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Villanova is America’s newest blue-blood after second title in three years

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SAN ANTONIO — Donte 3-Vincenzo.

He’s Villanova’s sixth-man, and he’s also the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, as the Michael Jordan of Delaware went for 31 points, breaking Luke Hancock’s record for the most points scored by a bench player in a title game as Villanova won their second national title in three seasons, dispatching Michigan, 79-62, on Monday night in San Antonio. It’s the most points that anyone has scored in a national title game since 1989, when Seton Hall’s John Morton did it in overtime in a losing effort.

“Honestly, I did not think that I was going to have this kind of night,” he said. “I just found myself in a rhythm.”

But that is not the most impressive part of Villanova’s win.

This is: The Wildcats essentially did it without Jalen Brunson, the National Player of the Year.

Brunson struggled on Monday night. He finished with just nine points, two assists and two boards while shooting 4-for-13 from the floor. He also picked up his fourth foul with 10:51 left in the second half. Villanova held a 53-40 lead then. By the time he returned to the floor, with 3:21 left on the clock, the lead was 20 points and the game was over.

How many teams in the college basketball history can legitimately say they are good enough to win a national title game without that kind of contribution from the best player in the sport?

“It just shows you how much depth we have as a team,” Brunson said, “and how we just don’t care who gets the credit. If someone is hot, feed him.”

It’s why this Villanova team is the best program in college basketball.

“They’re smart, and if they don’t say [Villanova is the best] they’re dumb,” said former Wildcat Josh Hart, who was a star on the 2016 national title team before getting selected in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. “Point blank. If you don’t give Villanova the respect that it deserves now? You shouldn’t be writing.”

“It’s a blue-blood program,” Hart added, and while they may not be a blueblood by name, but they are by trade. It’s impossible to argue with the success that they’ve had. They are now 166-21 in the last five seasons, a stretch that has included four Big East regular season titles, three Big East tournament titles and an 88-15 record against Big East competition.

And while the new Big East isn’t the old Big East in terms of brand power and name cache, it may actually be a better basketball league. The conference has ranked in the top three nationally for each of the last four seasons, according to KenPom, and they are one of just two power conference programs that actually plays a full round-robin schedule.

Oh, and should I mention that, after tonight, they have a pair of national titles to boot?

For a program that, just three seasons ago, was known for bowing out of the NCAA tournament earlier than their seed says that they should, Villanova certainly has changed the narrative.

“That’s a testament to the coaching staff, coach Wright and the guys that he recruits,” said Kris Jenkins, another former Wildcats and the owner of the most famous shot in college basketball history.

And it starts with the toughness of the players on this roster.

The Wolverines actually led this game 21-14 midway through the first half and looked like they had a chance to take control.

The turning point came midway through the first half, when Villanova made a tactical adjustment on the defensive end of the floor. Having spent the first half of the first half — and, frankly, the majority of the season — switching all exchanges on the defensive end, Jay Wright quickly realized that John Beilein, offensive mastermind that he is, had spent the 48 hours between beating Loyola-Chicago and tipping off against Villanova figuring out a way to beat that defense.

So he changed up.

Instead of switching, Villanova started playing straight man-to-man.

This change coincided with two moments that seemed to spark the Wildcats. With 9:54 left in the half, a loose ball led to a tie-up between Mo Wagner and Phil Booth, and that led to some afters. Wagner bumped Booth. Booth had something to say about it, and it was clear throughout the rest of the game that, whatever Wagner did, the Villanova players were not happy about it. Wagner and Eric Paschall had to be separated during a free throw box-out a few minutes later, and early in the second half both Wagner and Omari Spellman were whistled for double-technicals.

Two minutes after the initial dust-up, Brunson showed more emotion than he’s shown in his entire career, pounding the ball over and over again and gesticulating at the officials as he was complaining about the defense that was being played on him by the perennially-annoying Zavier Simpson.

Whatever the cause was, the result was not good, not for the Wolverines.

They led 21-14 with 10:59 left in the first half.

They trailed 51-33 with 13:54 left in the game.

Wagner?

He scored 11 of Michigan’s first 21 points. He scored five points in the final 31 minutes.

But the story of this game wasn’t Wagner and it wasn’t Michigan.

It was DiVincenzo.

As he has been wont to do during this tournament, DiVincenzo entered a game where Villanova’s offense was somewhere between stagnant and putrid and turned it around. He put up 16 points in the first half of a win over Alabama in the second round where Villanova played like they wanted to get bounced in the first weekend again. He went for 25 points in a seven-point win at St. John’s in January, and 23 a couple weeks later at Marquette. He had a career-high 30 points in a win over Butler, including 20 in the second half, as Villanova erased a halftime deficit at home.

“This is nothing surprising for us,” Brunson said. “I’m just so thankful that he was able to have one of these nights tonight.”

On Saturday, he scored 18 of Villanova’s first 31 points. He scored 13 of those points in a 23-7 surge at the end of the half that turned Michigan’s 21-14 lead into a 37-28 deficit. That wasn’t the only time that he carried Villanova. After Brunson went out with his fourth foul, DiVincenzo scored nine points on the next three possessions, pushing the lead back to 18 points and effectively cutting down the nets as he was torching them.

“Even if we had played our best,” Beilein added, “it would have been very difficult to win that game with what DiVincenzo did. It was an incredible performance. Sometimes those individual performances just beat you, and you just say, ‘OK, we played you the best we could, and tonight, you were better than us.'”

“Hey, man,” Jenkins, a man who knows about moments, told DiVincenzo after the game. “Have yourself a moment, bruh.”

Report: Arizona State adds 7-foot-1 center

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Height has been something of an issue in recent years for Bobby Hurley and Arizona State. The Sun Devils took a step to remedy that Thursday.

Uros Plavsic, a 7-foot-1 center from Serbia has signed with Arizona State to become the fourth member of the program’s 2018 recruiting class, according to a report from 247 Sports’ Evan Daniels.

Plavsic, who is attending high school in Tennessee, originally committed to Cleveland State, but backed off that commitment last month before visiting Tempe this week.

“It was a great experience,” Plavsic told Scout. “They really took good care of me these past few days. Their campus is so, so big. The people here are nice. I met two guys I really liked and were important for a basketball team. Their facilities are crazy. Everything is in the same area.”

The Sun Devils ranked in the bottom half of the country in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage last year while ranking 265th in average height, according to KenPom.

“They were short the past two seasons,” he said about Arizona State. “They really needed a big guy and they can use me inside or can pass outside. They really need a big guy and I think I can help them out a lot next season.”

 

NCAA begins work of implementing complex basketball reforms

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The most difficult part of the NCAA’s attempt to clean up college basketball begins now.

Hours after former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice presented the Commission on College Basketball’s sweeping recommendations for reforming a sport weighed down by corruption, NCAA leaders set in motion the process for turning those ideas into reality.

The NCAA Board of Governors, a group of 16 university presidents and the association’s highest ranking body, unanimously endorsed all the commission’s recommendations Wednesday. Now it’s up to various subcommittees, working groups and college administrators to dig into a mountain of work over the next three months as the NCAA attempts to change NBA draft rules, create a new enforcement body, toughen penalties for rules violations, revamp summer recruiting and certify agents. All while trying to get buy-in from organizations that might not be motivated to help.

“It’s going to be a challenge to say the least,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said. “This is a pace of decision making that the association’s really never done on this kind of scale before.”

The Division I Council, comprised mostly of athletic directors and headed by Miami AD Blake James, has the job of turning the recommendations into rules. That requires feedback from schools, then council votes with some conference votes counting more heavily than others. Each proposal then goes to the Board of Directors, where a majority vote is needed to send it to the Board of Governors for final approval.

It’s a winding path — crossing 351 Division I schools with varied priorities and concerns — and requiring consensus building and compromise for measures to pass. NCAA rule changes can sometimes take a full calendar year to sort out.

“We’ve got to make sure we don’t let the good fall victim to the perfect here,” Emmert said. “Nobody believes we’re going to get everything perfect the first time through.”

The independent commission Rice led released a much-anticipated and detailed 60-page report , seven months after the group was formed in response to a federal corruption investigation that rocked college basketball. Ten people, including some assistant coaches, have been charged in a bribery and kickback scheme , and high-profile programs such as Arizona, Louisville and Kansas have been tied to possible NCAA violations.

“They believe the college basketball enterprise is worth saving,” Rice told the AP of commission members in an interview before addressing NCAA leaders. “We believe there’s a lot of work to do in that regard. That the state of the game is not very strong. We had to be bold in our recommendations.”

The proposals were wide-ranging, falling mostly into five categories: NBA draft rules, specifically the league’s 19-year-old age limit that has led to so-called one-and-done college players; non-scholastic basketball such as AAU leagues and summer recruiting events; the relationship between players and agents; relationships with apparel companies; and NCAA enforcement.

“Some people like some of (the recommendations) more than others, which is human nature, but as a board we’re unanimous in the endorsement and the acceptance of these recommendations for the NCAA,” said Minnesota President Eric Kaler, chairman of the Division I Board of Directors.

It’s not yet clear how the governing body would pay for some of the proposals, though the NCAA reported revenues of more than $1 billion dollars for fiscal year 2017 in its most recent financial disclosures.

The commission offered harsh assessments of toothless NCAA enforcement, as well as the shady summer basketball circuit that brings together agents, apparel companies and coaches looking to profit on teenage prodigies. It called the environment surrounding hoops “a toxic mix of perverse incentives to cheat,” and said responsibility for the current mess goes all the way up to university presidents.

It also defended the NCAA’s amateurism model, saying paying players a salary isn’t the answer.

“The goal should not be to turn college basketball into another professional league,” the commission wrote in its report.

The commission did leave open the possibility that college athletes could earn money off their names, images and likenesses , but decided not to commit on the subject while the courts are still weighing in.

Rice called the crisis in college basketball “first and foremost a problem of failed accountability and lax responsibility.”

ONE-AND-DONE

The commission emphasized the need for elite players to have more options when choosing between college and professional basketball, and to separate the two tracks.

The commission called for the NBA and its players association to change rules requiring players to be at least 19 years old and a year removed from graduating high school to be draft eligible. The one-and-done rule was implemented in 2006, despite the success of straight-from-high-school stars such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett.

“I’m confident they are going to be very supportive,” Emmert said of the NBA and NBAPA.

The NBA and players union praised the recommendations on enforcement and expressed concerns about youth basketball. On draft eligibility rules, however, there was no commitment.

“The NBA and NBPA will continue to assess them in order to promote the best interests of players and the game,” they said.

The commission did, however, say if the NBA and NBPA refuse to change their rules in time for the next basketball season, it would reconvene and consider other options for the NCAA, such as making freshmen ineligible or locking a scholarship for three or four years if the recipient leaves a program after a single year.

“One-and-done has to go one way or another,” Rice told the AP.

ENFORCEMENT

The commission recommended harsher penalties for rule-breakers and that the NCAA outsource the investigation and adjudication of the most serious infractions cases. Level I violations would be punishable with up to a five-year postseason ban and the forfeiture of all postseason revenue for the time of the ban. That could be worth tens of millions to major conference schools. By comparison, recent Level I infractions cases involving Louisville and Syracuse basketball resulted in postseason bans of one year.

Instead of show cause orders, which are meant to limit a coach’s ability to work in college sports after breaking NCAA rules, the report called for lifetime bans.

“The rewards of success, athletic success, have become very great. The deterrents sometimes aren’t as effective as they need to be. What we want are deterrents that really impact an institution,” said Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins, who was a member of the Rice commission.

AGENTS

The commission proposed the NCAA create a program for certifying agents , and make them accessible to players from high school through their college careers.

AAU AND SUMMER LEAGUES

The NCAA, with support from the NBA and USA Basketball, should run its own recruiting events for prospects during the summer , the commission said, and take a more serious approach to certifying events it does not control.

APPAREL COMPANIES

The commission also called for greater financial transparency from shoe and apparel companies such as Nike, Under Armour and Adidas. These companies have extensive financial relationships with colleges and coaches worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and Adidas had two former executives charged by federal prosecutors in New York in the corruption case.

 

ODU graduate transfer Trey Porter headed to Nevada

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Nevada is adding an immediate impact big to its roster.

The Wolf Pack received the commitment of Old Dominion graduate transfer Trey Porter, they announced Wednesday.

The 6-foot-10 Porter averaged 13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.3 blocks for ODU last season. He announced his decision to finish his career elsewhere last month.

“We are so excited about Trey Porter joining our Nevada Family,” Wolf Pack coach Eric Musselman said in a statement. “Trey is an incredible athlete, has tremendous length, and has huge upside. He is a great rebounder who can score the ball in the post and face up. He has phenomenal speed for his size and will really fit in our uptempo style on both ends of the floor.”

Porter, who began his career at George Mason, shot 58.8 percent from the field last season and registered four double-doubles.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to play at a program like Nevada,” Porter said in a statement. “As soon as I stepped on campus, I could tell how invested the coaching staff, program, and university were to my success and how I would fit in with the team. I am ready to get back to Reno and get to work on next season.”

Nevada upset Cincinnati and Texas in the NCAA tournament last season to reach the Sweet 16. They finished 29-8 overall. The Wolf Pack have uncertainty with their roster with Jordan Caroline, Caleb Martin and Cody Martin all testing the NBA draft waters.

Loyola extends Porter Moser through 2026

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A trip to the Final Four might prove significantly lucrative to Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser.

The Ramblers announced Wednesday that they reached a new contract agreement with Moser that will extend his deal through 2026 with what the Chicago Tribune called a “hefty raise” on his $420,000 per year salary, citing an anonymous source.

“As I have said many times before, I am a Catholic kid from Chicago who played in the Missouri Valley Conference,” Moser said in a statement released by the school. “This is the trifecta for me. We have invested so much time and energy in this program and I’m beyond excited to continue the journey. Watching Chicago as well as Loyola students, alumni and fans get excited for this team was exactly the vision we had when we took over the program.

“I will continue to challenge our fans to fill Gentile Arena as we did for the final home game to make it one of the best college basketball atmospheres in the country.”

The Ramblers went 32-6 last year, winning the Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament titles ahead of their magical run to the Final Four for the first time winning the NCAA tournament in 1963. They return three starters from the Final Four squad, including MVC player of the year Clayton Custer.

“We are excited to be able to announce a new contract for Porter that will keep him at Loyola a long time,” athletic director Steve Watson said. “He is the perfect fit for Loyola and operates his program the right way, with student-athletes who achieve excellence on the court and in the classroom and are also excellent representatives of the institution.

“We are fortunate to work at a university like Loyola, that values and has made a commitment to athletics. It is nice to reward Porter not just for an outstanding season, but also for the job he has done during his time here.”

 

Dayton adds Michigan transfer

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After two years with a limited role at Michigan, Ibi Watson is returning to his home state.

The Wolverines guard is transferring to Dayton, it was announced Wednesday.  

“We are very pleased to have Ibi join our Flyer Family,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said in a statement.  “He is a young man who knew what he wanted after leaving a great University and winning basketball team at Michigan.  He has seen first-hand what it takes to be successful at this level.”

Watson averaged just 5.2 minutes per game during his sophomore season in Ann Arbor. He will sit out the upcoming season and then have two years of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.

“I know he will utilize his redshirt year to improve himself in every way,” Grant said, “and having an experienced, talented player to go against every day in practice next season will only help our younger players grow.  Ibi is an important piece of our future. Our team and campus community will enjoy having him become a Flyer.”

The Pickerington, Ohio native was a first-team all state selection as a senior when he averaged more than 19 points per game. He now joins Dwayne Cohill, Jhery Matos and Frankie Policelli as Grant’s 2018 class.