It requires a collective effort, experience, leadership - elements Villanova and MI have stockpiled while building toward the NCAA Tournament title game on Monday night.
None made it to college basketball's final weekend.
Is Michigan's defense up to the challenge?
Staring down a 10-point deficit against an underdog that seemed nothing short of blessed during the madness of March, Moe Wagner and MI clamped down on Loyola-Chicago and ended one of the most memorable NCAA Tournament runs ever.
"There's a process of going through the season that you have to experience one, two, three times before you can really have this type of success under this pressure in March", Michigan coach John Beilein said. "It lowered our confidence a little bit, and they were just shooting and making everything, it seemed", he said. In their tournament run, MI managed to escape with tight wins over Houston and Florida State. MI had to come back to beat up on Cinderella #11 Loyola-Chicago, 69-57 on Saturday. And they have so much to be proud of.
By the Numbers: Villanova 95, Kansas 79. It wasn't almost enough against the hot-shooting Wildcats, who tied their program's single-season wins record and have a chance to win their third NCAA championship. We'll watch tape, try to figure out the best way to approach going into Monday night's game.
MI had the nation's No. 3 defense efficiency-wise and put Loyola on lockdown in the second half, holding the Ramblers to 1-of-7 shooting from 3 to send Sister Jean Delores Schmidt to the exits early. That means the country's hottest defense needs to be the most dominant unit on the floor if MI is going to cut down the nets in San Antonio. MI can play that game and contend out there. The Wildcats' defense forced Kansas to play at an uncomfortably fast pace. MI will need to do whatever it can to grind the game to a halt. "To get this far, all the teams that are here, you have a laser focus, you have an ability to prepare for different opponents".
It's been an nearly all-or-nothing thing for Villanova and Wright in the NCAA Tournament.
MI has shored up the deficiency that always held it back, becoming one of the nation's best defensive teams, not one of its worst. But is that even possible? The Wildcats spent eight weeks as the No. 1 team in the country. The Jayhawks didn't make a lot of errors, and they didn't shoot poorly from the field either. Making 18 of 40 three-pointers was exhilarating.
Brunson is one of six Wildcats who entered the Final Four averaging double figures in scoring.
The Wildcats made 18 of 40 three-pointers (45 percent) and shot 55.4 percent (36/65) for the game. The rest of the leadership trust includes juniors Mikal Bridges, Eric Booth and Eric Paschall, and scrappy sophomore Donte DiVincenzo. They scored 1.08 points per possession, which is fine for most teams, but nowhere near their standards. Total fouls_Kansas 12, Villanova 14. Oddsmakers did a rather accurate job with their projections for both schools before the start of the tournament, with Villanova the favorite at 9/2 and giving MI the fifth-best odds at 9/1.
"It just feels good", Paschall said. If Villanova shows up with its A-game, it will reign supreme.
It's the 26th time a team from the Big Ten Conference has reached the national championship game - the most by any conference.