NCAA Championship 2018: Villanova steamrolls Michigan to win its second national title in three years
Donte DiVincenzo came off the bench and became a Final Four legend
SAN ANTONIO -- Villanova is officially college basketball royalty.
The No. 1-seeded Wildcats completed their best season in school history with a dominating 79-62 championship game victory on Monday night over No. 3 Michigan.
It's Villanova's second national title in three years, and the third in school history. And this time, no last-second dramatics were needed. Kris Jenkins' unforgettable deep 3-pointer gave the Wildcats the title at the buzzer two years ago over UNC. This team was too dominant to require any doubt down the stretch. Instead, Villanova got an all-time performance by sophomore Donte DiVincenzo, the sixth man who had a career-high 31 points and was named Most Outstanding Player.
DiVincenzo shattered title game record for most points by a non-starter, beating Luke Hancock's previous (and now vacated) mark of 22 in 2013. That also came against Michigan.
DiVincenzo's fingerprints are all over this outcome. He was the roaring story of the first half for Nova. Michigan (33-8) was in command of the game for the first 12 minutes. The game was physical and chippy. The teams were battling cold spells early; the Wolverines and Wildcats combined to make just four of their first 20 3-point attempts. It was DiVincenzo's 3-pointer that brought Villanova back and gave it the lead, at 23-21, with 6:08 left in the first half.
Villanova (36-4) never trailed again. It seared its way to another win and now sits on the mountaintop of college basketball once more.
DiVincenzo -- dubbed "the Big Ragu" -- was emblematic of Villanova's incredible season. Jalen Brunson was the Naismith Player of the Year in college basketball, but Villanova was so dangerous so often because any of its top six players could beat you on a given night. Eric Paschall showed that in the semifinals on Saturday vs. Kansas; he had 24.
DiVincenzo supplied his best for Villanova's last game of this 2017-18 season. He had 18 first-half points and was vital; Brunson was 3-of-8 and had his frustrations in the first half. Mikal Bridges, who is likely to go in this year's NBA Draft lottery, had only four points at the break (but finished with 19).
"I actually heard my assistants on the bench when he was starting to go off, I heard them saying: This is great for him; he deserves this," Wright said. "Because he really did. But he couldn't have done it if he didn't have a clear mind."
But that's why Villanova's so intimidating to face. And now, definitively, one of the best offenses in modern college hoops history with this production in the final chapter of 2017-18. Despite the struggles from their two most talented players, the Wildcats -- catalyzed by the irrepressible DiVincenzo -- peeled off a 23-7 run to close out the first half. It was 37-28 at the break.
The run carried over and extended to 30-9 after halftime.
DiVincenzo was outlandish from outside. He found hotness again in the second half, and it was because of him that Michigan's spirit was broken. The game was effectively over with more than eight minutes remaining.
Donte DiVincenzo is the Duke of Buckets. pic.twitter.com/LmAzQ8XcNj— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) April 3, 2018
He also got it done on defense.
DiVincenzo was so brilliant, Brunson picking up a fourth foul with 10:51 remaining mattered none.
"I did not think that I was going to have this kind of night, because every night I come into a game, I just try to bring energy," DiVincenzo said. "And if we start off, we get off to a good start, I try to take the energy to a new level. I try to defend and rebound to the best of my ability and just trying to get it going."
Jay Wright is the eighth coach in D-I history to win two national titles in a three-year span. He joins this company: Henry Iba (1945-46 at Oklahoma State); Adolph Rupp (1948-49 and 1951 at Kentucky); Phil Woolpert (1955-56 at North Carolina); Ed Jucker (1961-62 at Cincinnati); John Wooden (10 in 12 years from 1964-75 at UCLA); Mike Krzyzewski (1991-92 at Duke); and Billy Donovan (2007-08 at Florida).
"When we got to the 2009 Final Four and we lost the first game, I thought that was my shot," Wright said. "I was happy. I was fine. Then, when we won the title and I thought alright, I'm happy and now I just want to make sure the guys graduate and the team stays competitive. This is out of my comprehension."
Wright is the 15th coach to win at least two national titles, and is now only one of three active Division I men's coaches with at least two titles; Krzyzewski and UNC's Roy Williams are the others.
Villanova's title is also the team's 36th win, which sets a single-season Wildcats record. Villanova won its nine postseason games by an average of 17.9 points, putting up 84.4 points in that span. The Wildcats' total margin of victory in the NCAA tourney was an incredible 17.7 points; they didn't have a game decided by single digits.
Brunson, who had one of his lesser games this season, was overcome with emotion as soon as the game went final. He and Paschall were shedding a lot of tears as the celebration began on the floor.
"I just think it starts with Coach Wright and his mentality of recruiting," Brunson said. "He recruits great young men, not just on the basketball court, but in the classroom and obviously as a person. We're very intelligent on and off the floor."
The records have piled up for Wright's team. Nova's 76 3-pointers (12.7 per game) are a record for a single tournament. That smashed the previous mark of 61 by VCU in 2011. Its 183 3-point attempts in 2018 is also a record.
In total, Villanova made a Division I record 469 treys this season. At one point, college basketball this season was discussed as not having a great team or two. The past four weeks of Villanova's run put to bed that argument. Not only was this team great, given how efficient and lucrative it was from 3-point range, the public's appreciation of this team's prowess will probably only grow as we get further away from this championship night.
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