Villanova’s Dominance Proves the Power of a Well-Built Program

This story appears in the April 23, 2017, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here.

This was supposed to be a college basketball season with no truly great team, an odd year defined by top-of-the-polls tumult that would leave the NCAA tournament open for the taking. Yet on the first Monday in April there was Villanova, laying waste to both that tired narrative and to Michigan on an elevated court in San Antonio’s Alamodome, with a majestic brand of ball at once modern in its approach and old-school in its mind-set. There was the national player of the year palming the ball in his left hand and shouting in celebration after the final buzzer, then sobbing—joyfully—minutes later. There was a bench player nicknamed the Big Ragu and the Michael Jordan of Delaware scoring a career-high 31 points and winking at a former teammate in the stands. There was a sixth, and final, win by double figures to seal the program’s second national title in three seasons. There, finally, was greatness.

The Wildcats’ 79–62 win coronated both this year’s champion and the sport’s newest royalty. Since the end of UCLA’s dynasty in the mid-1970s only three other schools have won two national championships in as short a span, the last being Florida’s back-to-back titles in 2006 and ’07. 

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