1.Michigan vs. 11.UCLA
9:57 PM ET on TBS
The final game of the Elite Eight is set to be one of the best ones as we get two of the biggest names in College Basketball from a program perspective. The Fab Five is back in the form of its coach as Juwan Howard is the program leader, since taking over Howard has led Michigan to a Big Ten regular-season Championship, and is looking to lead Michigan back to the Final Four. UCLA has not made an Elite Eight since 2008, so this run is a return to glory for the Bruins. Mick Cronin has changed the culture and has brought in some great pieces to help this Bruins team. One of these second-year coaches will bring their program to the Final Four, it should be a great game to determine that but until the game, let’s dive into the teams.
Michigan is one of the most complete teams in College Basketball, as they rank Top-10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The Wolverines’ main course of success comes from dumping the ball into Hunter Dickinson, who is an elite low-post scorer. Eli Brooks and Mike Smith run the offense through elite passing, Smith is smaller but has elite speed, while Brooks is a better defender. Franz Wagner may be the most valuable player on the team because of his size, defensive versatility, ball-handling, and ability to score from anywhere. With Isaiah Livers out, Brandon Johns and Chaundee Brown have stepped up big. Brown is a great three-point shooter and a bigger guard, while Johns is a good defender and showed himself to be more than capable in the post. Michigan really has no weaknesses as a team, and their coaching has been top-notch. Juwan Howard is a rising star in the business, so him making the Final Four could be a sign of things to come.
First Four to Final Four has only been done once, but UCLA has a chance to make it a second team to achieve that feat. The Bruins have dealt with adversity along the way, Chris Smith is out with a torn ACL, the G-League stole their top recruit, and Jalen Hill has left the team mid-season. Tyger Campbell runs the show at the point, he’s a really steady point guard that’s a great passer and he doesn’t turn it over. Jaime Jaquez took over the Alabama game in overtime, his elite scoring ability has been on full display in the tournament. Johnny Juzang has been an elite scorer in this tournament, his ability to knock down shots from the perimeter and score have been extremely impactful for the Bruins. Jules Bernard and David Singleton provide some outside shooting, while Cody Riley has been a good big man inside. Two years ago when UCLA was looking for a new head coach, the search was a disaster, but ultimately Mick Cronin has been a great hire because of his changing of the culture.
Neither of these teams will really beat themselves, both are disciplined, well-coached, and play well as a team. Looking at the matchups, it’s hard to know how UCLA defends the paint, Cody Riley is alright but he will need a double team to contain Dickinson. That puts UCLA in scramble-mode going forward, especially when Michigan has Chaundee Brown at the 3 and Franz Wagner at the 4. Offensively, the Bruins can always shoot over the top of Michigan but that won’t be without a hand in the face. If UCLA is going to win this game, they will probably need to make about 12-15 threes in this game, that’s within the realm of possibility given the way they’ve played thus far but I think there’s a better chance Michigan runs away with this one.
Prediction: Michigan 82 UCLA 69