SAN ANTONIO (NBC) -- 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.