Villanova Dominates Michigan en route to 2nd Championship in 3 years

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In one of the most impressive displays in college basketball history, the Villanova Wildcats defeated the Michigan Wolverines 79-62 to win the 2018 NCAA Men’s DI Championship. Head coach Jay Wright has helped cement his legacy, while legitimately turning Villanova into a college basketball dynasty. The Wildcats were the 2016 champions, and that squad was (arguably) more effective than this year’s squad. Last year’s team lost in the second round of the tournament, a huge disappointment. But what this group of young men did is show the value of staying in school, as four of the team’s best players were juniors. This includes possible Chicago Bulls draft pick Mikal Bridges and Lincolnshire, Illinois-native Jalen Brunson. The breakout star of the NCAA title game was redshirt sophomore Donte DiVincenzo. He scored 31 points off the bench, breaking the NCAA record for point in a game by a reserve.

The 2018 NCAA Tournament lived up to the hype, despite the somewhat predictable outcome. They were many upsets throughout the tournament. Smaller programs were able to build up their reputation. And now upset was bigger than the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) became the first 16-seed in NCAA history to knock off a 1-seed.

Illinois-area basketball was represented thoroughly in this year’s tournament. Of course the biggest Chicago connection was former Simeon Wolverines standout Donte Ingram, who was a key player on Loyola-Chicago. Ingram knows what it takes to build a winning program, having won a Class 4A state championship his junior year at Simeon. He and his teammates bonded around the leadership of stellar head coach Porter Moser, and the inspiration provided by the nation’s favorite story, team chaplain Sister Jean. Loyola’s roster contained five Illinois-area players, and their first Final Four appearance in 55 years will hopefully lead to them landing more top-level Illinois-area talent in the future.

In the 2018 NCAA title game, Michigan vs Villanova had it’s own local ties. I already mentioned Brunson, who won a 2015 IHSA Class 4A championship with Stevenson high school, along with being a two-time Illinois Boys’ Basketball Gatorade Player of the Year and Illinois Mr. Basketball in 2015. Michigan relied on the talents of Moritz Wagner (pronounced MO-reets VAUG-ner) and Charles Matthews to get to the title game. And Matthews was raised on the South Side of Chicago, where the local YMCA helped him hone his game. He was an excellent player at St. Rita’s, where his teams won the Chicago Catholic League South all four years he attended.

So that’s it for the 2018 NCAA college basketball season. Villanova put the sports world on notice, letting them know that the Wildcats will not be falling off anytime soon. They only had three seniors on their team- none of which played major roles on the team -and that means that this team could return a large chunk of players next season. THAT is the recipe for long-term success for college basketball programs. Illinois-area products Jalen Brunson and Charles Matthews are likely- not definitely -headed to the NBA Draft, or at least to the NBA Draft combine that takes place in Chicago around mid-May. And Donte Ingram will be graduating, and hopefully we will see him the league as well. But 2018 showed that, much like everything in life, long-term growth and development is the key to major success.

Follow me on Twitter @ZenMasterMike

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