Adam Sebastian ‘19: It’s April 2, 2018. The date of the NCAA National Championship Game. The most important game of the participating student athletes lives. Blue-blood program and season-long title favorite, the University of Villanova faced off against local favorite and defensive minded University of Michigan. Two programs who so badly desire the feeling of another national championship with the experience of a lifetime laying in front of them. Seniors and NBA prospects on both sides potentially playing their final games of their illustrious collegiate careers.
In a season plagued by FBI investigations as well as scandals across the nation, the NCAA tournament provided what fans so desperately wanted. A tournament full of blossoming players, massive upsets, and pure pandemonium. However, one dominant force remained stable: the Wildcats of the University of Villanova.
As the number one seed in the East Region, Villanova faced off against sixteen seed Radford University in the first round going on to convincingly defeating the Highlanders 87-61 advancing to the second round of the tournament. Villanova then used an explosive second half to run away from the University of Alabama 81-58 avenging last year’s devastating second round loss. After a tight sweet sixteen battle with West Virginia University, 90-78, the Wildcats survived a consistent Texas Tech University team, 71-59, to once again land the team in the most prestigious round in the sport: the Final Four. The Wildcats advanced to the round for the second time in only three years only to blow away the University of Kansas 95-79 for the chance to win their third title in school history.
In a basketball world focused on long-range shooting, small ball lineups, and dominant offense, the University of Michigan flipped the script with their absolutely dominant defense.
The Wolverines earned the three seed in the West Region and the region proved to more of a challenge for the team. Despite not playing a seed ranked higher than six en route to the National Title Game, a struggling offense struggled more than ever. The University of Michigan shook of a poor first half performance to defeat fourteen seeded University of Montana 61-47. A matchup against the University of Houston awaited in the round of thirty-two. A offensive struggle through and through both teams highlighted why their defenses belonged at the top of the country. Freshman guard Jordan Poole ended the game with a buzzer beater three to propel the Wolverines into the sweet sixteen with a 64-63 victory over Houston. The Wolverines finally turned on the offense by blowing out the seventh seeded Aggies of Texas A&M University 99-72. Despite the offense struggling yet again, the Wolverines proved themselves with a 58-54 victory of Florida State University to advance to their first final four since 2013. Michigan faced-off against cinderella and America’s darling the Ramblers of Loyola University-Chicago. Despite a valiant effort from the Ramblers, the clock finally struck midnight on a tournament run for the ages with the Wolverines coming out victorious 69-57.
The Wildcats entered the game as an overwhelming favorite. Despite a sluggish start, Wolverine’s star big-man Moritz Wagner kept the game steady for the Wolverines who fought back and forth with the Wildcats. The Wildcats began to slow down and something needed to change and change quickly. Head Coach Jay Wright decided on putting Big East Sixth Man of the Year Donte DiVincenzo, a little-known guard hailing from the state of Delaware. DiVincenzo, now known to some as the Michael Jordan of Delaware, simply couldn’t miss a shot. Michigan’s stout defense failed to find an answer to the shooting sensation. DiVincenzo and the Wildcats pulled away from the Wolverines winning the national title 79-62. DiVincenzo showed the nation why he belonged in the NBA draft conversation by hitting five of his seven three point attempts while scoring 31 points overall to lead the Wildcats to their second national title in three years.
“Villanova absolutely needed DiVincenzo to win the National Championship,” Brandon Owens ‘19 stated.
NBA bound swingman Mikal Bridges and the next level ready point guard Jalen Brunson helped DiVincenzo with 19 points and 9 points respectively. Despite a stagnant offensive, senior leader Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored 23 points and Wagner chipped in 16 in a losing effort.
Even though the Wolverines were one win away from naming themselves National Champs, there proves much to be proud off this season. Michigan won the Big Ten Postseason title for the second time in as many years while defeating arch rival Michigan State University twice during the season two feats very little experts thought achievable for the team.
The University of Villanova capped yet another astonishing season with their third national title in school history and the fourteenth out of the last fifteen champions to have the color blue prominent in their color scheme. The Wildcats the Big East Tournament Title once again and solidified their place as one of the all-time sport dynasties. A title proven well deserved.
“It was a historic season because of the amount of threes they hit and because their play-style was so different than every other team,” Josh Alverson ‘18 said.
With the national championship finished, a long off season for college basketball fans begins. Fans now watch their favorite collegiate players test the waters of the NBA draft and hopefully get drafted to star at the next level. The 2018-2019 tips-off in November while fans wait anxiously for the taste of yet another season. What does next season have in store for fans?