NOVA DOMINATE IN 79-62 WIN OVER MICHIGAN
With nothing on the UofL sports calendar today, and the National Championship game having been played last night for NCAA Men's Basketball, I thought we'd take a brief diversion from our normal coverage of UofL women's sports and discuss the title game. Villanova and Jay Wright.
In any event, it was a convincing win by the Villanova Wildcats, getting huge play from a non-starter in Dante DiVincenzo with 31 points. The Wildcats overcame an early seven-point deficit to lead 37-28 at the half. DiVincenzo isn't a "one and done"...like so many that are on the UK and Duke rosters. He didn't even start the second half after 18 first-half points. They call the redhead "the Big Ragu" and his sauce smothered the Wolverine defense all night. Two titles in three years, now, for the Big East school located in Philadelphia.
Jalen Brunson from Villanova, the National Player of the Year, had no trouble surrendering the spotlight to DiVincenzo last night. The "if he's hot, feed him" philosophy worked quite well. DiVincenzo just seems to have fun out on the court, winking at the TV announcers after sinking a three early in the second half. The Wildcats dominance in this six-game stretch was impressive. They won all six games by double-digits plus.
For Michigan, the beleaguered also-ran in the title game...a continuance of the Big 10 syndrome over the past 15 or so years of one of their conference schools reaching the final game and failing to launch. Louisville did it to Michigan back in 2013. You can go back to almost the start of the century and see the other "second best" efforts out of the conference.
So, let's look at Jay Wright...who has definitely secured his spot as one of the best "younger" coaches in Division I NCAA basketball. Wright goes after players that fit his system...a system that appears to be working just fine. Nova hasn't had a recruiting class that has been ranked in the top 25 in the last five years.
Wright is a players coach. Wright chooses not to bring in the "next NBA superstars" that John Calipari prizes so dearly and wins with effort, team-work, consistency and getting his players to perform to the best of their abilities in a system that stays with what got them there....hitting threes and playing defense. The three-ball was a rough thing to find early for VU....going 1-9...but they eventually found the mark on the trifecta and sank 10 for the night. Two nights earlier, they bucketed 18 threes against Texas Tech.
So, has Wright established a burgeoning dynasty at Villanova? And, does the NBA come calling now? There will be more than just a few head coaching vacancies after the end of the NBA season. Do dollars draw Jay away from the NCAA? One could hardly blame him for making the "money grab". The thing is, can his style of basketball work in the pros? I certainly hope he puts on blinkers and stays away from the lure of the "bright lights, big city" appeal of the professional basketball league. He needs to stay in a conference that also produced Chris Mack, a name that Cardinal fans have come to know quite well over the last two weeks.
The Big East has weaned itself from the football powers that dotted their landscape just a few years ago. Small schools with Catholic ties for the most part now. Xavier, Nova, Seton Hall, Creighton, Butler, Providence, Marquette, Georgetown, St. John and DePaul. A big change from the days of the early 1990's when Rutgers, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Miami, Syracuse, Boston College and UConn claimed conference membership. This 'Nova team has the swagger of one of those old Big East basketball powers, though. The days of "little Louie" and his sweater. Rollie, John Thompson, Boeheim and Calhoun.
A heck of a year for the city of Brotherly Love. The Super Bowl and now the NCAA Championship. Maybe the Phillies next? Maybe Bionca Dunham, Louisville WBB player and native of the "Cheese-steak capital of the world"...maybe she's the MVP of the women's tournament next year? Philly's on a roll. All this, from a town and fan base who booed Santa Claus a few years back and threw snow balls at him...
Have a great, wet Tuesday. Baseball and softball later this week, if the weather cooperates. All that about April showers bringing May flowers, you know. And wet basements and driveway puddles...
ON NEGOTIATIONS AND SUCH...
I took to Facebook a few days back to release some thoughts on the rumor circulating about Jeff Walz leaving Louisville. The entry got a good amount of response. Walz, for all we know, will or maybe already has started negotiations with A.D. Vince about a contract.
I wanted to share a response with you from my ol' pal Cliff Travis:
"Hopefully, any negotiations will include benefits for the program - a seating/ticketing program that builds fans, more fan promos, more fan activities/promos for the players, etc. There should be a row of "women's banners" in the KFC YUM! Center rafters.
There is a lot of excitement for the team - last year thaat would have meant higher ticket prices and seat taxes. Hopefully, that won't happen this year - but, instead, changes will be toward those that are coach, player and fan friendly.
The men's team should be encouraged to attend women's games and there should be a lot of student promotions, free student tickets for the student section, student prizes and promos. Build a rowdy fan base through the students (you know, the actual college basketball fans). Bring in more youth groups and b-ball teams in their uniforms.
Let's hear from you. Your thoughts?
I can recall going to WKU a few years ago to watch the WBB squad tangle with the Hilltoppers in Diddle Arena. Sonya and my media seats were literally right in front of the student section. What I witnessed, in addition to a Louisville loss, was a rowdy student fan-base that had yell-leaders, free pizza, cheerleaders that performed for them and fed off their responses. It was a bit exciting and kind of over-whelming.
They even targeted me...a few of the kids in the front row imploring me to share stat sheets with them and inquiring on how I was going to write the game up and thanking me for sending Michelle Clark-Heard to Western. (I deny any role in that move). Some were even asking Sonya how she ended up with "such an old man". It was all mostly good-natured and, guess what...even despite the loss, it was FUN. Even Michelle Clark-Heard came over and welcomed us to Diddle. She seemed genuinely happy we made the 1 1/2 hour drive. She teased me about converting me over to WKU women's hoops.
|So close. THe final shot in regulation by Louisville against|
What do you want to see out of 2018-19 Cardinal WBB? Comments section is open, have a "take".
AND THE WINNER IS...
Congratulations to Ken S. who took our NCAA WBB Pick 'EM by one point over The Real Joe Hill. There was a big-log jam for third place...no room on the platform for all you bronze medal winners!
We had a great turnout for the event and once again, a special thanks to Jared Anderson for being Bracket Czar.