Villanova Wildcats claim their third National Championship

By Nicholas Ospina
On April 4, 2018

Photo courtesy of @NovaMBB, Twitter

It isn’t supposed to be like this.

In the era we are now in of college basketball, dominated by the one-and-dones, this shouldn’t be happening. Programs playing just upperclassmen should not be winning National Championships.

But don’t tell that to Jay Wright’s squad, who proved yet again experience matters.

For the second time in three years, the Villanova Wildcats are the National Champions of college basketball. The Wildcats defeated the Michigan Wolverines 79-62 in San Antonio, capturing the program's third National Championship.

In an utterly dominant performance throughout the tournament, the Wildcats stampeded their way winning all their games in the tournament by a margin of 17.6 points.

Early in the first half, Michigan seemed to have more life than Villanova, opening up a 21-14 lead to start the game. The Wolverines were led by star junior big man Moritz Wagner, who scored nine of the team’s first 11 points, finishing the game with 16 points and 7 rebounds.

But all that changed once sophomore guard Donte DiVincenzo checked into the game. DiVincenzo, who won the Big East Sixth Man of the Year Award this season, finished with 31 points and mounted Villanova’s comeback.

“Honestly when I got into the game, all I was trying to do was play hard. I just wanted to help my team offensively,” said DiVincenzo post-game.

DiVincenzo previous career high was 30 points he scored earlier this season against the Butler Bulldogs.

Suddenly at halftime, Michigan’s lead earlier seemed to have been forgotten as they were trailing 37-28. There was hope that Michigan had one last hurrah in them at the start of the second half after an easy basket by Wagner. But Villanova never took its foot off the pedal.

With 15 minutes left to play, things were now starting to get testy, and Michigan couldn’t find an answer for Villanova's defense. Wagner was called for an offensive foul, after he put his hand on Jalen Brunson’s face driving to the basket. Words were then exchanged between Omari Spellman, who came to defend Brunson, and Wagner.

Both were hit with technicals.

Michigan had pulled the game to within 12 with just under 10 minutes in play, but DiVincenzo once again broke the hearts of the Wolverines hitting back-to-back 3s, giving Villanova a 62-44 lead, leaving little to no hope for a Michigan comeback.

Michigan’s defense couldn’t stop Villanova’s high-powered offense, and Michigan’s offense just couldn’t keep pace.

“They played like the National Champions they are,” Wolverines head coach John Beilein said of Villanova's post-game. “They’d win a lot of Final Fours with the way they're coached, the way they conduct themselves, share the ball and play. It’s really a tremendous basketball team we lost to.”

Michigan however, did silence Villanova’s known players. Spellman, Eric Paschall, and National and Naismith Player of the Year Brunson, all were effectively neutralized on the offensive end, but Paschall said it best.

“Honestly we never know. We have so many talented dudes that can just get it going. We don’t know who’s going to have a good night. Tonight, it was Donte [Donte DiVincenzo],” said Paschall post-game.

Looking ahead to next season, oddsmakers at Westgate have the Duke Blue Devils leading the odds at 5-1 to win the National Championship with four top 10 high school recruits headlining to their roster next season. Villanova have the second-best odds at 8-1.

 

nospina@ramapo.edu

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