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The Nova Way
[Posted early Wednesday]
NBA Quiz: What team has the longest championship drought, strictly in the NBA. For example, Denver hasn’t won since 1968, but it was in the ABA 1968-76. This is kind of tricky because you have to go through franchise changes. Answer below.
Howie Kussoy / New York Post
“Perfection lasted for 40 minutes, when Villanova pulled the upset for the ages, and dethroned Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in 1985.
“Perfection played out over 4.7 seconds in 2016, when Ryan Arcidiacono sprinted up the floor, and tossed the ball to Kris Jenkins, who elevated to hit his shot for the ages.
“For national title No. 3, the Wildcats stretched perfection across an entire NCAA Tournament.
“No. 1 Villanova became the fourth team in history to win every tournament game by double-digits, and finished its dominant run by obliterating No. 3 Michigan, 79-62, Monday night at the Alamodome, as just the fourth team since 1975 to win two titles in as few as three years.”
Jay Wright joined Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams as the only active coaches with multiple championships.
“We’re not going to call ourselves [elite]...but, when the media calls you a blue blood, we’re not turning it down. We’ll take it,” Wright said. “I really can’t get my mind around it. I never dreamt of this.
“I just have the best job in the country, my hometown, my wife’s alma mater, my favorite team growing up...as a coach, there’s just nothing better.”
“Few players have ever had a better performance than that of sixth man turned Most Outstanding Player, Donte DiVincenzo, who scored the most points in the title game in 29 years, and set the record for scoring off the bench, finishing with 31 points, five rebounds, three assists and two blocks.”
‘Nova got off to a poor start from the perimeter, just 1-of-9, and trailed 21-14 at the 11:00 mark, as Michigan’s Moritz Wagner had 11 points.
But Wagner would score only five more the rest of the way, with Villanova going on a 23-7 run to close out the first half, as DiVincenzo had 18, 7-of-10 from the field, 3 of 4 from behind the arc. The Wildcats then never had to sweat a moment of the second half as they cruised.
Mikal Bridges chipped in 19 and after the poor start from three, ‘Nova finished 10 of 27, while Michigan was just 3 of 23 from downtown. Pretty easy to see this was the difference.
Jerry Brewer / Washington Post
“In Villanova’s world, which now should be the most desired locale in college basketball, the best player on the court can be a redshirt sophomore sixth man nicknamed the Big Ragu. Donte DiVincenzo, who is Italian and redheaded and a good sport for accepting Fox broadcaster Gus Johnson’s sobriquet, can enter the NCAA men’s national championship game and shred every piece of an effective Michigan game plan with a steely performance.
“In Villanova’s world, it is simply his turn to lead a balanced team. Jalen Brunson, the national player of the year, can suppress his game, watch his playing time shrink and still marvel....
“In Villanova’s world, which is fascinating and enviable and potentially dynastic, the players are on stage after a 79-62 victory over Michigan, holding their second championship trophy in three seasons and turning the moment into a bromance, with expressions of love for each other and awe over what their unselfish spirit has created....
“Two title in three seasons? At Villanova? For so long, it seemed the Wildcats should be satisfied with being a spunky overachiever, not a perennial contender but the underdog program that Rollie Massimino led to a miracle win over Georgetown in 1985. Maybe Villanova could do that once every 30 years or so. But own college basketball? Provide a blueprint for how a sport in trouble should be played by everyone? It was unimaginable, and now it’s something that must happen.
“Be like Villanova? Yes, slimy college basketball peers, be like the Wildcats. Or at least try to be. Their run amounts to the most inspiring multiyear example of an unselfish championship culture and exquisite roster construction the sport has seen since Florida won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007. Villanova is just the eighth school to win at least two NCAA men’s basketball championships in a three-season span.
“The Wildcats did it with a style that defies the one-and-done, go-for-your-money, quick-fix, build-an-instant-contender mentality that now haunts college basketball. The game needed the example of Loyola Chicago to restore the charm of amateurism during this tournament, but it was desperate for a team with the characteristics of Villanova to win the whole thing.
“At the Alamodome on Monday night, you saw a final that inspired pride after a long season of scandal. To conclude a tournament filled with reminders of college basketball’s dignity – from Maryland Baltimore County’s historic upset to Loyola Chicago’s riveting Final Four run – Villanova and Michigan served as finalists that augmented a reassuring message.
“As he celebrated the win, Wright made sure to say of Michigan, ‘We’re proud to have played them in this game.’
“It’s a challenge to dislike how Villanova and Michigan are built. Long before the FBI exposed widespread corruption in the sport, they were models for sustainable winning, but their successes have been amplified in the current climate. It should be apparent now that it’s dangerous to declare any major program immune to impropriety, but you can safely say that Jay Wright and John Beilein are coaches that aspire to do everything the right way. Beilein, in fact, was voted the sport’s cleanest coach in a CBS poll of 100 coaches last year. The manner in which they run their programs decreases the likelihood of scandal because of one important tenant: They prioritize recruiting players who want the full collegiate experience.
“They aren’t infatuated with chasing the best talent. They want the right talent. And they excel in developing players.
“That’s why Michigan forward Moritz Wagner, a frail German kid when he entered the program three years ago, dominated the opening minutes Monday and finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. That’s why DiVincenzo, who was a redshirt working on the scout team in practice when Villanova won the title in 2016, became the Final Four’s most outstanding player. And Mikal Bridges, another former redshirt, scored 19 points.
“ ‘I think both of us are looking for guys that want to be in college,’ Wright said. ‘And we both love having guys that are pros, too, but we want guys that want to be part of a program.’
“Wright and Beilein aren’t self-righteous about their methods, however. They don’t coach at Duke, Kansas or Kentucky. There are recruiting limitations at Villanova and Michigan, even though they have developed into consistent elite-level programs. Duke and Kentucky are really the only programs that have been able to keep winning despite the yearly roster upheaval caused by signing one-and-done stars. Wright admits he’d like a few more five-star players in his program, but not at the risk of ruining what he has established. Beilein craves certainty and continuity.
“ ‘We’re trying to get a program that can just sustain itself,’ said Beilein, who has now been the national runner-up twice in his last six seasons at Michigan. ‘And it’s very hard to sustain when you have the kids go pro who should have gone pro, but you didn’t plan on that when they were freshmen because nobody else thought they were going to go pro, and all of a sudden, they’re good enough to go pro.’
“Said Wright: ‘Well, the reason we stick to it is we can’t get the one-and-done guys. We’re trying. We really are...We recruit guys that just want to be in college. We want them to enjoy the college experience and then we hope that after one year of enjoying the college experience they have a really difficult decision to make that the NBA wants you but you really enjoy college. Rather than come to college saying I want to get out as soon as I can.’”
--One sidebar from the game. Villanova was a 6.5-point favorite, which means they beat the spread in each of their six tournament games. Over the past 20 years, others to do this were ‘Nova in 2016, 2015 Duke, 2014 UConn, 2009 North Carolina and 2006 Florida...all were a perfect 6-0. Matt Bonesteel of the Washington Post, citing Action Network, says it didn’t happen at all between 1997 and 2006.
But the 2016 version of the Wildcats wasn’t favored in every game as they were this year.
--Shohei Ohtani did it! He homered in his first Angel Stadium at-bat on Tuesday. As teammate Justin Upton said after the Angels’ 13-2 win over Cleveland, “That was ridiculous. It’s awesome, man. Just in that situation...first at-bat at home. ...You can’t draw it up any better than that.”
The first-inning drive came off a curveball from Josh Tomlin, sailing over the right-center wall and landing an estimated 397 feet away, the stadium booming.
Of course after touching home, Ohtani was greeted by the silent treatment in the dugout, a baseball tradition for a first homer....before his teammates mobbed him.
This is startling. I wasn’t the only one hoping the Angels were patient and allowed Ohtani to get his game together in AAA for a month or two. First the win last Sunday on the mound, and then this. Ohtani makes his home pitching debut on Sunday.
Back to his performance on the mound the other day, Ohtani gave up a three-run homer to Oakland’s Matt Chapman in the second, then retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced in his 92-pitch, six-inning stint that was enough for the win as the Angels prevailed 7-4.
One pitch in the sixth was clocked at 98 mph and 28 of Ohtani’s pitches were at 97 mph or better, which is impressive. And he mixed in his sliders and curveballs effectively.
--New Yankees manager Aaron Boone didn’t have the luxury of a home opener on Monday to try to change the narrative as it was snowed out (ditto a Mets home game the same day). Boone was facing questions over his handling of a situation in the bottom of the eighth on Sunday in Toronto, when he ordered Josh Donaldson walked to load the bases with two outs and had David Robertson face Justin Smoak to try to protect a one-run lead. Donaldson hadn’t looked good in the four-game series and Smoak had homered in his previous at-bat against Tommy Kahnle. Smoak then hit a grand slam to make it 7-4, the final score after the Yankees went meekly in the ninth.
So the vaunted Yankee pen had given up 11 of the 15 runs allowed by New York in the first four games.
Well, make that 14 of the 19 runs allowed by the Yankees after Tuesday’s 11-4 win over Tampa Bay, starter Jordan Montgomery allowing just one run in five.
The story here, though, was twofold. Didi Gregorius had an all-time night for a Yankee shortstop with two, 3-run homers, a double, 4-for-4, 8 RBIs in total. No Yankee shortstop ever had that many ribbies in a game.
But Giancarlo Stanton, in his New York debut, struck out all five times he came to the plate and was booed after his last two. What a way to greet your new superstar.
--The Mets’ Matt Harvey had a great first start Tuesday night in a 2-0 win over the Phillies in crappy weather at Citi Field. Harvey went five scoreless and looked sharp. Granted, it’s the Phillies, who might win 28 games this season.
Mets fans also got word outfielder Michael Conforto is returning Thursday in Washington, far sooner than he was expected to following serious shoulder surgery. I’ll be on pins and needles all season watching this guy.
--Clayton Kershaw is now 0-2, a 6-1 loser Tuesday night to the Diamondbacks as the Dodgers’ pen imploded again. Kershaw has a 2.25 ERA after his first two appearances. And L.A. has now lost all four games in which the future Hall of Famer or Kenley Jansen has appeared.
--Ken P. pointed out to me the comments of the Minnesota Twins players who were upset that Baltimore catcher Chance Sisco bunted against the shift for a hit in the ninth inning of Minnesota’s 7-0 victory on Sunday. With one out in the ninth, Sisco bunted towards the vacant left side to get on base. Seems like the right thing to do, doesn’t it? You’re trying to get on base any way you can. The Orioles would load the bases, but Twins reliever Jose Berrios worked out of it to complete a three-hit shutout.
But for some idiotic reason, afterwards, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier addressed Sisco’s bunt. “I could’ve said something, but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there, with Chris Davis, Adam Jones and those guys,” Dozier told reporters. “I’m sure they’ll address it and move forward.
Berrios said: “I don’t care if he’s bunting. I just know it’s not good for baseball in that situation. That’s it.”
Not good for baseball?! What are we missing here? The guy is supposed to go ahead and hit into the shift?
Sisco said: “If they’re going to shift, I have to take it right there in that spot. We got bases loaded right after that. We’re a couple home runs away from tying the game...”
The Twinkies are being real jerks.
But the past two years crap like this has been growing. Dumb attitudes. Short fuses. More semi-beanball wars.
I just think it’s all going to explode someday this summer. A really ugly incident.
--The Philadelphia 76ers are on an amazing run heading into the playoffs, 11 straight, including Tuesday’s 121-95 win over Brooklyn to move to 47-30; just a half-game behind Cleveland for the third slot in the Eastern Conference.
But the story last night was Ben Simmons, the 6-10 point guard who had 15 points and 12 rebounds, along with six assists, thus becoming only the second player in NBA history to record at least 1,200 points, 600 assists and 600 rebounds in his rookie season, the other being Oscar Robertson.
Simmons is averaging 15.8 points, 8.2 assists and 8 rebounds.
It’s far from hyperbole when Jim Nantz says this is the most highly-anticipated Masters in decades. It’s not just Tiger’s return, and him playing well, it’s guys like Phil Mickelson and Rory breaking through in the past month, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson in solid form, Jordan Spieth seemingly ironing out his issues last weekend, and others like Jason Day, Jon Rahm, Matsuyama, Justin Rose...Henrik Stenson has been playing very well.
One of the sports books has the following odds:
Thomas, Spieth, McIlroy, DJ...10/1
Fowler, Mickelson, Watson...16/1
Personally, if I was able to place a bet, I’d put some coin on Stenson at 30/1 and Noren at 40/1.
--The Masters is indeed a different kind of tournament. There are strict codes of conduct for the “patrons.” And this year Augusta staff have been given a sheet with a list of sayings that are prohibited. Among them is “Dilly Dilly,” the Bud Light slogan.
Yup, anyone who shouts one of the phrases on the list will be kicked out of the Masters...a tradition unlike any other...immediately.
--Going back to Ian Poulter’s super win at the Houston Open, I mentioned he started off T-123 after an opening-round 73. I forgot to note that he became the first player in 35 years to win a tournament having entered the second round T-123 or worse.
They are down to the last eight and the first legs of matches were held Tuesday, with Bayern Munich defeating Sevilla 2-1, and Real Madrid whipping Juventus on the road 3-0.
But the whole football/soccer world is buzzing over Cristiano Ronaldo’s sensational bicycle kick goal for Real, the second of the game. As the BBC described it, “the 33-year-old Portuguese rising almost unnaturally high before acrobatically firing the ball into the corner of the net...”
What made it all the more remarkable was the reaction of the home Juventus fans.
“Seconds after the ball hit the net, the Juve fans followed (manager Zinedine) Zidane’s lead, rising to applaud the man who has, in all likelihood, ended their interest in the Champions League for this season.”
With the game no longer in doubt, startlingly, a lot of the Juventus fans stayed after to applaud Ronaldo. Folks, this just doesn’t happen in this sport.
BBC Radio’s Pat Nevin said, “It is one of the great goals you will see in football.”
Today we have a huge one. Liverpool and Manchester City. [Barcelona and Roma square off in the fourth quarterfinal...again, these are home-and-home.]
--Rob Gronkowski is leaning toward returning to the Patriots in 2018, according to ESPN, despite physical and mental fatigue and issues with head coach Bill Belichick, but only if Tom Brady is still around, which is a certainty.
I like Gronk. Wish he would retire to help save his health.
--A 25-year-old paddleboarder was hospitalized in critical condition with multiple wounds after getting bitten by a shark last weekend near one of Hawaii’s exclusive resort areas. The attack happened around 9:30 a.m. local time at the beach in Kukio, considered one of the crown jewels on the Kona Coast.
Fire officials reported that the man was stand-up paddleboarding about 100 to 150 yards offshore, according to KHON-TV. He suffered multiple injuries to a hand and leg.
A private rescue team employed by the resort heard the man’s screams and took a four-man canoe out to find him. People on the beach then reportedly were able to apply multiple tourniquets to his right arm and leg before paramedics arrived.
Details about the shark were not immediately available.
--Seven cities, or joint-bidding cities, have expressed interest in hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics: Canada’s Calgary, Austria’s Graz, Swedish capital Stockholm, Sion in Switzerland, Turkey’s Erzurum, Japan’s Sapporo and a joint bid from Italy’s Cortina, Milan and Turin.
The IOC selects a few of them to begin a one-year candidate phase in October, the winning bid to be announced in Milan in September, 2019.
Interestingly, Beijing is hosting the 2022 Winter Games after four other cities dropped out over fear of soaring costs, leaving the Chinese capital and Kazakhstan’s Almaty as the only candidates.
So, seeing as the 2018 Games were just held in South Korea, you would think Sapporo wouldn’t get 2026.
Just give it to Calgary...they know how to do this kind of thing.
--We note the passing of Steven Bochco, the Emmy-winning television writer-producer who brought three of the top ten dramas of all time, “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law” and “NYPD Blue” to the small screen.
I was a huge fan of “Hill Street Blues” and “NYPD Blue.” Never missed one.
TV executive Warren Littlefield, who worked with Bochco at NBC, said, “Steven reinvented the television drama by creating and executive-producing ‘Hill Street Blues’ [in 1981]. At first, television wasn’t quite ready for this groundbreaking drama, certainly not on a network known for a talking car. Television critics celebrated it and at the Emmy Awards following Season One, a star was born. The DNA for quality drama at NBC was created by Steven Bochco and all of broadcasting would join NBC and covet what Steven was capable of doing.”
Bochco was born in 1943 to a violinist father and a painter-jewelry designer mother in New York City. After spending a year at NYU, he graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with a theater degree in 1966. It was while attending CMU that he landed a summer job at Universal Studios, two years, and began working there full-time post-graduation.
According to the obit, it was in 1987, after Bochco won Emmys for NBC with both “Hill Street Blues” and “L.A. Law” that CBS’ William Paley offered the then-44-year-old the job of president of the entertainment division, but Bochco signed a six-year, 10-series deal with ABC instead, worth about $10 million.
It was at ABC that Bochco produced “NYPD Blue” and “Doogie Howser, M.D.” But he had some misses. Nonetheless, ‘NYPD Blue’ lasted 12 seasons, and what a show it was.
Overall, Bochco was nominated for 30 Emmy awards and won 10.
Bochco died in his sleep at the age of 74. He was battling leukemia for years.
Top 3 songs for the week 4/7/62: #1 “Johnny Angel” (Shelley Fabares) #2 “Don’t Break The Heart That Loves You” (Connie Francis) #3 “Good Luck Charm” (Elvis Presley)...and...#4 “Slow Twistin’” (Chubby Checker with Dee Dee Sharp) #5 “Dream Baby” (Roy Orbison) #6 “Hey! Baby” (Bruce Channel) #7 “Midnight In Moscow” (Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen) #8 “Young World” (Rick Nelson) #9 “Love Letters” (Ketty Lester) #10 “Mashed Potato Time” (Dee Dee Sharp...yup, the world needed the British Invasion...)
NBA Quiz Answer: Sacramento has the longest drought. They won a title in 1951 when they were called the Rochester Royals, which is where the franchise was through 1957. Then in 1958 they became the Cincinnati Royals through 1972, then Kansas City-Omaha Kings 1973-75, then Kansas City Kings 1976-85, then onto Sacramento since then.
The Feb. 19, 2018 issue of TIME, which I had saved for this quiz, had the L.A. Clippers at 48 years as the longest drought but that simply isn’t the case; the Clippers starting as the Buffalo Braves in 1971.
Which is why you have to do your homework, boys and girls.
Next Bar Chat, Monday. Enjoy The Masters...on CBS...