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Preview: Michigan vs. Villanova

The stage is set for a rematch of the 2017-18 National Championship game.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Michigan vs Villanova Detroit Free Press-USA TODAY Sports

It may be a new season, but the loss in the National Championship still lingers in Ann Arbor from last April in San Antonio, Texas.

Michigan found itself ahead of Villanova 21-14 midway through the first half, but eventually squandered the lead and never figured it out offensively after that in a 79-62 loss.

Now, U-M has a shot at revenge.

The No. 18 Wolverines (2-0) will have a rematch with No. 8 Villanova (2-0) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Finneran Pavilion. It is apart of the 2018 Gavitt Games, which is an eight-game series between the Big Ten and Big East.

So far, all three years leading up to this season have been split 4-4 between the two conferences. U-M’s only appearance was in 2015 when they fell to Xavier 86-70 on Nov. 20 in Crisler Arena.

Here’s what you need to know for both sides in the highly anticipated contest.

Game information

When: Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Finneran Pavilion

Line: Villanova -7.5

Watch: Fox Sports 1

What’s going on with Michigan’s offense?

As mentioned earlier, the Wolverines struggled to get buckets against Wildcats in last season’s title game for the final 30 minutes of regulation.

This season, U-M has struggled to find offense period. In the first two games against Norfolk State and Holy Cross, the Wolverines are averaging 59.5 points per game, which is 310th in the NCAA for scoring.

U-M is clearly still trying to replace the production losses of Moritz Wagner, Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who accounted for 49.7 percent of the offense in 2017.

The Wolverines are also struggling to shoot the 3-pointer at just 20 percent on the season. Last year, the Wolverines were 35.7 percent from downtown.

Senior guard Charles Matthews, who was third on the team in scoring last season, is currently second on the team at 15 points per game. Freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis has added an offensive spark, leading the team at 15.5 points per game.

Junior guard Zavier Simpson is averaging just two points per outing, and sophomore guard Jordan Poole is averaging three points per contest. These are two players head coach John Beilein has talked about being more involved offensively, even if Simpson is a defense-first player.

Speaking on that defense, however, is where the Wolverines have been solid. U-M is currently third in the nation at scoring defense with opponents scoring just 40.5 points per game. They are also 11th in the nation in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 30.6 percent (34-of-111) from the field.

While the Wolverines are led by their defense, they will more than likely need to do more scoring of their own to hang against a team like Villanova on the road.

What to know about Villanova

For the fifth consecutive season, the Wildcats were the preseason favorite to win the Big East Conference.

This comes even after losing the teams top three scorers — Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Donte DiVincenzo. The three were responsible for 57.4 percent of the teams scoring, averaging 50 points a game combined.

The offense is now led by senior guard Phil Booth, who is averaging 20 points and 4.5 assists per game. Next in line is fellow senior 6-foot-8 Eric Paschall. The forward is averaging 18.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, which should give Jon Teske a test underneath. Freshman forward Saddiq Bey adds 12.0 points per game and sophomore guard Collin Gillespie is averaging 11.0 points per game, respectively.

Villanova is averaging 93 points per game, which is 41st in scoring offense in the country. The Wildcats also give themselves plenty of second chances with 40 offensive rebounds on the year, tied for 11th in the country. The Wildcats are tied for 106th in the nation in scoring defense by allowing 65 points per game to opponents.

Final breakdown

Head-to-head, the Wolverines are just 1-3 against Villanova, with the Wildcats winning the last three matchups and U-M’s lone win coming in 1970. It should be a battle of the Wolverines highly-ranked defense against the Wildcats high-scoring offense. Whichever so called weakness prevails and plays well — UV’s defense or U-M’s offense — should be a big deciding factor in this game.

My prediction: UV 76 U-M 66