting 22-46 (47.8 percent) from three in the tournament.
“They’re doing that perhaps better than any other team overall,” Kellogg said. “Three-point line, mid-range, free-throw line, they’re shooting the ball extraordinarily well. That can cover up for any other flaws you might have.”
Michigan (26-11) plays No. 3 Oregon (31-5) in the Sweet 16 on Thursday at 7:09 p.m. ET.