The DiVincenzo Factor

DiVincenzoVillanova-superJumboDonte DiVincenzo winking after a shot against Michigan on Monday. He had 31 points, five rebounds and three assists and was voted Most Outstanding Player in Villanova’s 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Title win.

Credit Ronald Martinez/Getty Images        

Donte DiVincenzo’s name is just like his game: unique and intimidating. I mean, don’t you wish you could have a championship game like Donte DiVincenzo? You know, Villanova’s killer sixth man off the bench who just killed it against upstart Michigan? I mean he KILLED IT! He doesn’t start, and yet he scored thirty-one points, had block after block and timely three pointers to carry his team to victory. It was an impressive performance to say the least. 

One sports writer put it like this: “Had DiVincenzo been in a video game, flames would have been coming off his ball.”

The statistics — 31 points on 15 shots, five rebounds and three assists — still undersell the extent to which DiVincenzo was his team’s fulcrum Monday night. The team’s sixth man, he was the one who stopped the bleeding after the underdog Michigan surprised the 67,831 spectators in the Alamodome and millions more watching on television who had expected a fairly easy victory by Villanova, the top seed.

Before DiVincenzo scored his first basket, Michigan led 14-8. Villanova’s next 8 points were DiVincenzo’s: a 3-pointer, a 3-point play, a jump shot. DiVincenzo responded to ball screens by hitting long 3s from where he was standing or, once, finding Omari Spellman down low on a brilliant bounce pass.

On defense, during one stretch he forced a driving Zavier Simpson into a miss and then, on the next possession, the 6-foot-5 DiVincenzo straight-up blocked an attempted dunk by Charles Matthews. At one point, after back-to-back 3-pointers, DiVincenzo winked at the crowd. He later said he was aiming for Hart.

The moral of the story is this: every team needs a DiVincenzo on their bench because the DiVicenzo factor is so awe-inspiring it sends goose bumps up and down your spine. I’m so happy for him. He could have been a starter on any other team. Instead, he sacrificed playing time and came off of the bench and put the team first. And the end result was another National Championship for Villanova. AND he was rewarded and voted Most Outstanding Player for the Final Four. Wow. March Madness surely went out with a bang.

Sounds like we all could learn a lesson or two from Vilanova and Mr. DiVincenzo. Can you pronounce his name right yet?

Villanova All The Way, Baby!

  

Villanova looks invincible, and virtually, if not totally unstoppable. The Wildcats dismantled Kansas on Saturday night in the second half of the Final Four, and it was so bad it wasn’t worth staying up to watch till the bitter sweet end to hear the final buzzer sound.  So that’s that.  Villanova will defeat Michigan tonight, and it might not even be close.

As for the Cinderella team that everyone wanted to see win it all, the ballerina’s debutant ball ended all too early for Loyola-Chicago. Sister Jean’s prayers took them farther than she thought, but not as far as they wanted to go.

And that sounds just like life. Sometimes our prayers are answered immediately, and other times we must do exactly as the hymn writer says: “watching and waiting, looking above, filled with his goodness, lost in his love.” Sometimes the best place to be is found in Jesus and lost in God.

Sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. Sometimes the lessons we must learn are more important than getting an “A” on the test. And sometimes the final grade is not as important as the scores of notes we’ve taken along the way. If March Madness doesn’t teach us anything, then the madness has been for nothing. The life lessons we learn along this sometimes rocky road called life can’t be for naught. They just can’t be.

In everything there is a lesson. One of them is everything is subject to change. Because the only constant is change. We must be ready to roll with the punches and rock with the boat. And that’s what winners that did not expect to win many games, such as Loyola-Chicago and UMBC and Kansas State did.  And the losers that did not expect to lose, or to lose so early, such as UVA and North Carolina and Kansas, had to handle unexpected headache and heartbreak too.

Sports helps us with the fact that in life, you win some and you lose some. And that’s just the way it is. Because it’s not if you win or lose, but how you play the game.

Virginia is For Real!

UVA Wins ACC Tournament

The University of Virginia won the ACC tournament with a convincing 71-63 win over Roy Williams and his North Carolina Tar Heels.  Virginia defeated North Carolina for the second time this season and snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Tar Heels in ACC Tournament play.

This season, Coach Tony Bennet led Virginia to a stunning record of 31-2. Along the way, the Cavaliers set a school record for victories, won the conference tournament for the second time in five seasons and will most certainly (actually they have) entered the 2018 NCAA Tournament as the No.1 overall seed, as the field of 68 was announced today.

Virginia has no rookie sensations, no “one-and-dones”– a.k.a., no sure-fire NBA lottery picks, and no players that everyone in the country knows by name. Nonetheless, Virginia is clearly the No. 1 team in the land and they’ve put together one of the most dominant seasons in the storied history of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball.

Kyle Guy, Devon Hall and the Cavaliers won the ACC Championship regular season title and the ACC Tournament with sheer grit, finishing 20-1 against league competition. Not bad for a bunch that started the season unranked and picked to finish sixth in the ACC, the finest college basketball conference in America.

“I think we always knew this could be a special team,” guard Ty Jerome said.

And now that the Cavaliers are favorites. How will they do it? They try to out-underdog the underdogs. I love it. “You fight like you’re not supposed to win or nobody expects you to win,” he explained.

And so it’s true: UVA is for real. They’re the real deal, the real McCoy and are not to be taken lightly. And here’s the spiritual tie in: UVA this year represents what believers should be every year: respected and respectable.  We who believe in the God of Heaven should be at once and always noble and honorable, decent and proper, and, well, what we say we are. To use a tried and true truism, we need to practice what we preach. UVA certainly does.

The UVA defense is lights out. And they score just enough to be a respectable offensive threat. In other words, if you say you’re a defensive team, then don’t try to run when you know you can’t. They do what they do, and they’re proud of it, even if nobody likes it. We want offense. They know they can win with defense. And that’s that.  The UVA defense is the truth. They defend the perimeter and smother you on the interior so that opposing teams feel like they can’t even breathe when they’re got the ball. Offenses bog down and melt down under the UVA’s constant pressure.

So there.  UVA is my pick not only to go to the Final Four but to win the whole thing. 

Let the madness begin.

Patrick Ewing Returns Home, Because Home Is Where The Heart Is

Patrick Ewing

I’m happy for Patrick Ewing. I am. And I’m hopeful for Georgetown and the entire Hoya Nation. I really, really am. And I really hope this works. He’s going home, where he spent four wonderful, magical, fun-filled years playing for John Thompson, Jr. where together they built the Georgetown Men’s Basketball into a national powerhouse using the Big East Conference as a stage.

I’m happy for Patrick because, in this life, you have to pull for someone other than yourself. You have to be selfless and not selfish and cheer and scream and shout and hail for someone outside of your personal space to succeed. So. for the next year or so, I’m going to root and rally and whoop and holler for G’Town to win, except when they play Maryland, of course.

So here’s what the Gene Wang of the Washington Post had to say about Georgetown’s favorite son coming home:

“Ewing’s hire underscores Georgetown’s relationship with the Thompson. Ewing was Thompson Jr.’s first major recruit, and they won the 1984 national championship and made three Final Four appearances in four seasons.

Ewing and Thompson

‘My four years at Georgetown were the best of my life,’ Ewing said in a statement. ‘Georgetown is my home, and it is a great honor for me to return to my alma mater and serve as the next head coach.’

Ewing graduated from Georgetown in 1985 after being named consensus first-team all-American for three straight years, beginning when he was a sophomore. He is second at Georgetown in career points and first in career rebounds, blocks and games played. Ewing is one of four players in school history with 2,000 career points.

The New York Knicks selected Ewing with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1985 NBA draft. He went on to win NBA rookie of the year and was an 11-time All-Star during a career spanning 17 seasons. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

Ewing has no previous head coaching experience but did serve lengthy stints as an assistant with the Houston Rockets under former coach Jeff Van Gundy and the Orlando Magic under Coach Stan Van Gundy. Ewing joined Hornets Coach Steve Clifford’s staff in 2013.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/sports/wp/2017/04/03/georgetown-university-hires-star-alumnus-patrick-ewing-to-replace-john-thompson-iii-as-mens-basketball-coach/?utm_term=.72224541506c#comments

Winning Cures Everything

Everyone loves a winner.  Because winning cures everything. It cures frustration and fury and disappointment and depression and everything else in between.  Winning ways will win you admiration and approval and applause and affection, not to mention esteem and honor.  It’s an axiomatic truth; winning cures what ails us, and we have a lot of maladies that we need healing from.

When you’re winning, you’re conquering and overcoming and triumphing over your foes and your fears. And  your fiercest foes may not be as dangerous as your deepest fears or your weariest woes.

This year, the North Carolina Tar Heels showed us how to win ugly. And even though it wasn’t pretty, it was beautiful.  North Carolina avenged a last second, buzzer beater, gut wrenching loss to Villanova in last year’s final. And if that wasn’t a horrible way to lose, I don’t know what is.

This year, while Gonzaga may have been the sentimental favorite, it would have been awful and even cruel and unusual punishment for North Carolina to lose in the finals for a second year in a row.  So the basketball gods asked the God of the universe for permission to let this one go Carolina’s way. 

We all want God to right our wrongs and cure our ills and forgive our iniquities heal our diseases. Especially this time of year during early Spring, the time of the singing of the birds, when hope springs eternal.  We all need a second chance, or more specifically, another chance, at life. After we slip up and trip up and mess  up, we all need another shot at redemption. This is what we all hope and dream and strive for; atonement, renewal and restoration.  

So don’t give up and don’t give in. Even when you lose a tough one, believe that you can bounce back and win the big one.

Note From Oregon and South Carolina: “We’re The Little Engines That Could!”

Oregon vs. Kansas

I am so happy for the Oregon Ducks. I am. They KO’ed Kansas, and now they’re on their way to the Final Four. They have players like Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell. Go Ducks! The Oregon motto was “Don’t sleep on us.” And Kansas did just that, to their peril. The Associated Press said this: “With swagger and verve and downright prolific shooting, the plucky team that everybody wanted to count out rolled to a 74-60 victory over the Jayhawks on Saturday night, earning the Ducks their first trip to the national semifinals in nearly 80 years.

‘You feel so good for so many people,’ said Ducks coach Dana Altman, who is headed to his first Final Four after 13 trips to the NCAA Tournament. ‘It’s a team effort. You feel good for a lot of people.’ Indeed, a whole lot of people had a hand in it.

Tyler Dorsey hit six 3s and poured in 27 points, and Dillon Brooks added 17 points; and what about the defense of Jordan Bell? Bell finished with 11 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks in a virtuoso performance for the Ducks (33-5). Bell was a man among men as he single-handedly shut down the Kansas offense. Oregon seized the lead with 16 minutes left in the first half and never trailed the rest of the way.”

South Carolina Coach and Players

And what about the South Carolina Gamecocks? They took on and took out Duke and Baylor and Florida, and now they’re on their way to their first Final Four, ever. In the Elite Eight, South Carolina was seeded as a No. 7, and Florida, seeded as a No. 4, with its portfolio of postseason pedigree, couldn’t stop a determined South Carolina squad.  Their victory “T” Shirts read: “Cut the Nets.”  To the victor goes the spoils.  And I love their coach.  Just look as his facial expression. Frank Martin coaches with the intensity and the  propensity to push and pull and poke and prod his team on to victory.  Love it. 

So the correlation is clear. You must believe that you can! Just like the children’s book entitled, “The Little Engine That Could,” first and foremost we all need to dig deep and double down and stop listening to the naysayers who say that we don’t have the right stuff and we don’t do the right things and we’re too awkward and too backward and we’re too this and too that, and blah, blah, blah.  Phooey!

So here’s a homework assignment. Let’s all go and find and get and read “The Little Engine That Could,” again, or the first time. It’s an illustrated children’s book that became widely known in the United States after publication in 1930 by Platt & Munk. The story is used to teach children (and dare I say adults?) the value of optimism and hard work, something we all need a little more of. Amen

Note From Gonzaga: “You Can Win More With Few”

Coach Mark Few

Coach Mark Few said this: Gonzaga “making The Final Four means Everything!” I’m happy for coach Few and the gang from Gonzaga. They’ve won the right to play in a Final Four for the first time in school history.  Coach Few, who many think should be the national coach of the year, has built Gonzaga up from nothing and they’ve come from nowhere and now they stand on the brink of the biggest stage poised to win the biggest prize in Men’s college basketball. 

So why not route for Gonzaga?