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Prospect Watch: who to watch in the championship

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We’ve arrived at the final game with plenty to track for the NBA draft.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

After all the drama of the tournament, we’ve reached the end. The championship game Monday night in San Antonio features two of the hottest teams in college basketball. Michigan and Villanova both took care of business Saturday night, one (Nova) far more decisively. Now, in a final game with everything on the line, we should see two worthy opponents battle.

In terms of draft watching, we’re lucky to have prospects on both sides of the ball. And we even have a single lottery prospect that survived the three-week toll. Both teams have a strong foundation on the perimeter, and live and die by the three ball — look for plenty of back and forth, with the winner getting hot from deep.


MONDAY, April 2

Villanova vs Michigan - 8:20 CT (TBS)

If it weren’t for the domination of stretch-five Moritz Wagner (24 points, 15 rebounds), Michigan would probably be watching from home tonight. Loyola simply had no answers for Wagner on the offensive boards; in the first half it was all Mo. Going in to the game there were questions about Loyola’s ability to match up with the Wolverines’ big man on the perimeter. That mostly was not an issue, because of the Ramblers’ switching ability. But once Michigan shot (and they jacked up plenty), Wagner was always there to corral it and put it back in.

Monday night Wagner will need far more help than he received in the Final Four. Look for 6’6 wing Charles Matthews, who has already had a stellar tournament, to step up. He gives John Beilein playmaking ability with all of their three-point shooters spacing the floor. If Michigan wants a shot at winning, he will need to have a big night. It’s possible that this could be a good launching pad for Matthews to test draft waters this spring.

Matthews and Wagner will both have their hands full, as they will most likely be opposite Mikal Bridges and Omari Spellman. Bridges, the obvious lottery prospect of the night, is the ideal two-way player and can affect the game on both ends, locking up Matthews and draining threes for the Wildcats. Spellman, who like Wagner has the ability to stretch the floor offensively, has been a key component of Villanova’s success in the tournament. The redshirt freshman has really made a name for himself this month, showing ability to hit the three (43 percent from deep), rebound (8.4 per game), and even flashes of rim protection (1.8 blocks per game). There are elements of his game that still need to be fleshed out, but he’s someone to keep an eye on in draft talk.

The battles of Bridges vs Matthews and Spellman vs Wagner may decide the game, but the x-factor could be whether or not Michigan can stop the savviest point guard in college basketball, Jalen Brunson. He’s the perfect floor general, with ability to score inside and out (even more impressive considering his size). There may not be anyone opposite of him that can adequately matchup. Brunson will be the perfect backup point guard at the next level, who will probably be drafted 32nd, but have a 12-plus year NBA career.

Villanova has more depth and is the more complete team, and it will take a monumental effort from the Wolverines to come out on top. But either way, we have a handful of pro-level talents to watch on both sides — in the end, you can’t ask for anything more.

Thanks to those that have followed Prospect Watch all season. Draft talk has just begun!