Villanova won its second national championship in three years Monday night as it defeated the University of Michigan 79-62 in the NCAA Division I men’s basketball national championship game.
Michigan briefly led the game in the first half, but by halftime the Wildcats led by nine and the Wolverines would never overcome that deficit. It was the first national championship game appearance for Michigan since 2013. Michigan has not won a national championship for men’s basketball since 1989.
One had to be determined or lucky to find a seat to watch the game in the bars at the heart of campus in Ann Arbor, where students and fans were out in force. People were waiting in lines hours before some of the bars opened. There was a watch party at Crisler Arena too, that was opened to the public before game time.
Villanova was the favorite to win, and that fact only contributed to heightened excitement when Michigan was fighting to cling to that early first-half lead. But eventually the Wildcats found a gear Michigan just didn’t have, and the Wolverines’ shooting got worse.
“I think we all got a little more excited than we expected. [It was] a little disappointing, but it was still a good game. We’re still proud of our boys,” said Hannah Goosen. “I mean it’s still great to be a Michigan Wolverine.”
Ashley Lee says she’s a senior studying at Michigan. She says she and her friends threw a pre-game party for every game of this year’s March Madness tournament as the Wolverines, coached by John Beilein, progressed to the championship. She said her and some friends skipped class the entire day Monday ahead of the championship game. She said she was disappointed with the loss, but appreciated the effort by the student athletes on the basketball team and a chance to bond with friends.
“It was honestly a lot of emotions, but I would say the most exciting part was watching with it as a senior with everyone,” Lee said.
As the game progressed, Michigan’s fate became clear. Late in the second half, the crowds at the bars started headed for home.
“It’s like diminishing returns, like you know when you have too many drinks ... and I started to feel like it was time to stop drinking and just go home,” Lee said.
As a throng of saddened Wolverines moved from the bars on South University in the middle of campus toward the darkened neighborhoods of their apartments, there was no chaotic aftermath. About a dozen Ann Arbor police officers stationed at an intersection watched, but Villanova had already mostly put the kibosh on the night’s festivities.
“Villanova’s an unbelievable team, I kind of expected it,” said Owen Hurley, who says he’s a junior at Michigan studying economics.