Five biggest takeaways from Villanova’s national championship win
We’ve reached the end of college basketball’s season and March was just as mad as we’ve come to expect. This tournament featured the biggest upset of all-time, a 98-year-old nun leading a Cinderella story to the Final Four, and plenty of buzzer-beating game-winners.
With such a wild tournament, college basketball fans are often left with an unsatisfying champion. Any team can be bounced with a bad game and one team can win a championship by getting hot late in the season.
This season, everyone can rest easy knowing that Villanova deserved to cut down the nets. The Wildcats won all six tournament games by double-digits and were one of America’s best teams all season long. There’s no question that the Wildcats earned the trophy they were handed Monday night. Here’s a look at the five biggest takeaways following Nova’s second championship in three seasons.
1. Villanova ices the season with a National Championship
After a season at or near the top of the rankings, Villanova finished the job and won the 2018 National Championship. This marks the school’s third title and second in the last three years.
The Wildcats fell behind Michigan very early in the game before wresting control of the game and dominating the second half. Villanova combined a lethal offensive attack with their typically stingy defense to dig a hole that Michigan simply could not overcome.
Even with National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson seated on the bench with four fouls early in the second half, Villanova held off every Michigan run. The Wildcats cut down the nets in San Antonio, a deserving champion after a wild season of college hoops.
2. Donte DiVincenzo stole the spotlight
Villanova’s balanced offense can strike from anywhere, or more precisely, from anyone. In the semifinals, it was forward Eric Paschall who couldn’t miss. In the national final, DiVincenzo came off the bench with every possible answer for Villanova.
The sophomore guard responded to the moment, scoring at every level. He finished dunks, made a collection of threes, and broke down the Michigan defense with penetration. When Michigan cut the lead to 12 points, DiVencenzo knocked down a pull-up three to spread the gap again.
He even contributed defensively, with a monster two-handed block in the second half. Though he started the game on the bench, his energy and his scoring punch won the game for Villanova.
3. Villanova is one of the best programs in college basketball
With their second title in three seasons, Villanova has cemented itself among the best programs in the nation. Though the Wildcats cut down the nets two years ago, it was the only season in which Villanova reached the second weekend of tournament play in the last eight years.
A second successful trip through the bracket proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that what Jay Wright has built outside Philadelphia is a force to be reckoned with. Despite the collapse of the top-tier conference they once resided in and no superstar recruits on campus, Villanova’s last five years have been as successful as any school in the last quarter-century.
With at least two of the Wildcats top players leaving, you might expect a dropoff from their current level. After what we’ve seen recently, that would be unwise.
4. Jay Wright’s future will be whispered about
Climbing to top of the mountain twice in three years is quite the accomplishment. So much so that people may start to speculate about the future of Jay Wright at Villanova.
The last coach to win titles that soon in succession, Billy Donovan at Florida, headed to the NBA not long thereafter. Wright’s name has been rumored for NBA positions before, yet he has always stayed strong at Villanova.
The timing could be perfect, with some high-level professional jobs potentially opening. Staying at Villanova is nice, yet the chance to coach Giannis Antetoukuompo or Kristaps Porzingis is hard to pass up.
At the very least, Wright may have earned a raise. He’s only the 24th-highest paid coach in college basketball.
5. The Big Ten’s title drought continues
Since Michigan State won the National Championship in 2000, no Big Ten school has cut down the nets at season’s end. In those 18 seasons, six different Big Ten schools have played in the championship game (Michigan State, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Michigan). In seven chances, the conference is 0-7 in the final game. Michigan fell flat, shooting just 3 of 23 from outside the arc, dooming the Wolverines to a runner-up finish.
This may just be a quirky streak that will be broken next year or many times in the next few years, yet it’s gotten to the point that it is at least an eerie coincidence.
Fans in the Midwest have been waiting too long for a title, yet all 14 programs in the conference will need to wait one more year.
Shane McNichol covers college basketball and the NBA for Larry Brown Sports. He also blogs about basketball at Palestra Back and has contributed to Rush The Court, ESPN.com, and USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain.