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The Morning Dish – Tuesday, April 3, 2018

April 3, 2018 The Morning Dish No Comments

Villanova national championship teams in 1985 and 2016 were defined in part by significant Italian American characters. Should it have been any surprise when another came up huge to lead the Wildcats to a title 2018 too?

Villanova legends Rollie Massimino and Ryan Arcidiacono have now been joined by another whose name ending with an ‘o’ will go down in school history. Sophomore guard Donte DiVincenzo certainly wasn’t the best-known player on this year’s Wildcat team, but he was on a level of his own Monday night, and because of it Nova is national champions for the second time in three years after rolling past Michigan 79-62 to close out the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

From his role as a valuable sixth man, DiVincenzo exploded for 31 points, a Final Four record for a player off the bench. Eighteen came in the first half, when he almost single-handedly turned around a game that did not start well for the Wildcats. And whether he was contributing points, three-pointers (five of them), rebounds (five more), assists (three), blocked shots (two) or even a resounding backdoor cut for a dunk, DiVincenzo put together an all-timer of a performance in the national title game.

It couldn’t have been more timely, too, as Villanova took Michigan’s best shot early. For 12 minutes it looked like this just might be the Wolverines’ night. They hit shots early, were sticky defensively and were a step ahead of the Wildcats, leading by seven early on. It’s easy to forget that for a time, it actually looked like John Beilein’s team had a significant upper hand.

Villanova was a championship team through and through, though. The team’s flashy offense and three-point sniping gets all the attention, and sure enough, there were 10 three-pointers even after a 1-for-9 start from deep. The Wildcats’ unselfishness, defense and ability to rebound, though, never get their due, and they’re every bit a reason for the program’s success.

DiVincenzo picked up the slack on a night when national player of the year Jalen Brunson was relatively quiet with nine points. Nova also outrebounded Michigan 38-27 (in particular, Eric Paschall’s rebounds several times were the definition of strong) and shut down Moritz Wagner after a hot start. Even as the Wildcats got off to a slow start, it was their unrelenting effort in every phase of the game that made Michigan look like a team lacking the guns to keep up once Nova got rolling.

Villanova completed a run through the NCAA Tournament that included six consecutive wins by double-digit margins. It was hard to tell this season when even Nova was losing to teams like Butler (a 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament), Providence (another 10 seed) and St. John’s (a 9 seed-in the Big East tourney), but it turned out we really did have a dominant team this year. In every area-including having a rotation dominated by four juniors that we’ve now gotten to see play for the past 3-4 years-the Wildcats were a pleasure to watch and are a very worthy champion.

With another title, Jay Wright also now has two national titles in three years, joining Mike Krzyzewski (1991 and 1992) and Billy Donovan (2006 and 2007) as the only two coaches to win as much as two championships in three years since the end of John Wooden’s iconic run at UCLA. When Villanova won the title two years ago, one oft had the feeling that it was still seen as something of a fluke, a nice program outside the top tier getting on a roll one time. There should be no doubt anymore: Wright has built a program that right now is nothing less than the very best in the country.

Side Dishes:

  • Bryant officially announced Jared Grasso as its new head coach on Monday. Grasso has plenty of experience in the Northeast and in the Northeast Conference, having played four years at Quinnipiac from 2002-06 when it was part of the league. Most recently, he was at Iona the last eight years as part of Tim Cluess’s very successful teams, and this has been widely regarded as an excellent move for the Bulldogs.
  • San Diego announced Monday night that Sam Scholl has been promoted to head coach. Scholl was the team’s interim coach in the CIT after Lamont Smith was put on leave and eventually resigned. Scholl is an alum of USD, and it should be noted he takes over a team that was one of the more pleasant surprises for the first couple months of the season, and that still finished 20-14 and advanced to the CIT semifinals.
  • A number of players declared for the NBA Draft yesterday. The most notable were Michigan State’s Jalen Jackson and Penn State’s Tony Carr, as both indicated they will be signing with an agent, ending their collegiate careers. It’s a blow especially for Penn State, which was primed for high expectations next year but those definitely are taken down a notch now. Also declaring but not hiring agents will be Miami (Fla.)’s Dewan Huell and Clemson’s Sheldon Mitchell and Marquise Reed.
  • North Alabama has hired Tony Pujol as its new coach. Pujol has been an assistant at Wyoming the last two years and has 14 years as a Division I assistant coach, which will come in handy as the Lions begin their transition to Division I in 2018-19 as a member of the Atlantic Sun.
  • A little nugget about TV ratings from the Final Four games on Saturday, one that should’ve gotten some attention, but maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that it didn’t as the media has had no interest in covering it for going on 12 years now. The national semifinal game between Loyola and Michigan delivered viewing ratings 29% higher than the first national semi two years ago, the last time TBS hosted them. (Comparisons to years when CBS hosts the games aren’t valid, as CBS is in considerably more households and thus automatically generates bigger ratings) The ratings for Loyola/Michigan also were far higher than the matchup between Villanova and Kansas, a blowout almost from the start that nonetheless had the prime time slot and two well-known, name-brand programs that we’re to believe have massive amounts more appeal than no-names like Loyola this year or Butler, George Mason, VCU or Wichita State in the past.
    It’s a statistical fact that Loyola’s games in the tourney drew eyeballs (and it wasn’t just in the Final Four, either, as Sports Media Watch reported last week). Given how often we’re told that teams like Loyola just don’t attract television audiences and only big names do, it should’ve piqued a responsible media’s interest at least somewhat that such a theory was disproven…no? This also was hardly an outlier either, as ratings for the 2011 Final Four game between Butler and VCU showed, as did ratings for George Mason’s run in 2006. At what point does this story actually start getting acknowledged, that maybe the general public really does enjoy the underdog in college sports, and wants to see more of them, not less?
  • Finally, Hoopville’s Phil Kasiecki didn’t waste any time posting his extra-extra-early preseason top 25 for next season, sharing it last night right here.

Tonight’s Menu:

  • Nothing. The season is over and the offseason begins, but The Morning Dish will continue for a few more days this week before taking a break for the summer.

Have a terrific Tuesday.

Twitter: @HoopvilleAdam

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College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

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"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
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"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
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Review on Hoopville coming soon!

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