By Blake Froling
This one’s gonna sting for a while.
The Wolverines lost 79-62 to Villanova on Monday night in San Antonio, a disappointing end to an incredible ride. ‘Nova started off slow in the opening minutes, falling behind as many as seven thanks to the harassing defense of Michigan. Then the shots started falling and Donte DiVincenzo erupted, and John Beilein’s crew couldn’t make a shot.
That shouldn’t take away from the incredible season the Wolverines had. A Big Ten Tournament title, a school record 33 wins and most importantly, a trip to the National Championship game. Moe Wagner told everyone to keep their heads up after the loss.
Right out of the gate, it looked like Wagner was going to dominate like he did against Loyola Chicago in the Final Four, scoring nine points in the first five minutes. But Villanova clamped down and he scored seven points in the final 35 minutes to finish with 16.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led Michigan with 23 points and tried to will the Wolverines back into the game. Villanova was just too strong, DiVincenzo too hot.
It’s tough to beat an offensive juggernaut like Villanova when you shoot 3-23 from beyond the arc, no matter how good your defense is.
Michigan held the National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson to nine points on 4-13 shooting and Big East Freshman of the Year Omari Spellman to eight. Normally that’s a recipe for success when you play Villanova, until the Big East Sixth Man of the Year goes off.
John Beilein has a legitimate case for Coach of the Year for the job he did with this team. No one expected them to make this kind of a run, except for maybe Seth Wells. Beilein had a revolving door at point guard, Charles Matthews was up and down and Duncan Robinson couldn’t hit a three to save his life. Then it all clicked.
Next year’s team could be just as dangerous. Wagner and Matthews might go to the NBA, but neither is a lock to go in the first round. Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers impressed as freshmen and will see their roles expand. Zavier Simpson turned into a lock-down defender and capable floor general. And don’t forget about the recruiting class that includes three four-star prospects, according to ESPN.
It may hurt now, but Michigan fans will look back on this run with immense pride, and look ahead to years of competing with the blue bloods. They might even become one pretty soon if they keep this up.