Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Villanova: 2018 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Champions



SAN ANTONIO -- When he wasn't dribbling behind his back, winking to the TV announcers, stuffing shots or dishing out assists, Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo was making it rain.

First, 3-pointers.

Later on, confetti.

The redhead kid with the nickname Big Ragu came off the bench to make five 3s and score 31 points Monday to lift `Nova to another blowout victory in the NCAA Tournament -- this time 79-62 over Michigan for its second national title in three seasons.

The sophomore guard had 12 points and an assist during a first-half run to help the Wildcats (36-4) pull ahead, then scored nine straight for Villanova midway through the second to snuff out the Wolverines. He capped the second shooting skein with a 3-pointer from a step behind the arc. He punctuated it with a knowing wink over to the sideline, where TV announcers Jim Nantz and Bill Raftery were sitting.

Yep, he knew he could do it. And his teammates were more than willing to let him steal the show.

"If someone's hot, feed `em," said Jalen Brunson, the national Player of the Year, who finished with nine points and was perfectly fine with playing a supporting role on this night.

In taking the program's third overall title, Villanova won all six games by double digits over this tournament run, joining Michigan State (2000), Duke (2001) and North Carolina (2009) in that rare air.

The last team to win its two Final Four games by 16 or more: UCLA in 1968. During the dynasty.

One key question: Does Jay Wright's team belong on the list of the best of all-time?

Maybe so, considering the way Villanova dismantled everyone in front of it in a tournament that was dripping with upsets, underdogs and at least the appearance of parity.

Maybe so, considering the Wildcats won in seemingly every way imaginable. This victory came two nights after they set a Final Four record with 18 3-pointers (they had 10 in this one), and one week after they relied more on defense in a win over Texas Tech in the Elite Eight.

"We don't really look at it that way," Wright said. "We don't look at it as, did we just dominate that team? No. We played well."

And really, that debate's for later.

DiVincenzo squashed any questions about this game with a 10-for-15 shooting night -- 5 for 7 from 3 -that was, frankly, better than that. He was a no-doubt winner of the Final Four's most-outstanding-player award.

With Michigan trying to stay in striking range early in the second half, he opened his game-sealing run with an around-the-back dribble to get to the hoop and get fouled. On the other end, he delivered a two-handed rejection of Michigan's Charles Matthews -- his second block of the game, to go with five rebounds and three assists -- when Matthews tried to bring it into the paint.

The 3 that capped things off came from a big step behind the arc and gave Villanova a 62-44 lead with 7:58 left.

"Honestly, I didn't look at the score at all," DiVincenzo said. "I didn't know how many points I had. I didn't know any of that. I was just trying to make the right play. And Omari (Spellman) was setting unbelievable screens for me getting me open. And I was just feeling it."

About the only drama at the end was whether DiVincenzo could unwrap himself from his teammates' mob hug to hurl the ball underhanded toward the rafters after the buzzer. He succeeded there, too.

"Sometimes I think about whether I'm a good defender, because in practice, he makes me look bad," said junior Mikal Bridges, who likely made this his final audition for the NBA with a 19-point night on 7-for-12 shooting.

What a couple of months it's been for Philly. First the Eagles. Now this. The Super Bowl, though, was a classic. This one was only beautiful to one team.

Michigan (33-8) came out playing tough-nosed defense it relied on over a 14-game winning streak that got the Wolverines to their second final in six years.

Moe Wagner scored 11 early points to pick up where he left off in a dominating performance in the semifinal. Villanova started 1 for 9 from 3-point range. And yet, after DiVincenzo banged down a 3 from a step behind the arc for Villanova's second of the night, coach John Beilein looked at the scoreboard and saw his team behind, 23-21.

"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 coach said.

If his first 3 wasn't demoralizing enough, DiVincenzo made another, then took a bounce pass from Brunson for a dunk, then paid it forward with an assist to Spellman. It was part of a 23-7 run that gave the Wildcats a nine-point lead at halftime; they never looked back.

DiVincenzo competed hard for a starting spot this year, but didn't win it. He made the best of it as a sixth man. Wright waited all of 52 seconds in the second half to get him back on the floor.

"It just shows how much depth we have, and that we don't care who gets the credit," Brunson said.


Though he didn't play in the 2016 Final Four, DiVincenzo got his fair share of credit for that title, too.

His season cut short because of a knee injury, he was healthy enough to run the scout squad for Villanova. Some on the team said he was better at doing Oklahoma star Buddy Hield than Hield himself.

But maybe a more apt comparison is to ... Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

DiVincenzo joins them in the rare club of players to crack 30 points while also shooting better than 66 percent from the floor in a Final Four game.

Northern Colorado: 2018 College Insider Tournament Champions



The University of Northern Colorado will have to make some extra room in its trophy case at Bank of Colorado Arena.

The trophy that the Bears' men's basketball team earned from winning Friday afternoon's CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament is bigger than usual.

In fact, it's made out of solid wood.

The Bears let 6-foot-9 redshirt senior Tanner Morgan hoist the trophy above the fans who stormed the floor after the victory.

"He's the tallest," said senior Andre Spight, whose career ended with a 23-point performance.

UNC's title comes two years after being hit with NCAA infractions for violations committed by the former coaching staff, and included not participating in postseason play last season.

"It doesn't make any difference," redshirt sophomore guard Jonah Radebaugh said. "We just kept working and kept winning."

The Bears needed a strong defensive effort in the final two minutes to secure the victory over the Flames, who traveled for all three of their CIT games.

"Nobody complained, not once," UIC coach Steve McClain said. "We went on the road for the first one, and the second one when it was announced we'd have to come here, we got ready."

McClain is close friends with UNC golf coach Roger Prenzlow, who called him to inform him that a sellout crowd was expected.

"I said 'great,' McClain said. "We've gone on the road and played in front of huge crowds and won in Oakland and we've been on television in front of big crowds before."

UIC senior forward Tai Odiase said UNC's overflow crowd was as much of an inspiration to the Flames as it was the Bears.

"It was great," Odiase said.

The Flames were set to retrace their travel path to get home, including a four-hour flight to Washington, D.C., followed by a three-hour bus ride to Chicago.

North Texas: 2018 College Basketball Invitational Champions




DENTON, Texas -- Roosevelt Smart has led North Texas all season, so it was no surprise that he was the most valuable player in the deciding Game 3 of the College Basketball Invitational finals.

Smart, a sophomore who set UNT records for points and 3-point field goals this season, scored 25 points and made all 14 of his free throws in an 88-77 win over San Francisco on Friday night. The Mean Green were 32 for 43 from the line.

Smart said the free-throw success was no accident.

"Practice, really," he said. "After practice, we do this free-throw drill and got to make free throws."

The Mean Green trailed only once in the first half. They didn't panic when USF pulled within a point at 52-51 with 9:33 to play.

"We calmed down," UNT's A.J. Lawson said. "The season showed that we matured over time. In that situation, we could close a game just by calming down, passing the ball and hitting the open guy. Nobody tried to do anything spectacular and be a superhero."

First-year North Texas coach Grant McCasland called a timeout and set up a play for an unlikely player, Michael Miller.

"Mike was playing limited to no minutes at times, and all of sudden he steps in and makes some of the biggest shots," McCasland said. "I drew up a play for Mike. He went and caught it and got the basket."

Four of Smart's points came during an 8-1 run in the second half after USF rallied within 52-51. Smart made two free throws and then added two more when San Francisco coach Kyle Smith drew a technical foul.

"He loves to play, and he's a fantastic teammate," McCasland said.

The Mean Green lost the opener in the best-of-three matchup but won 69-55 Wednesday to set up the championship game.

They had lost seven of eight games before receiving their CBI bid.

The players, who had been planning for their spring break, won five of six in the tournament.

Frankie Ferrari led the Dons (22-17) with 19 points. Nate Renfro added 18 and Chase Foster had 12.

North Texas led 45-31 before USF began its comeback. Ferrari started the 20-7 run with two of his five 3-pointers in 11 attempts.

Jorden Duffy scored 14 points and Lawson and Miller each had 12 for UNT.

San Francisco played without center Matt McCarthy, who was injured in Game 2. In his place, Nick Loew and Jimbo Lull totaled eight points and eight rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

San Francisco: The Dons won their home game in the finals but lost both games at UNT. They stayed in the final game by making 12 3-pointers, bringing their season total to 333.


North Texas: The Mean Green had their first winning season since 2011-12. Their 20 wins were 12 more than a year ago. UNT had six 3-pointers for a season total of 302.

COULD RUSSELL BLOCK GREENE?

North Texas fans channeled the most famous athlete in each school's history with a sign that read, "Mean Joe Greene would have dunked on Bill Russell."

20-20 VISION

San Francisco has won 20-plus games in each of Smith's two seasons, and North Texas won 20 in McCasland's first season.

UP NEXT

San Francisco has had consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time since 1982. A third wouldn't be a stretch. Foster is one of only two Dons seniors.

North Texas also has only two seniors. "All the guys that played in this tournament, we return everybody," McCasland said. The CBI title could portend bigger things. The 2015 and 2016 champions, Loyola-Chicago and Nevada, reached at least the Sweet 16 in this season's NCAA tournament, with Loyola getting to the Final Four.

Penn State: 2018 National Invitation Tournament Champions



NEW YORK -- Flavor Flav had his red cap flipped backward as he pulled out his iPhone on the Madison Square Garden court. Flav held the camera steady and recorded cousin Shep Garner clip the final strands of the championship net and wave it toward the Penn State die-hards.

Flav's T-shirt at the NIT said it all for the Nittany Lions: Believe the hype!

Garner hit the 3-pointer that brought rapper and reality star Flavor Flav to his feet and helped send Penn State on its way to an NIT title in an 82-66 victory over Utah on Thursday night.

The fourth-seeded Nittany Lions (26-13) also knocked off No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the tournament en route to winning their first NIT title since 2009.

"This means the whole world to me right now," Flavor Flav said.

They were pretty pumped in Happy Valley, too.

"I think we set the standard," Garner said. "We preach defense and rebounding, but now we have something we can always go to. We won something. We're champions."

Flavor Flav, member of the seminal 1980s rap group Public Enemy, sang along to "Fight the Power" as it blasted in the Garden and had the PSU student section chanting "Flav! Flav! Flav!" as the Nittany Lions pulled away for a program-defining championship under coach Pat Chambers.

Lamar Stevens scored 28 points, Josh Reaves had 18 and Tony Carr had 15 points and 14 assists for Penn State.

Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center has a long-standing reputation as one of the dreariest arenas in college basketball. Penn State fans, from rappers to silver-haired alumni, filled the Garden for a decided crowd advantage.

Penn State football coach James Franklin, who led the program to a Pinstripe Bowl victory in 2014, was in the house. Flavor Flav stole the show a few rows behind the PSU bench. Wearing a T-shirt that read "33 Shep Garner," Flavor Flav danced all night in his seat. Flavor Flav popped his T-shirt and raised the roof in the same arena where Public Enemy once tore down the house.

"I think we've proven to teams across the country that Penn State basketball is here to stay," Chambers said.

The clutch moment came in the third quarter when Garner -- who became Penn State's career 3-point leader in the tournament run -- hit a 3 for his first basket of the game and a 49-41 lead that had the fans going wild.

"To see my cousin break records, win trophies, all that, he deserves it," Flavor Flav said. "The whole team deserves it."

Reaves hit a crashing layup on a three-point play that stretched the lead to 11 and Stevens wagged his tongue toward the PSU fans on a jumper that helped blow open the game.

Flavor Flav raised an arm in the air when Garner sank a 3 early in the fourth for a 68-49 edge that all but put this one away.

The final minutes certainly put some flava in your ear -- half the MSG crowd chanted "We Are!" and the other half bellowed "Penn State!"

Yeah, boy!

Sedrick Barefield hit six 3s and scored 22 points for second-seeded Utah (23-12).

"You're always kind of watching the NIT and maybe you think of it as the consolation prize or whatever," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "They have no idea how cool this was for us."

BIG PICTURE:

Utah: David Collette, Justin Bibbins and Tyler Rawson are among the seniors moving on. ... Bibbins scored 15 points.


Penn State: Stevens reached 1,000 career points was named most outstanding player. ... Chambers, a former assistant coach under Jay Wright at Villanova, took over in 2011 and has struggled to find any kind of regular success. The Nittany Lions have never made the NCAA Tournament under Chambers and they'll have just their second winning record in seven seasons. But Penn State's 26 wins are second-highest in program history. The Nittany Lions won a record 27 games in 2008-09.

BIG CROWD

The 11,175 fans at MSG were the most for an NIT final since 2005.

"And you say we're a football school," Chambers cracked.

SOMETHING DIFFERENT

The NIT was a bit of a mad scientist in the college basketball lab. The game featured four 10-minute quarters. The tournament also implemented the FIBA 3-point line (22 feet, 1.75 inches), NBA-width lane of 16 inches, and a 20-second shot clock following offensive rebounds.