Story by Sam Kaser, Staff Writer
Image courtesy of shutterstock.com
From the impossible becoming reality, to a “sixth starter” etching his name in NCAA basketball lore, the madness did not disappoint.
On Monday night, the Michigan Wolverines squared off against the Villanova Wildcats, who were a seven-point favorite over the boys from Ann Arbor. Michigan got off to an early 14-8 lead, but cue Donte DiVincenzo. The Wildcat guard went for an unconscious 31 points, an NCAA tournament record for any bench player. Alongside him, Omari Spellman collected 11 rebounds, and Mikal Bridges also picked up 19 points.
As for the Maize and Blue, Moe Wagner led the team with seven rebounds, and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman picked up the team with 23 points. It was all for nought, however, as the Wolverines only managed to shoot 13 percent from beyond the arch, compared to Villanova’s 37 percent. Coach John Beilein had nothing but praise for DiVincenzo’s performance per an ESPN report. “The way [he] shot the ball, it was just incredible for us to try to win that game with the roll he went on,” he said.
The road to the Championship was different for the respective schools. Michigan became the first team in NCAA tournament history to reach the final game without playing a top five seed (they were a third seed). After taking care of #14 Montana, Jordan Poole played hero for the Wolverines, knocking a three-point buzzer beater to knock of #6 Houston. In the Sweet Sixteen, Michigan handled #7 Texas A&M with ease, before battling #9 Florida State to a 58-54 victory.
In the Final Four, they faced off against Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt and her #11 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, where they overcame a 10-point deficit to win 69-57. That punched their ticket to Monday night with the whole nation watching.
As for Villanova, they all but walked to the final matchup. During the whole month of March, the Wildcats won all of their games by 10 or more points. After dishing out #16 Radford, they handed #9 Alabama a 23-point loss. Head coach Jay Wright and company then moved past #5 West Virginia, before heading to the Final Four with a 12-point victory over #3 Texas Tech. The marquee matchup of the tournament was between Villanova and #1 Kansas, but the contest was a disappointment for Jayhawks fans, as Nova won 95-79. That set up the stage for Donte DiVincenzo to light up the scoreboard on Monday night, bringing the Wildcat faithful their third title in program history, with a 79-62 win over Michigan.
Overall, the tournament did not let us down. From Sister Jean to UMBC, the 2018 NCAA season is now complete, and we must await the arrival of next fall, when the men hit the court with renewed energy, and a drive to reach the pinnacle of college basketball.