First semifinal 5:09 p.m., TBS: (3) Michigan vs. (11) Loyola Chicago
As the lone Cinderella in this year’s Final Four, Loyola Chicago (32-5) is the clear sentimental favorite in Saturday’s matchup against No. 3 seed Michigan (32-7) at the Alamodome in San Antonio. If she’s still giving scouting reports, Sister Jean would tell her Loyola players that the Wolverines will be by far the best defensive unit they’ve faced all year. Michigan ranks fourth nationally and has the best defensive efficiency among the remaining teams (91.0). Opponents have been held to 59 points on average and shot 37.7 percent overall and 26.2 percent in the NCAA tourney. Meanwhile, the Ramblers, who have a national-best 14-game win streak, are formidable on both sides, holding opponents to 62.4 points per game (fifth nationally) and shooting 50.9 percent as a team (third nationally).
Players to watch
Loyola Chicago: Clayton Custer is the Ramblers’ best player and leading scorer (13.2 ppg) and was the Missouri Valley Conference player of the year. But it’s basically been pick your poison regarding which Ramblers player is going to beat you on any given night in the NCAA tournament. Senior wing Donte Ingram hit the game-winning three-pointer against Miami (Fla.) in the first round. Custer’s jumper settled it, once the ball bounced around the rim and fell in, in the second round vs. Tennessee. Marques Townes made a late three-pointer to upset Nevada in the Sweet 16. And Ben Richardson’s 23 points with six threes helped the Ramblers blow out Kansas State in the Elite Eight.
Michigan: John Beilein’s teams don’t rely on one player to dominate. Sure, Loyola seems more balanced with five players averaging double figures in scoring, but the Wolverines can beat you offensively with several options as well. It starts with 6-11 junior center Moe Wagner and senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who combined to score 55 points in a 27-point Sweet 16 win against Texas A&M. That was Michigan’s most impressive victory of the tournament. The player who has been most consistent is Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews, who is averaging a team-best 16.5 points in the NCAA tourney.
Keys to victory
Ramblers win if: They jump out to a big first-half lead the way they did vs. Kansas State, going ahead 15-5.
Wolverines win if: They shoot the higher percentage from the field, because they’re 27-0 this season when that’s the case.
Michigan 70, Loyola Chicago 66