Lanthorn staff predicts March Madness Final Four

GVL / Courtesy

GVL / Courtesy

Robbie Triano

Final Four winners: Michigan and Kansas. Champion: Michigan

What a March this has been. Not only has this been the most electric tournament in recent memory, but I also picked up a nasty—yet dangerously fun—gambling addiction. 

I’ve lost nearly every single bet I’ve placed in heartbreaking fashion, whether due to last-second buzzer beaters, avoidable overtimes or players just not fouling down four with 10 seconds left (looking at you, Florida State). My biggest learning lesson is that you should never bet on the spread. Ever. My betting mind has convinced me that either Vegas has a crystal ball or the entire NCAA is rigged. If you’re thinking of betting, you’re better off just burning your money. Mom, if you’re reading this, please don’t look at my bank account statement. Also, don’t bring up why I sold my kidney during family dinner on Easter Sunday.

But, I did have a few glorious victories against the boys in Vegas, all coming from one team: the Michigan Wolverines.

I’ve been a Michigan State fan my whole life and have publicly stated how I really don’t like the Wolverines. At all. But being a fan of really good basketball, it’s hard not to marvel at how Michigan has been playing of late. It hurts me to say this, but coach John Beilein has been making Tom Izzo look like a fraud with the way he has his team prepared to play. Not only has this team improved on their infamous 3-point-heavy offense, but their defense has become the strongest point of their game. 

Sorry human-good-luck-charm Sister Jean and the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers. You’ve had yourselves a fun little run, and you have nothing to be ashamed of. On another note, Grand Valley State should really think of investing in its own version of Sister Jean. My suggestion is to bring back T. Haas post-retirement to attend every home game in a Hawaiian shirt. We would never lose a game again.

Lastly, sorry Kansas. You should just be proud of defeating Villanova and Duke. Talent-wise, you are simply better than the Wolverines, but I’m trying to ride this gambling hot hand one last time before I have to resort to selling my other kidney. Final score: Michigan 74, Kansas 71. 

Brady McAtamney

Final Four winners: Villanova and Loyola-Chicago. Champion: Villanova

The Final Four is here. In other words: This weekend is going to be awesome.

On one side of the bracket, we have a one-two battle in the Elite Eight and a one-three in the other with both one-seeds advancing to the Final Four. That’s about as chalk as chalk gets.

Then we look on the other side. Loyola-Chicago, an 11-seed, against the nine-seed Kansas State? With Loyola-Chicago dancing into the Final Four? If you say so. Looking down, it’s a bit more sensible, but not much, as three-seeded Michigan topped the nine-seed Florida State.

So here we are. It’s Michigan versus Loyola and Villanova versus Kansas. It’s madness on one end against dominance on the other.

I’ll start with the chalk side: Villanova was my champion when I filled out the bracket a few weeks ago, and I haven’t really lost much confidence in the ‘Cats. They made the East region look silly while rolling over Radford, Alabama, West Virginia and Texas Tech all by double digits. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks had a bit of a rougher ride, but one could argue they had a tougher route. Nobody will argue that Texas Tech is tougher than Duke.

Regardless, Villanova will beat Kansas. It probably won’t be easy, but it might not be by single digits, either.

Looking across the bracket, I sincerely think the Ramblers have what it takes to defeat Michigan. Both teams play similar styles of disciplined basketball with solid defense and good offense. While the Wolverines definitely have a talent advantage, Loyola-Chicago has Sister Jean and a glass slipper.

But then the clock strikes 12 and everything ends in ugly fashion for Cinderella, and Villanova clobbers them for their second national title in three years. Final score: Villanova 82, Loyola-Chicago 67. Sorry, Chicago. At least you have deep-dish pizza.

D’Angelo Starks

Final Four winners: Michigan and Villanova. Champion: Michigan and Villanova

The Final Four is here! It’s so exciting to be able to say that, and it’s two times more exciting to say it since Michigan has made it. In the first matchup, the Wolverines take on the Cinderella story that is Loyola-Chicago. The Ramblers and Sister Jean have been a wonderful story, but I cannot pick against my beloved Wolverines—for now. 

In the second matchup, Villanova takes on Kansas in a matchup of the last remaining No. 1 seeds. In my eyes, this Kansas team is the embodiment of the word “eh.” Meanwhile, Villanova likely has the national player of the year in Jalen Brunson and a surefire lottery pick in Mikal Bridges. Villanova wins this one and moves on to take on my beloved Wolverines. Here’s where things get tricky. 

I’m going to commit a cardinal sin here. I’m picking both Villanova and Michigan. Here’s why: I’ve been a Michigan fan my entire life, and this is my second time seeing them in the Final Four. The first time was taken away from me when Trey Burke’s block was called a foul on Peyton Siva (it was so clearly not a foul). So, obviously, my heart goes to Michigan. Things get tricky because every March I do this crazy thing where I think I’m smart and have a general idea of what’s going to happen in the tournament. Naturally, that leads to me putting my money into a bracket pool, and this year was no different than the others. In my bracket pool, I picked Villanova to beat Arizona (ha), so my only chance to win money is Villanova winning. So, for clarification, my heart picks Michigan and my wallet picks Villanova. Go Blue!

Kellen Voss

Final Four winners: Michigan and Villanova. Champion: Villanova

My heart says yes, but my head won’t let me do it. I’m supposed to be an unbiased Big-J journalist, but I have been a Michigan fan my entire life.

I sang the praises of this Michigan team in this very paper last week and how they can be a team of destiny this season. But this Villanova team may just be too good. They have been arguably the most dominant team in college basketball all year long. 

They are an experienced squad that has practically everything: a roster that features two future top-20 picks in this year’s NBA draft (Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson), a slew of defensive players from the 2016 title team, a coach who knows how to make a run and, most importantly, a ginger (like myself) who can dunk (shoutout to Donte Divincnezo!). All of these reasons are why I picked Villanova to make it all the way in my bracket, and I’m not going to change my prediction now. 

At the end of the day, this matchup is really a win-win for me. If I’m right, I’ll climb to the top of my bracket pools and finally get a prediction right in this newspaper. If I’m wrong, I’ll probably shed tears of joy, call my dad as soon as the game is over, and celebrate with John Beilein and the Wolverines as they claim their first basketball title since 2013 (my bad, I mean 1989, I’m still bitter). I can’t wait to watch this exciting game, and I’ll predict that Villanova will win a high-scoring shootout 84-78. However, I pray that I am wrong yet again.

Louis Ricard

Final Four winners: Michigan and Kansas. Champion: Michigan

My bracket is ruined, which means my credibility for this piece is compromised. This year’s tournament has been nothing less than maddening for people across the country. 

No, I did not see Loyola-Chicago making a run this deep. No, I did not see Kansas getting past Duke, as I had Michigan State going all the way in the Midwest region. No, I did not see Villanova slipping through the cracks of the Eastern region.

The only thing going my way this tournament is Michigan. The Wolverines have this “je ne sais quoi” when it comes to March. Actually, that “it” factor has a name. I present to you the most underrated coach in all NCAA men’s basketball: John Beilein. 

Michigan’s head coach can do wonders with his players, taking their potential and making the most out of it as the season goes on. But the Wolverines cannot solely rely on their coach if they want to go all the way. Their center Moe Wagner has to be the uncontested leader on the court. In their Final Four matchup, Michigan will top Loyola-Chicago 57-48.  

On the other end, I expect the Jayhawks to breeze through Villanova 70-53. The Wildcats aren’t a bad team, but Kansas has Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman and dominating center Udoka Azubuike, who can grab rebounds with his teeth if he has to. 

Now we move on to the final game. Michigan is not the favorite to win this kind of game. However, the Wolverines excel when being labeled underdogs. If this year has proven anything, underdogs are successful (if you don’t believe me, ask the Philadelphia Eagles on how life is going right now). 

I do see Michigan coming out on top in the last seconds with a desperate three, and I am hoping it’s Jordan Poole who takes it from the same angle with the same leg split that has been working for him since high school. Final score: Michigan 65, Kansas 63.

Arpan Lobo

Final Four winners: Michigan and Villanova. Champion: Villanova

First things first, I for one am just glad Grayson Allen isn’t in another Final Four. That alone might have kept me from watching. 

I’m going with Michigan for a couple reasons. One, Michigan is the total villain-type school to bounce America’s sweetheart Sister Jean. If anyone’s going to do it, it’s going to be them. You think Mo Wagner cares about a 98-year-old chaplain? Absolutely not.

Secondly, I think John Beilein has Michigan playing excellent basketball at this time of year. His work with the team should be commended.

I like Villanova over Kansas, mostly just because I can’t wait to see Kansas fans freak out on Bill Self again. 

I’m picking Villanova to win it all because of the pure talent on their squad. Mikal Bridges is a stud, Jalen Brunson is an NBA-level guard, Omari Spellman is a beast in the paint and Donte DiVincenzo has a fantastic name. 

Let’s go Villanova 73, Michigan 62 in the title game. 

Jenna Fracassi

Final Four winners: Michigan and Kansas. Champion: Michigan

College basketball isn’t the sport I’m most knowledgeable about, but to be fair, I did pick UMBC to beat Virginia. So, case closed. Michigan’s momentum throughout this tournament has been incredible, and it’s majorly owed to their strong defensive play. 

Michigan has what it takes to win it all, so now we just wait to see how they play ball. Final score: Michigan 80, Kansas 76.