Author: Wendell Barnhouse

Culture club: Villanova rolls to its second title in three seasons

SAN ANTONIO – Culture, when applied to a college program, has become a cliche. But cliches are cliches because they’re true. The word is applicable for programs that win more often than they lose – especially winning national championships. Alabama coach Nick Saban has established a culture in Tuscaloosa (even if the phrase “culture in Tuscaloosa” is an oxymoron.) Villanova is the cultural center of college basketball. The Wildcats have set a four-season record by wining 136 games and are one of eight schools in the history of the game to win two national championships in three seasons. A No. 1 seed – but not the overall No. 1 seed – Villanova was considered by many the team to beat, especially when they reached the Final Four. And with Monday night’s 79-62 defeat of third-seeded Michigan, the Wildcats completed a six-game Blitzkrieg of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. They won six games by 17.6 points. Even trailing by seven nine minutes into the game, Villanova asserted its will thanks to a player who would be starting for any of the other 315 Division I teams. Donte DiVencenzo, a 6-5 third-year sophomore who also goes by the nickname “The Big Ragu,” came off the bench three minutes into the game. He scored 31, the most ever by a reserve player in the championship game and earned Most Outstanding Player honors. In...

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Nova’s perimeter-oriented style is where college hoops is and where it’s headed

SAN ANTONIO – Loyola’s remarkable run to the Final Four coincided with the 55th anniversary of the school’s national championship. The Ramblers defeated defending national champion Cincinnati in overtime in what was called The Game of Change. In an era where there was a quota or a complete segregation of black players, Loyola started four blacks. This is also the 35th anniversary of another Final Four game that was thought to signify a new day. Phi Slama Jama (Houston) defeated the Doctors of Dunk (Louisville) in the 1983 semifinals. The 94-81 outcome was highlighted by fast breaks and dunks. Official Hank Nichols called it “The Blitzkreig”: “When you were under the basket and they came down with all those thunderous dunks, you looked around for a bomb shelter.” During the game as the players raced on fast breaks that usually ended with a thunderous throw down, a writer – his identity is lost to history, but it might have been Dallas Times Herald columnist Blackie Sherrod – passed a note along press row: “Welcome to the 21st century.” Well, here we are, 18 years into the 21st century and college basketball has changed (on the court, folks; we’ll save the sordid FBI investigation discussion for the off-season). But instead of the attention and the action happening at the rim with dunk contests, the game has moved outside. The 1983...

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Kansas torched by Villanova’s threes and the Big 12 championship drought continues

SAN ANTONIO – And the Big 12 Conference championship drought continues. Well, the Texas men’s swimming program won its fourth consecutive NCAA national championship a week ago, so there’s that. And Oklahoma’s women’s softball team won the national championship last season, so there’s that. But the last “meaningful” – as in either football or men’s basketball – championship game was 10 years ago when Kansas defeated Memphis in overtime. Before that, in football, it was Texas winning the BCS championship in 2005. In the interim, Texas lost a national championship game in football in 2009 and Kansas lost the 2012 title game in 2012. Oklahoma has twice lost in the semifinals of the College Football Playoffs. The Sooners also made the 2016 Final Four but lost in the semifinals. And Kansas followed that path Saturday as the top-seeded Jayhawks made an inspiring run to the Final Four only to have No. 1 seed Villanova shoot the lights out – literally, the ribbon board at the Alamodome was shut down after it malfunctioned. The Wildcats advanced to the title game, where they’ll face No. 3 seed Michigan, but also “won” the Big 12 title. Villanova’s last three victims in the NCAA Tournament have been West Virginia, Texas Tech and now the Jayhawks, the regular-season champions (for a record 14th consecutive seasons) and tournament champs. The last time a team knocked...

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Experts and analytics: Who will win Saturday’s semifinals? Nobody knows

SAN ANTONIO – Predicting games in the unpredictable NCAA Tournament is as much luck as anything. It’s the little ball landing on the right slot of the roulette wheel. It’s throwing darts blindfolded. Even the folks who are paid (yes, some of us really do earn compensation) to make predictions based on their knowledge have the same accuracy as the average fan. Of the 59 “experts” who made Final Four predictions for ESPN, CBSSports, Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports, Yahoo Sports and The Athletic, only two predicted No. 1 seed Kansas would make it to the Alamodome. Had Your Veteran Scribe been asked to select a Final Four on Selection Sunday, he would have gone with Duke or Michigan State to advance out of the Midwest Region. And while there a couple of hundred folks who accurately nailed all four teams to reach the end of the road, that percentage of success can be chalked up to diehard fandom and/or pure luck. Saturday in the Alamodome, most of the “experts” expect that No. 3 seed Michigan will end the ride for No. 11 Loyola Chicago and that Villanova will defeat Kansas in a battle of No.1 seeds. Each game is a fascinating match of similar teams. The Wolverines and the Ramblers are known more for their defense than their scoring ability (even though both are efficient with the basketball). A...

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With Self’s help, Kansas books another Final Four

One year ago, at the Final Four, Bill Self became a hall of famer. He was named as one of the inductees to the Naismith Hall of Fame Class of 2017. Arguments can be made against active coaches earning a hall pass (looking at you, Rick Pitino) but Self, then 54, had earned his inclusion. Self was without his team in Phoenix a year ago. The Jayhawks, for the second consecutive season, had failed to live up to their No. 1 seed and had lost in the Elite Eight for the second consecutive year. Since losing in the 2012 national championship game to Kentucky, KU had remained dominant in the Big 12, winning 13 consecutive regular-season titles but failing to survive and advance to the last weekend of the season. Self’s 15th season in Lawrence was sewed with doubt that lingers in Saturday’s semifinal with No. 1 seed and championship favorite Villanova. Your Veteran Scribe has, for the last three seasons, written that the Jayhawks’ streak of consecutive league titles would end. Despite a limited roster that lacks an NBA lottery pick, Kansas won the Big 12 for a record 14th consecutive season, surpassing UCLA. In a league that sent nine teams to the post-season and had two other teams reach the Elite Eight, Self’s team finished on top with a two-game cushion. After Kansas won the Big 12...

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