Villanova-Michigan Preview

Michigan’s new-look backcourt has propelled it into the championship of the Legends Classic.

Villanova used a strong effort by a player returning to his hometown to muscle its way into the final.

One of these teams will improve to 5-0 on Tuesday night in Brooklyn when the No. 19 Wolverines and No. 12 Wildcats meet.

Michigan won 70-63 over Oregon on Monday. Guards Zak Irvin and Caris LeVert combined for 37 points as the Wolverines never trailed and made 23 of 29 free throws.

Irvin is the new starter in Michigan’s three-guard lineup, complementing LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. Irvin replaces Nik Stauskas, one of three underclassmen the Wolverines lost from last season’s club that won 28 games. Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary were the others.

Villanova outscored No. 14 Virginia Commonwealth by 22 points in the second half in Monday’s 77-53 victory. JayVaughn Pinkston scored a team-high 15 points in his first college game in Brooklyn.

Pinkston attended Bishop Loughlin High School and grew up about 15 minutes away from the Barclays Center. His mother and other family members were in the crowd – but he kept the focus on hoops, not home.

”I was just coming in thinking about defense and rebounding,” he said.

Coach Jay Wright was pleased that his club only had nine turnovers against the Rams’ pressure defense, finishing with 20 assists on 29 baskets. Junior point guard Ryan Arcidiacono finished with nine assists for the second-highest total of his career while he failed to commit a turnover.

”You just knew you were going to get tested," Wright said. "You knew we were going to see how good of a passing team we are.”

The Wildcats prevailed despite a quiet effort from Dylan Ennis, who had five points after averaging 15.0 in his first three games.

Villanova and Michigan are two of the nation’s best teams at taking care of the ball with the Wolverines averaging just 7.8 turnovers and the Wildcats at 9.3 per game.

Michigan coach John Beilein captured five of seven meetings with Wright from 2003-07 when he was coaching West Virginia. He was impressed by what he saw Monday from the Wildcats, who held VCU to 2-of-17 shooting from 3-point range.

”They’re really good at what they do,” he said.

One concern for the coach was Michigan was outrebounded 41-29, allowing 18 offensive rebounds.

"Unfortunately they’re a little bit stronger and much more athletic than us on the backboard and we just didn’t block out some times," Beilein said. "This is a big issue after today because we did work on it, we’ve been working on it and we’ll work on it some more."

Villanova has won the rebounding battle three times, with a 39-32 edge Monday.

These teams are meeting for the first time since the Wildcats won 59-55 in the 1985 NCAA tournament en route to winning the school’s lone national championship.