It was just that simple.
If you trusted Coach Michael Nelson (OPS) and his bracket picks in The Times and Democrat, you knew nearly three weeks ago that Villanova was going to cut down the nets and win their second men's basketball national title in three seasons. There was never a doubt, right?
Well, considering the Wildcats beat every team they played in the tournament by 12 points or more, you could say there was very little doubt who would win it all.
They were the right pick, so now we have to consider Villanova head coach Jay Wright among the top active coaches in the game.
Sure, when you think elite college men's coaches you first think of Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Roy Williams (North Carolina), Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), and John Calipari (Kentucky) or Bill Self (Kansas). But, it might actually surprise you that Wright now has more national championships than Boeheim, Izzo, Calipari and Self.
One person not surprised by that fact is Orangeburg native Kris Jenkins, who hit the game-winning shot for Villanova just before the final buzzer to defeat North Carolina in the 2016 title game. Jenkins was in San Antonio with several of his former Wildcats teammates for the Final Four, and there reportedly was talk of Villanova being a dynasty. At the very least, they can't be ignored as perennial contenders. Teams not only weren't close to beating the Wildcats in this year's tournament, but most had towels covering their heads on the bench long before the final buzzer of games.
Jenkins even pointed out some particulars, including the fact that the Wildcats have more wins the past four seasons than any other team, and in so doing Villanova should be considered a blue blood program with top-notch talent annually. Making the 2009 Final Four was a stepping stone on the way up the mountain for the Wildcats as a program. Now that they've reached the pinnacle twice in three campaigns, they could be in the conversation to make similar climbs for quite some time.
Speaking of conversations, there were plenty of breakroom, water cooler and parking lot discussions nationwide on Tuesday morning, after lucky prognosticators chose enough winners in the tournament to win their office pools.
In our "Coaches Versus the Sports Editor" competition, there was a bit of excitement through the Final Four and title game. Coach Willie Thomas (Orangeburg-Wilkinson) and Coach Herman Johnson (Edisto) led the way in overall wins, scoring 36 and 34 correct picks, respectively. My bracket had 32 correct picks, while Coach Nelson had 30 correct selections.
However, since most office pools and online grading scales give more points for later round wins, we will break down the final totals that way. And since CBS Sports and Turner Sports broadcast the games, we will go with the CBS Sports grading scale. Accordingly, round-by-round wins have scoring values that double each round and move from 1 point in the opening round to 32 points for selecting the champion. In case you are wondering, Yahoo Sports uses the same scale and ESPN adds a zero to the same scale (10, 20, 40, etc.), so the final points total for winners looks more impressive.
In our competition, I felt good to join Coach Johnson as the only two brackets with two correct Final Four selections. However even guessing right on Michigan and Nova being in the mix, I finished out of the medal round, taking fourth with a scoring total of 61. Virginia, I feel your pain!
Next up, in third place, Coach Johnson selected well enough to score 63 points. Had Kansas gotten by Nova and won it all, Coach Johnson would have finished second, just three points behind Coach Thomas.
As it played out, Coach Thomas finished in second, based on those three points, scoring a 66. The Jayhawks were his only hope in the Final Four, but his 22 points in the second-round games was the highest point total of any of our brackets in the rounds before the title game.
That brings us to Coach Nelson, who said he hardly had a chance to watch college hoops during the regular season. He said he was busy coaching the Indians, and something about moving from one house to another and preparing to get married. Well, whether it was based on past seasons' results, coaches he respects or even coin flips for each round, Coach Nelson outscored us all with 94 points. He only had Nova right in his Final Four, but that was all he needed pick up the final 48 points for the win.
In his Final Four analysis, back when he made his pre-tournament picks, Coach Nelson mentioned that "I think the point guard play of Jalen Brunson will lead Nova to victory... The Brunson/Mikal Bridges combo is one of my favorite duo’s in college basketball... Villanova has 4 players that are capable of scoring 20 points a game."
Well, against Michigan it was Donte DiVincenzo with 31 points and Bridges with 19 points, accounting for 50 of the team's 79 points. But the offensive threat from other Wildcats kept the Wolverines off-balance on defense from late in the second half until the final horn.
Congratulations to Coach Nelson and thanks to Coach Thomas and Coach Johnson for being such good sports. March Madness was full of crazy upsets and a "Cinderella" team from Chicago. But, in the end, the steady, dominant play of the Wildcats proved only one team had the Wright stuff to raise the trophy in 2018.