Turns out rise-up threes are difficult to guard. [Bryan Fuller]
Someone finally solved Michigan's defense.
It took Villanova's historically great offense and Donte DiVincenzo's all-timer of a game. After a slow start, the Wildcats overwhelmed Michigan, going 17-for-30 inside the arc, 10-for-27 from beyond it, and grabbing 12 offensive rebounds. When they missed shots, they followed them. When they pulled up for three, they struck the fear of God into your heart. They were so good they didn't even need double-digit points from Jalen Brunson, the national player of the year, to take home their second national title in three years.
The team that wasn't supposed to be here looked, unfortunately, like they weren't supposed to be here. For the fifth time in six tournament games, Michigan's offense looked out of sorts, and they couldn't afford that against Nova. The Wolverines shot a woeful 3-for-23 from beyond the arc. Moe Wagner scored 11 quick points, then only five the rest of the way, looking increasingly frustrated by his misses and fouls. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman tried to carry the team in his final collegiate game, only for his 23 points to go for naught. No other Michigan player reached double digits until Zavier Simpson's layup with under four minutes to play.
Thus capped an unbelievable run for a Michigan team unlike any we've seen since John Beilein's arrival. They came one game short of a most improbable national title with a couple transfers and freshmen added to the leftovers from last year's similarly improbable run to the Sweet Sixteen. Depending on NBA Draft decisions, this team may only lose Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson, and they bring in arguably the most talented recruiting class Beilein has landed. Even if Wagner (or, less likely, Charles Matthews) goes pro, they will be loaded for another deep postseason run.
Tonight went as many expected, and every missed opportunity at a national championship stings. We got a lot more out of this team than anyone imagined, though. The heads may hang tonight, but this group will stand tall forever, and this may well be the precursor to something even greater.
[Hit THE JUMP for the more photos box score.]
All photos from San Antonio by Bryan Fuller. All photos from the Crisler Center by Marc-Gregor Campredon.