The Villanova Wildcats embarrassed elite programs Kansas and Michigan in San Antonio to claim their second men’s basketball National Championship in three years.
Villanova’s 79-62 victory over the Wolverines in Monday’s title game gave the Wildcats a double-digit win in all six of their NCAA Tournament games. They are the first team to accomplish this feat since the 2009 North Carolina Tar Heels.
In short, Villanova dominated a very competitive and unpredictable tournament. While other top-seeded favorites were bounced early and often by underdogs, the Cats consistently tormented quality opponents such as West Virginia and Texas Tech.
In between two championships came a 2017 season that ended early with a second round loss to Wisconsin as a 1-seed. Jay Wright’s team was right back at the top of the polls this year and earned another top seed in the east region.
The Wildcats were led by national player of the year Jalen Brunson, but it was sixth man Donte DiVincenzo who made headlines with 31 points on Monday. In the end, it seemed like it was Nova’s versatility that made them better than good. This team made it impossible on their opponents to find a rhythm and had an answer for everything.
Villanova became the first team since the 2005 Tar Heels to lead the nation in scoring and win the National Championship. Overshadowed by a dominant offense was Nova’s defense. The Wildcats held their opponents to 62 points or less in four out of six tournament games, including the championship.
The Wolverines lost in the final game for the second time under head coach John Beilein. Michigan lost to Louisville in 2013 National Championship. This was the team’s first loss since Feb. 6, but Nova was also their first true test in a tournament that has presented them with favorable matchups.
Last week, I said that Nova’s semi final against Kansas was likely to determine the champion. Michigan was able too defeat Loyola-Chicago, but never seemed to be in the same league as the Jayhawks or Wildcats despite their Big 10 title and 14-game winning streak.
I also said the Kansas vs. Villanova semifinal would be one of the most intriguing matchups of the tournament. Unfortunately, the Wildcats couldn’t miss out of the gates while the Jayhawks couldn't buy a bucket. Very quickly, Nova led 22-4.
Once the Wildcats had a stronghold on Kansas, you knew they would end up cutting down the nets. Even for an elite team like the Jayhawks, it’s nearly impossible to come back from a deficit like that to a team as complete as Nova.
After the ugly start, the game was competitive and even. It became clear to me that Kansas was much closer to Nova’s level than the final score would indicate. Jay Wright said himself after the game that his team just couldn't miss to start the game. It was one of those nights at the wrong time for Kansas.
Villanova highlighted a Final Four of lopsided finishes and an underwhelming weekend in contrast to one of the most bizarre tournaments in recent memory. This year’s madness included a victory for the UMBC Retrievers, the first ever 16-seed to beat a 1-seed, as well as the 11-seeded Loyola-Chicago Ramblers reaching the Final Four.
The city of Philadelphia now has the men’s basketball National Championship for the second time in three years along with a Super Bowl title in 2018.