CRAWFORD | After a college hoops season of ugliness, Villanova rides beautiful game to title
Villanova dominated the NCAA Tournament without multiple McDonald's All-Americans, but with a team concept that inspired championship confidence.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – In a college basketball season dominated by headlines about agents and shoe companies and bribes and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Monday night’s title game should also remind you this about James Naismith’s little game.
A group of guys (or women) playing together with an abundance of confidence and the absence of fear can overcome and overwhelm just about anything and anyone.
Villanova had one McDonald’s All-American. It was led in Monday night’s title game against Michigan with 31 points from Most Outstanding Player Donte DeVincinzo, who was ranked No. 124 by Scout.com coming out of high school, behind Tai Wynyard and Deng Adel, Isaac Humphries, Isaiah Briscoe and many others.
These guys were a force. You watched them play and thought, “They’re on the razor’s edge. They can’t be that sharp every night.”
They were sharper some nights than others, like in the national semifinals when they made 18 threes to bury a good Kansas team. But even when they weren’t at their sharpest, they still were better than anybody else, as Michigan found out in a 79-62 loss in San Antonio’s Alamo Dome Monday night.
“When I looked at their scores in the NCAA Tournament, there were not even any close ones,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “They were dominating everyone, and after those first 15 minutes, they really just were a better team than us. . . . We needed to play better, but even if we had played our best, it would have been very difficult to win that game with what DiVincenzo did, it was an incredible performance. Sometimes those individual performances just beat you, and you just say, okay, you take off your hat and say, good game. We played you the best we could. And tonight you were better than us.”
Not every coach is classy enough to give the other guys credit and leave it at that, but Beilein is one of the classiest going. He also knows basketball.
Wright has recruited skill at every position. There was no weakness to exploit.
“When you look at the whole package that they have . . . it’s rare in college basketball,” Beilein said. “Shooters at every position, passers at every position and defenders. We were trying to find out, who was the weak guy we can pick on? There's a couple of guys that aren't as strong as others, but it's a tremendous basketball team. That team right there, could win a lot of Final Fours not just the 2018 one.”
The best thing about Villanova’s game is its lack of fear. These are players who don’t care if the shot doesn’t fall. They are confident in themselves, and they are confident in their teammates. They play together. They rotate on defense. They move the ball on offense.
You can recruit a ton of blue-chippers and win. There’s more than one way to win it all. But to replicate what Wright has done at Villanova, it’d take several years, because it doesn’t happen right away.
In a year when the sport was dominated by talk of players going to the highest bidder, Villanova is a good reminder of what players can achieve when they work and play together.
“This hasn’t been the greatest season for college basketball,” Seth Davis said on TBS. “There was a lot going on off the court, hovering over the sport all season long, and these last three weeks really remind us what’s great about the sport, what’s great about the NCAA Tournament, and I can’t think of two programs more worthy of carrying the mantle for college basketball than these two, and certainly a worthy national champion in what Jay Wright has done at Villanova, the culture he has built.”
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