Michigan basketball

A big-time college hoops job opens, which means one thing in Boston...

A big-time college hoops job opens, which means one thing in Boston...

BOSTON -- A high-profile college job is vacant, so that can only mean one thing around these parts… Brad Stevens’ name will be tossed around as a potential target of that team’s search even though there's no indication he would consider such a job or that Danny Ainge would allow him out of his multi-year contract to pursue such a position.

The Michigan Wolverines are in the market for a new head coach after John Beilein accepted the Cleveland Cavaliers' head coaching job.

It is unclear if the Wolverines have asked to speak with Stevens, something that if they did would likely get rebuffed by Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations.

It's not like when Doc Rivers wanted out of Boston to become the head coach/General Manager of the Los Angeles Clippers in 2013.

The Celtics received compensation from the Clippers in the form of a draft pick, to let Rivers out of his deal with Boston.

No such dynamic exists if a coach wanted to go from the pros back to college, or vice versa.

Stevens, whose success at Butler was instrumental in the Celtics seeking him out and eventually hiring him to be the franchise’s 17th head coach in 2013, has repeatedly said he’s not looking to leave the Celtics and coach another program in the pro or college ranks.

And as recently as 2016, Stevens agreed to a multi-year contract extension that solidified him sticking around for years to come.

“It’s an honor to be a member of the Boston Celtics,” Stevens said at the time of his 2016 extension. “And we’ll continue striving for growth in pursuit of Banner 18.”

That goal hit a bit of a snag this season when the Celtics, picked by most to at least advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for what would have been a third straight year, fell short in being eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in the conference semifinals in just five games.

Following the Game 5 loss, Stevens acknowledged he could have done a better job with this year’s team.

“I’ll be the first to say that, as far as any other year that I’ve been a head coach, it’s certainly been the most trying,” Stevens said. “I think I did a bad job. Like, at the end of the day, as a coach, if your team doesn’t find its best fit together that’s on you. So I’ll do a lot of deep dives into how I can be better.”

While Stevens was certainly disappointed and to some degree dejected in his own performance this season, it was evident following the Celtics season coming to an end that there were a number of issues that included but certainly weren't limited to, Stevens' struggles to find the best fit for the talent he had to work with to play their best together.

And while it certainly seems like an ideal time for a college or university to make a run at Stevens, all indications at this point lead to Stevens returning for what will be his seventh NBA season, which is one more than he spent at the college ranks with Butler.

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NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP: Villanova takes title, 79-62 over Michigan behind DiVincenzo

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AP Photo

NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP: Villanova takes title, 79-62 over Michigan behind DiVincenzo

SAN ANTONIO -- When he wasn't dribbling behind his back, winking to the TV announcers, stuffing shots or dishing out assists, Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo was making it rain.

First, 3-pointers.

Later on, confetti.

The redhead kid with the nickname Big Ragu came off the bench to make five 3s and score 31 points Monday to lift `Nova to another blowout victory in the NCAA Tournament - this time 79-62 over Michigan for its second national title in three seasons.

The sophomore guard had 12 points and an assist during a first-half run to help the Wildcats (36-4) pull ahead, then scored nine straight for Villanova midway through the second to snuff out the Wolverines. He capped the second shooting skein with a 3-pointer from a step behind the arc. He punctuated it with a knowing wink over to the sideline, where TV announcers Jim Nantz and Bill Raftery were sitting.

Yep, he knew he could do it. And his teammates were more than willing to let him steal the show.

"If someone's hot, feed `em," said Jalen Brunson, the national Player of the Year, who finished with nine points and was perfectly fine with playing a supporting role on this night.

In taking the program's third overall title, Villanova won all six games by double digits over this tournament run, joining Michigan State (2000), Duke (2001) and North Carolina (2009) in that rare air.

The last team to win its two Final Four games by 16 or more: UCLA in 1968. During the dynasty.

One key question: Does Jay Wright's team belong on the list of the best of all-time?

Maybe so, considering the way Villanova dismantled everyone in front of it in a tournament that was dripping with upsets, underdogs and at least the appearance of parity.

Maybe so, considering the Wildcats won in seemingly every way imaginable. This victory came two nights after they set a Final Four record with 18 3-pointers (they had 10 in this one), and one week after they relied more on defense in a win over Texas Tech in the Elite Eight.

"We don't really look at it that way," Wright said. "We don't look at it as, did we just dominate that team? No. We played well."

And really, that debate's for later.

DiVincenzo squashed any questions about this game with a 10-for-15 shooting night - 5 for 7 from 3 -that was, frankly, better than that. He was a no-doubt winner of the Final Four's most-outstanding-player award.

With Michigan trying to stay in striking range early in the second half, he opened his game-sealing run with an around-the-back dribble to get to the hoop and get fouled. On the other end, he delivered a two-handed rejection of Michigan's Charles Matthews - his second block of the game, to go with five rebounds and three assists - when Matthews tried to bring it into the paint.

The 3 that capped things off came from a big step behind the arc and gave Villanova a 62-44 lead with 7:58 left.

"Honestly, I didn't look at the score at all," DiVincenzo said. "I didn't know how many points I had. I didn't know any of that. I was just trying to make the right play. And Omari (Spellman) was setting unbelievable screens for me getting me open. And I was just feeling it."

About the only drama at the end was whether DiVincenzo could unwrap himself from his teammates' mob hug to hurl the ball underhanded toward the rafters after the buzzer. He succeeded there, too.

"Sometimes I think about whether I'm a good defender, because in practice, he makes me look bad," said junior Mikal Bridges, who likely made this his final audition for the NBA with a 19-point night on 7-for-12 shooting.

What a couple of months it's been for Philly. First the Eagles. Now this. The Super Bowl, though, was a classic. This one was only beautiful to one team.

Michigan (33-8) came out playing tough-nosed defense it relied on over a 14-game winning streak that got the Wolverines to their second final in six years.

Moe Wagner scored 11 early points to pick up where he left off in a dominating performance in the semifinal. Villanova started 1 for 9 from 3-point range. And yet, after DiVincenzo banged down a 3 from a step behind the arc for Villanova's second of the night, coach John Beilein looked at the scoreboard and saw his team behind, 23-21.

"The way DiVincenzo shot the ball, it was just incredible for us to try to win that game with the roll he went on," the coach said.

If his first 3 wasn't demoralizing enough, DiVincenzo made another, then took a bounce pass from Brunson for a dunk, then paid it forward with an assist to Spellman. It was part of a 23-7 run that gave the Wildcats a nine-point lead at halftime; they never looked back.

DiVincenzo competed hard for a starting spot this year, but didn't win it. He made the best of it as a sixth man. Wright waited all of 52 seconds in the second half to get him back on the floor.

"It just shows how much depth we have, and that we don't care who gets the credit," Brunson said.

Though he didn't play in the 2016 Final Four, DiVincenzo got his fair share of credit for that title, too.

His season cut short because of a knee injury, he was healthy enough to run the scout squad for Villanova. Some on the team said he was better at doing Oklahoma star Buddy Hield than Hield himself.

But maybe a more apt comparison is to ... Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

DiVincenzo joins them in the rare club of players to crack 30 points while also shooting better than 66 percent from the floor in a Final Four game.

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Michigan ends Loyola-Chicago's Cinderella story, advances to National Championship game

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Michigan ends Loyola-Chicago's Cinderella story, advances to National Championship game

SAN ANTONIO -- Staring down a 10-point, second-half deficit against an underdog that seemed nothing short of blessed during the madness of March, Moe Wagner and Michigan clamped down on Loyola-Chicago and ended one of the most memorable NCAA Tournament runs ever.

Wagner scored 24 points, Charles Matthews added 17 and the Wolverines rallied to beat the Ramblers 69-57 Saturday night in the Final Four.

The third-seeded Wolverines (33-7) will take a 14-game winning streak, the longest in the nation, into their first national championship game appearance since 2013, and second under coach Jon Beilein.

"We're not done yet," Michigan senior Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman said.

Michigan became the first team to reach the national title game without beating a top-five seed along the way. That changes Monday night at the Alamodome. No. 1 seed Villanova stands in the way of the Wolverines' first NCAA title since 1989.

Lovable Loyola (32-6), with superfan Sister Jean courtside and their fans behind the bench standing for pretty much the entire game, could not conjure another upset. The Ramblers were the fourth 11th-seeded team to make it this far and like the previous three, the semifinals were the end of the road.

Coach Porter Moser said he was proud of players Ben RichardsonAundre Jackson and Donte Ingram for holding it together during a postgame news conference, answering questions with red eyes and long faces.

"But it was as tough a locker room as I've seen because they believed they belonged and they believed like they wanted to advance," Moser said.

Loyola had no answers for the 6-foot-11 Wagner, and its offense, so smooth and efficient on the way to San Antonio, broke down in the second half and finished with 17 turnovers.

Wagner, playing in front of his parents who made the trip from Germany, had 15 rebounds and was 10 for 16 from the field. Matthews, the Kentucky transfer and Chicago native, had a run-out dunk with 1:33 left that made it 63-53. And that was that.

Wagner became the third player in the last 40 years with a 20 and 15 game in a Final Four game , joining Hakeem Olajuwon of Houston in 1983 (then known as Akeem) and Larry Bird of Indiana State in 1979.

"Wow. If you put it like that, it's probably cool," Wagner said. "But to be honest, I kept looking possession by possession. We had trouble scoring the first half. We scored 22 points and that was kind of the only way we found our way to the basket, grab offensive rebounds and get second-shot opportunities.

"And I honestly just tried to do my job."

Or, as Michigan guard Jaaron Simmon, put it: "He was a beast tonight."

Wagner also went flying off the elevated court, chasing a loose ball, avoiding injury but taking out CBS commentator Bill Raftery's eye glasses. It was a full night.

As the seconds ticked off, Wagner pumped his fist to the many Michigan fans who made the trek to San Antonio, while Loyola's Jackson, who got the Ramblers rolling with a late game-winning 3 in the first round against Miami, looked toward the roof and shook his head.

Cameron Krutwig, Loyola's big man, scored 17 points and Clayton Custer had 13 of his 15 after halftime. But facing one of the best defensive teams in the country, the best defensive team Beilein has ever had in 11 seasons in Ann Arbor, the Ramblers scored just 16 points in the final 14 minutes.

"Their length. They close the gap of opportunity really fast," Moser said.

Custer scored seven straight points for Loyola at one point to put the Ramblers up 41-31 with 14:08 remaining.

"I don't know if they had magic on their side," Beilein said. "They're good."

Michigan refused to fade, even with point guard Zavier Simpson - whose solid play has been critical to the Wolverines' late-season surge - playing terribly. Simpson had no points and four turnovers.

Simmons, Simpson's backup, made a 3 and Duncan Robinson hit another a few minutes later and the deficit was down to 45-42 with 10 minutes left.

"Not dropping our heads, that was the main thing," Simmons said. "We haven't been down in a game for a long time. So not dropping our heads was one of the main adjustments we had to make."

Wagner hit a 3 from right in front of the Michigan bench with 6:50 left to tie it, and moments later the Wolverines were back on top, 49-47, when Jordan Poole made two free throws.

Loyola turned it over on three straight possessions and Wagner tipped in a miss by Poole, was fouled and converted the 3-point play to put Michigan up 54-47 with just under five minutes left.

The Ramblers' 14-game losing streak is over, along with an incredible feel-good story at a time that college basketball, engulfed in a corruption scandal, could truly use one. Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt and her favorite team , the Missouri Valley Conference champions, making their first NCAA appearance since 1985, will return to Chicago as heroes, regardless.

"It's special to see kind of what stage we were able to get to," said Richardson, a senior who grew up in Kansas with Custer and then convinced his friend to transfer from Iowa State to Loyola. "Despite going out this way, were going to never forget this. I think a lot of people will remember this run for a long time."

Michigan has more work to do. The Wolverines, unranked to start the season and sitting at 19-7 in early February, will now resume the underdog role they have played much of the season, trying to win their second NCAA championship.

"This team's had no attention at all," Beilein said. "Until we went up to beat Michigan State we weren't nationally ranked. Now we're playing on Monday night."

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