The Wildcats' sixth-man scored a career-high 31 points and won most outstanding player of the Final Four as Villanova beat MI 79-62 on Monday night for its second NCAA Tournament championship in three seasons.
You could see it early in the second half, when MI star center Moe Wagner missed a textbook blockout on a defensive rebound opportunity. Wagner had 11 points already, his 24 points and 15 rebounds against Loyola Chicago Saturday still fresh in all the minds.
"When the National Player of the Year (Jalen Brunson) is on the sideline with four fouls for the majority of the second half and you're still winning?" Wagner initiated a drive into the open lane that beckoned behind Brunson, but Wagner unnecessarily raised arm to the side and struck the defender near his shoulder. These generations of Villanova basketball greats wanted to be in San Antonio to watch their Wildcats win a national championship against MI.
It's a far cry from the narratives of five years ago. When I looked at their scores in the NCAA Tournament, there were not even any close ones. MI was within reach by halftime, going down by 9 points, 37-28. "But I do feel, I feel for the kids though". He was cleared to play in the tournament after having broken a bone in his left hand at the beginning of February, causing him to miss the latter portion of the team's regular season and the WCAC playoffs.
"We have a chart with three years-three years out-and then a list under the chart of all the players we're recruiting, and we have a roster of our team on that chart that we all carry with us, and we change it, we change it based on our guys' play", Wright said. We not only believed the Wildcats fell short of college basketball history's special teams, but that everyone in this season did.
The ratings for the national title game may have reached an all-time low, but they still won the night overall. 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. "You've got a shot".
Philly is starting to get used to being winners. When they lost to St. John's, it was Booth and Paschall. They had a message for Gillespie, he said, for next season and beyond.
MI was 9-5 this season when trailing at halftime, including Saturday's comeback victory against Loyola-Chicago, which propelled the Wolverines to the national championship game for the first time since 2013, when they lost to Louisville.
"I said to myself, 'I'm never gonna do that again, '" Wright recalled. "But in the long run, there's a lot of joy in what we just went through". "To experience this is a dream come true".
One key question: Does Jay Wright's team belong on the list of the best of all-time?
"We play for those who came before us", Gillespie said in the postgame locker room, repeating the motto. "Those injuries kind of helped us out". From 13 three-point shots in the first half Saturday night, the Wildcats had made one.
This certainly isn't to say that spending more time playing in college is the only way to success; LeBron James would certainly scoff at that notion; but with all the talk of getting rid of the one year requirement and allowing high schoolers to jump straight into the G League, nobody should discount the benefits of sticking around the college ranks. Everybody had to step up. He was named Most Outstanding Player.
"We don't really look at it that way", Wright said.
Villanova had more second-chance points with 10, compared to Michigan's 7.