YPSILANTI, Mich. — No one from Michigan is happy about how the NCAA National Championship game turned out Monday night but eventually, says coach John Beilein, the good memories of the season will override any lingering disappointment.
Beilein and the Wolverines returned home Tuesday afternoon as their charter flight from San Antonio arrived at Willow Run Airport outside of Ann Arbor. Michigan lost 79-62 to Villanova on Monday to end the season 33-8. The Wolverines’ 14-game winning streak also ended with the loss and Michigan was denied a second national title to go with the championship won by the 1989 team.
“We’re still pretty sad,” Beilein said at the airport. “I don’t think anyone has smiles on their faces but the journey, as time goes by I think they’ll really appreciate the journey more than the fact that they didn’t get the final hardware. It was a great season. To be part of a Final Four again and just play in a game of that magnitude and that environment it just something none of us will ever forget and are blessed to be a part of.”
Part of that journey included winning a second consecutive Big Ten Tournament championship. The Wolverines went 13-5 in the league in the regular season, earning them the No. 5 seed in tournament. They won four games in four days, just as they did last season, beating Iowa (in overtime), Nebraska, Michigan State and Purdue for the title. The run through the NCAA Tournament saw wins against Montana, Houston, Texas A&M, Florida State and Loyola-Chicago before running into the juggernaut that was Villanova (36-4).
The Wildcats were the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament and showed why on Monday, making 10 3-point shots and getting 31 points from sixth man Donte DiVincenzo. Michigan led 21-14 in the first half but Villanova had a 37-28 lead at halftime and never looked back.
Michigan’s defense led it to the championship game. Villanova led the nation in scoring this season, averaging 86.6 points per game. The 79 points it scored on Monday were the third-highest total allowed all season by Michigan and just the third time the Wolverines allowed more than 70 points in 10 postseason games this year.
“Our growth on both sides of the ball, the defense in particular, was indicative of the type of players we have,” said assistant coach Luke Yaklich, who has primarily worked with the defense. “We have a gritty group, a tough group, a talented group that their strengths really came together. They accentuated each other.”
Yaklich found one surprise when he arrived back to his car parked outside Crisler Center: parking tickets. Maybe he can get an exemption on them.
“I’m going to try,” he said.
The coaching staff won’t have much time to savor this season. Beilein said he’ll be back recruiting quickly.
“The good news is the month of March was very busy. The bad news is we couldn’t do much recruiting in the month of March so we’ve got to make up for that in April,” Beilein said. “I’ve moved right on. This the 43rd time I’ve had to move on, so you just do it. I will have tomorrow where I will be just walking around the house and the offices not knowing what to do. There’s not video to watch, there’s no practice plan to do. Believe me, that’s harder to do than people think.”