There was no denying Villanova.
For the second time in three years, the top-seeded Wildcats are national champions in men’s college basketball, knocking off No. 3 Michigan 79-62 in front of 67,831 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. It’s the third title for Villanova in program history, with the other coming in 1985.
Villanova, who was a heavy favorite, won all six of its NCAA tournament games by double digits.
The Wildcats’ recipe for success: Don’t be shy about shooting the basketball, especially from deep. That strategy overall has paid dividends: It’s the best offensive team head coach Jay Wright — now with two titles — has had.
“I really can’t get my mind around it,” Wright said on the TBS broadcast. “I never dreamt of this.”
Initially, though, the Wildcats started cold Monday night, and the Wolverines grabbed a 21-14 lead.
But thanks to the help of sixth man Donte DiVincenzo, the Wildcats went on a 22-7 run to close the half and led by nine. DiVincenzo, a redshirt sophomore from Wilmington, Delaware, is nicknamed “The Big Ragu,”presumably for his Italian name and red hair. He was close to unstoppable in the first half, scoring 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting. The rest of the team was 7 of 21.
DiVincenzo — out with a broken foot when Villanova won the title in 2016 — finished with 31, his career high and a record for a player coming off the bench in a national championship game. He was named Most Outstanding Player.
“My teammates were just finding me early,” DiVincenzo said to Westwood One. “I was just trying to be aggressive. I found myself hot, so I just kept going.”
Six players, including DiVincenzo, average scoring in double figures for Villanova (36-4), and the team led the nation in scoring and ranked sixth in field goal percentage this season. On Monday, there were just two with double digits: DiVincenzo and junior Mikal Bridges, who had 19 points.
Villanova set records for the most three-pointers made in a single NCAA tournament and in a single season. It also smashed the record for most threes made in the Final Four in a blowout win against No. 1 seed Kansas with 18. The Wildcats weren’t as scorching Monday, hitting 10 out of 27 threes.
But with DiVincenzo, it was too much for Michigan (33-8), ending an impressive run for a team aiming to win its first national title since 1989.
Three months ago, the Wolverines were unranked in the AP poll. But they stormed through the end of the regular season and NCAA tournament with a 14-game win streak, including winning the Big Ten tournament championship.
Senior Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led Michigan with 23 points, while junior Moritz (Moe) Wagner had 16.
“We couldn’t get it going at either end,” Michigan head coach John Beilein said to TBS. “Credit Villanova in both respects. They really played very good defense. Everybody talks about their offense. I think that’s what’s really underrated is how good they are defensively. I thought we did get some open shots. We didn’t make them. And that was going to be important tonight.
“The way DiVincenzo shot the ball, it was just incredible for us to try to win that game with the roll he went on.”
The Wolverines were in the national championship game for the second time in six seasons. In 2013, they lost to Louisville, whose title since has been vacated because of a sex scandal that surrounded the Cardinals men’s basketball program.
While Michigan couldn’t pull off the upset, this March Madness had its share of uplifting underdog stories.
For the first time in men’s tournament history, a 16 seed beat a No. 1, with UMBC stunning Virginia.
The star of the tournament was 98-year-old nun Sister Jean, the team chaplain for Loyola-Chicago. But the Ramblers, too, were worthy of the headlines, reaching the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.
The shocks extended to the women’s tournament as well. Notre Dame, down to just seven scholarship players after four players suffered ACL injuries, had buzzer-beaters — both by Arike Ogunbowale — to upend UConn in the Final Four and Mississippi State to win the national title.