Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova Crush Michigan to Win 3rd Ever NCAA Championship

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 3, 2018

SAN ANTONIO, TX - APRIL 02: Donte DiVincenzo #10 of the Villanova Wildcats drives to the basket against Isaiah Livers #4 of the Michigan Wolverines in the first half during the 2018 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game at the Alamodome on April 2, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Villanova Wildcats are national champions for the second time in three years.

Villanova defeated the Michigan Wolverines 79-62 Monday in the title game of the 2018 men's NCAA tournament in the Alamodome in San Antonio. The victory gave the Big East representative its third national championship in program history.

Donte DiVincenzo led the way for the Wildcats with 31 points, five rebounds and three assists on 10-of-15 shooting from the field and 5-of-7 shooting from deep, helping extend the Big Ten's stretch of title-game losses in the process.

Michigan's loss dropped the conference to 0-7 in national championship games since the Michigan State Spartans prevailed in 2000. The Wolverines' 2013 loss to the Louisville Cardinals is included in that total, and they once again missed an opportunity to win their first title since 1989.

DiVincenzo was too much for the Big Ten school and scored the most points in a national title game since Seton Hall's John Morton scored 35 in 1989 against the Wolverines, per Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports.

Even without DiVincenzo's torrid pace, it was always going to be a challenge for the Wolverines to deal with college basketball's three-point shooting answer to the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors.

The Wildcats already set the record for the most three-pointers in a single season and drilled a Final Four record 18 shots from outside against Kansas. They consistently space the floor with five guys who can shoot from deep and stress opposing defenses that can rarely afford to send additional help anywhere.

David Teel of the Daily Press put their dominance into perspective:

David Teel @DavidTeelatDP

Villanova the fourth team to win all six of its NCAA tournament games by double-digit margins. North Carolina 2009, Duke 2001, Michigan State 2000.

To Michigan's credit, its defense had an early answer and built a 21-14 lead before DiVincenzo went into takeover mode. The third-best defense in the country by Ken Pomeroy's pace-adjusted metrics swarmed the shooters from the start and held Villanova's starters to 1-of-9 from beyond the arc in the first half, which Rob Dauster of NBC Sports noted wasn't a surprise:

Rob Dauster @RobDauster

Only four teams in college basketball let opponents shoot fewer threes than Michigan this year. Running teams off the three is a core tenet of their defense. Kansas is the exact opposite in that regard. That Villanova is struggling to get looks is not surprising.

Still, DiVincenzo swung the game as an offensive spark off the bench when his teammates couldn't find the basket. He poured in 18 first-half points and led the Wildcats to a 37-28 lead at intermission by draining three triples and attacking the basket whenever Michigan challenged him.

OddsShark put the early performance into perspective:

OddsShark @OddsShark

DiVincenzo's OU point total for the game was 12. He has 18 in the first half #NationalChampionship

DiVincenzo stole the show, and his emergence cost the Wolverines a golden opportunity to seize the advantage when the typically unstoppable Villanova starters went cold. It was only a matter of time before the likes of Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Omari Spellman started tallying offensive numbers, and the Big East representative wasted little time pulling away after halftime.

Brunson aggressively took it to the rim a handful of times and Bridges drilled a three as their side built an 18-point advantage, but the point guard's fourth foul put the pressure on his teammates to carry the offense for extended stretches.

On cue, DiVincenzo played the role of hero again by burying two straight threes after the Wolverines finally had a glimpse of momentum after climbing within 12. The proverbial daggers cemented his status as a Villanova legend on college basketball's biggest stage.

It wasn't all the Big East's Sixth Man of the Year, as Bridges posted 19 points, Brunson added nine points and Spellman notched eight points and 11 boards even while taking a backseat to the game's star.

The offense consistently stands out for Villanova, but its defensive effort in Monday's victory shouldn't be overlooked.

The champs struggled with Moritz Wagner's versatility early as Michigan's big man scored nine points in the opening five minutes and created matchup problems on his way to 16 points and seven boards, but they quickly adjusted elsewhere.

Even with Wagner doing work down low, the Wolverines couldn't find the rhythm and shot just 13 percent from deep as they attempted to keep up with DiVincenzo and Pomeroy's top-rated offense.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman provided support with 23 points and Zavier Simpson added 10, but Michigan didn't have nearly enough firepower to match Villanova.

While the NBA will likely come calling for some of the core, Eric Paschall, Phil Booth, Brunson and Bridges are all juniors, DiVincenzo is a sophomore and Spellman is a freshman. The Wildcats are kings of the college basketball world and don't appear to be going anywhere in the near future.


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