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Super ‘Nova’s Inferno Burns Down The Alamo(dome)

April 3, 2018

Donte DiVincenzo picked the right night to have the game of his life.

At the start of Villanova’s 79-62 victory over Michigan in the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship™ Final, it was Michigan who was landing the first punch combinations. Marvelous Moritz Wagner scored 11 of Michigan’s first 21 points in the opening nine (9) minutes of the game, racing out to a quick five (5) point lead that for several minutes Michigan seemed to be on the verge of expanding into double digits. John Beilein’s Wolverines were getting to the rim at will and looked the better, more confident and focused team.

Meanwhile, Jalen Brunson, the 2018 Citizen Naismith and AP National Player of the Year, was in the midst of his worst game of the year. After a strong first minute where he scored Villanova’s first two baskets, he struggled the rest of the game, shooting 2-11 from the floor over the final 39 minutes, on his way to only scoring nine (9) points, two (2) assists, and committing four (4) fouls. Without their offensive fulcrum in full effect, Villanova was having rare difficulty finding open looks from three, and as a result labored to get to the rim, as the gears were slowly grinding to a halt in the face of Michigan’s proactivity. Their struggle, as the kids say, was real.

Enter DiVincenzo. Much like ‘Nova’s Phil Booth did two years ago against North Carolina in the second half of the 2016 Final, the Big East Sixth Man of the Year first kept the Wildcats afloat,  then spearheaded a 23-7 run to close out the last 11 minutes of the half that flipped the game in much the same way Villanova had against Texas Tech in the National Quarterfinal (I’m really trying to make that term stick). Scoring 18 of Villanova’s last 29 points in the first half with an assortment of three-point bombs, finger-rolls and rim-rattling dunks, on the way to a game-high 31 points to go with five (5) rebounds and three (3) assists, DiVincenzo was a one-man wrecking crew to Michigan’s title hopes. Punctuated by the shot block of the tournament, the redshirt sophomore’s several shining moments earned him the Final Four Most Outstanding Player and became the first player since Michigan’s Glen Rice in 1989 to score 30-plus points and make five (5) three pointers in a Championship game. Apparently NBA scouts don’t care (nor do I) that he deleted his Twitter account due to immature tweets he (allegedly) posted when he was 14, he might have just made himself millions of dollars.

In addition to DiVincenzo’s tide turning triumph, and future NBA Lottery Pick Mikal Bridges turning in a “Best Player in a Supporting Role” performance with 19 points and four (4) rebounds, Villanova relied upon two fundamental tenets of basketball to bring them back: Defense and Rebounding. Despite a pedestrian shooting night (.474 FG%, .370 3P%, both below season averages), ‘Nova crushed Michigan on the boards, 38-27, including 12 offensive rebounds which created 10 second-chance points. After Michigan jumped out to that early lead, Villanova ratcheted up the defensive intensity led by Bridges on the perimeter, forcing Michigan into numerous rushed shots and empty possessions while limiting offensive rebounds for several long stretches.

Naturally, the question comes: Is Villanova a dynasty?  In the last four years of Jay Wright’s stewardship, Villanova has won 136 games, more than any other team has won over a four-year span. Winning two National Titles in three years are also hard to argue against, becoming only the fourth program since UCLA’s Wooden Dynasty to do so, with Duke (1990, 1991), Kentucky (1996, 1998) and Florida (2006, 2007) the other three to accomplish that feat in the past 43 years. During their two title runs, Villanova covered the spread in all 12 NCAA games, with an average scoring margin in those 12 games of +20.0 points, and winning 10 of those 12 (including all six in 2018) by double digits. So by those standards, even in a year of alleged parity (guilty as charged), I’d have to answer that question in the affirmative, especially in light of their aforementioned historically great offense.

Put another way, Villanova is pretty, pretty, pret-tay, pret-tee good.

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From → Basketball, Sports

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