11 things to watch for in Monday's Villanova vs. Michigan national championship game
SAN ANTONIO – Sixty-six down, Michigan and Villanova to go.
The NCAA tournament is a two-team duel now, and here are 11 things that might — or might not — happen Monday night in the Alamodome.
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2. At the end of the day, after all the disarray of this NCAA tournament, a No. 1 seed is finishing one of the most dominant runs in memory. Villanova has won all five games by double digits, by an average margin of 17.8. The last champion to win all six by double figures was North Carolina in 2009. The throttling of Kansas, that included 13 3-pointers in the first half at one end and suffocating defense at the other, could not have been more impressive.
“They were unbelievable,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said from the wrong end of that score. “If I ever watch the game tape — which I know what happened, so I probably won’t — I’ll think more about how good Villanova was.”
And from the right end: “Just one of those nights,” Wright said. “We made every shot to start the game.”
3.) An ugly championship game. For Michigan’s sake, the uglier the better. Because if it’s an offensive show . . .
“That’s not what we hang our hat on, or shot-making ability,” the Wolverines’ Duncan Robinson was saying. “We hang our hats on the defensive end.”
Michigan has allowed one opponent to break 70 in regulation in seven weeks. That stat is about to get a stern challenge.
4.) The team record for 3-pointers in a national championship game is 12. Does anyone expect Villanova – after 13 in the first 17 minutes Saturday night – not to shatter it?
5.) Only the fifth meeting between these two schools in history. One was a 59-55 Villanova win in the second round in 1985, part of the Wildcats' ride to the title. They’re not the No. 8 seed this time.
6.) Michigan becoming the 16th school with multiple championships, while ending the Big Ten’s 17-year title drought and becoming only the third No. 3 seed to win the title in 29 years. “It’s something we always talk about,” Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman said. “That’s how you’re remembered at the University of Michigan, it’s by championships.”
7.) Jalen Brunson adding the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four to national player of the year – a rare double, indeed. Not that he’s thinking much about it. “You cherish a championship and these bonds for a long time,” he said. “Those awards only last for so long.” Then again, he won't win the MOP if teammate Eric Paschall goes 10-for-11 shooting and 4-for-5 in 3-pointers again.
8.) Moe Wagner, Michigan hero for the ages if he can pull this off.
9.) Villanova losing the edge after Saturday’s virtuoso performance.
10.) Or not. Doesn’t sound like they plan on it.
Not from Donte DiVincenzo: “When we came in (the locker room), we knew we were in the national championship game. You have to take that in for a second, you have to recognize it, and then you have to move forward.”
Nor Brunson: “We’ll try to be the best team we can be on Monday night. That’s all we’ve worked for, to be the best team we can be by the end of the year.”
Nor Omari Spellman: “Just coming out, ready to compete and defend and rebound and continue to do what we do. We don’t pride ourselves on shooting the ball well. We pride ourselves on defending and rebounding, and that’s our true measure of success in playing Villanova basketball.
“We will celebrate when the job is done.”
11.) And finally, Michigan a big enough underdog in some eyes to almost be Loyola — without the nun.
“We know they’re a great team, because they’ve gotten to this point,” DiVincenzo said.
“We’re still hungry. We feel like we can be national champions,” Abdur-Rahkman said.
That was right after Michigan’s victory, before he knew who the Wolverines would be playing. A few minutes later, Villanova led Kansas 22-4.