For those of you that were not too deeply involved with baseball season yet or didn’t get lost down the Tiger rabbit hole in preparation for the Masters this weekend, I’m assuming you were glued to your TV for NCAA Final Four weekend. The women kicked it off on Friday with two absolutely electric basketball games. I think Nick Wright said it best when talking about the women’s Final Four.
You could not have possibly scripted a better past 48 hours for women's hoops. 3 epic games. The biggest brand going down. Amazing finishes.
— nick wright (@getnickwright) April 2, 2018
Notre Dame, the champion, went on to break the “UConn curse” that affected teams that had previously beaten UConn in the Final Four. Mississippi State, the runner up, was one example of this curse.
What curse ☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️ https://t.co/ZvxP3YsQg1
— Marina Mabrey (@mmabrey1) April 2, 2018
On the men’s side, it wasn’t really like that at all. Michigan pulled away from Loyola (not Sister Jean) in the first game before Nova waltzed to their second title in three years with back to back blowout victories.
Each of these championship teams had a very clear hero, each of which put on performances for the ages in their respective Final Fours. Junior Arike Ogunbowale had an absolutely unthinkable 2 game-winning shots in 2 games, including one of the best shots in the history of the tournament (men’s or women’s) in the championship to cap an 8-0 run in the final two minutes.
This is her shot against UConn, which is icier than a Nova Scotian winter.
And this shot against Mississippi State, which had me yelling potentially louder than she was in my living room and also automatically made Christian Laettner cry for at one point thinking he hit the best shot in tournament history (he didn’t before this shot either, but still)
On top of these two shots, Ogunbowale took a page out of her basketball icon, Kobe Bryant’s, book and kept the Mamba Mentality throughout. Of the 42 shots she took in the Final Four, 38 were contested. All 13 of her makes were contested, including that shot that made Marcus Paige’s shot that is lost in history look like a toddler shooting on a Little Tikes basket.
On the other side, Donte DiVincenzo posted a stat line of 31 points on 10-15 shooting, accompanied by five boards, three assists and two blocks (which he said after the game he was most proud of). The 31 points is the most in a championship game since 1997, and he did it after not starting the game. No one has ever scored more off the bench in the tournament.
With two individual performances that are legendary in the lore of Final Four history coming in the same year, it is really easy to position the two of them together. So why not face off the younger sister of NFL running back Dare and the Big Ragu in a one on one game for true Final four supremacy.
Ogunbowale, a junior from Milwaukee, is 5 feet 8 inches of pure, unencumbered rage. As evidenced by her contested shooting statistics I mentioned earlier, she has absolutely no conscience with the ball in her hands. If you were to ask her, “Is there anyone on God’s green earth that can guard you?” she would hit you with a:
The 6-5 DiVincenzo is similarly as confident, but does just enough to fit perfectly in a Villanova system. He is perfectly ok with coming off the bench and he doesn’t need the ball in his hands at all times. He did throw a wink out in the game last night, which he said after the game was meant for Josh Hart, but that’s basically the most cockiness you will ever see out of a Villanova player.
The biggest problem in this matchup is going to be the size difference. Ogunbowale is not only giving up seven inches, but rarely faces a player with size like DiVincenzo. For example, Teaira McCowan, whom Notre Dame faced in the final, is 6-7, but an absolute monster in the women’s game.
Still, Ogunbowale is a bona fide scorer. She averaged 20.3 this season on 45% shooting from the field. Her 5.4 rebounds per game to go along with that scoring line also show her tenacity and physicality. Will she be at a severe size disadvantage? yes, absolutely. But, what she lacks there, she makes up for in pure scoring ability and the inferno of a thousand suns that burns inside of her soul.
Still, DiVincenzo has that major size advantage. Also, he is more efficient, shooting at a 48% clip. Also, his ability around the rim is also quite obvious and he is more than capable of finishing through contact. While Arike burns with the power of suns and universes, Donte burns like a single volcano. A big volcano, granted, but not quite suns.
So essentially what this comes down to is a battle of will against a battle of skill.
DiVincenzo misses his first shot. He was not serious enough about it and his feet were not entirely set. The ball bounces over the backboard and out of bounds. Arike recreates the move she hit against UConn in the closing seconds for her first bucket. She goes up 2-0 after another stepback, this time from the elbow.
Donte slaps the floor to show he means business now, but by the time he comes back up, she is by him for two. 3-0 Arike. Now down in a normal defensive stance, he gets a steal and takes it back out to quickly nail a three from the elbow extended. As he checks it up, he pulls the trigger quickly again to take a lead, but it clangs off and careens out of bounds again.
Ogunbowale tries a series of dribble moves before calmly dribbling back out to the top of the key and catching a sleeping DiVincenzo with his hands down. She knocks down the tre. 5-2. After another steal by using his length, Donte recreates his first bucket with his quick, high release. For the next 3 possessions straight, he backs Arike down, finally realizing his size. She tries to pick the ball from behind his back, but she simply is not long enough and he finishes with three easy layups to end the game, 7-5.