Donte DiVincenzo is a man of many names. There’s “The Michael Jordan of Delaware,” which is a homage to his home state and his outstanding high school basketball career. There’s “The Big Ragu,” which draws inspiration from his signature red hair and Italian heritage. However, the newest addition to Donte’s various titles is “Most Outstanding Player.” His 31 point, five rebound, three assist, and two block performance in the national championship game led the Wildcats to victory, and he was awarded the Most Outstanding Player Award.
It is not very common for one player to dominate the Wildcats’ box score so much, as the team does such a great job of spreading the ball. However, nothing could stop the DiVincenzo Show on Monday night. DiVincenzo was the definition of a spark plug off the bench, as he made several electrifying plays to ignite the team. Whether it was nailing three pointers from the parking lot or blocking Charles Matthew’s dunk attempt in soul-crushing fashion, the Big Ragu did it all. His 31 points on 10-15 shooting set a championship record for most points off the bench. In fact, he became only the third player to score 30 points on 66%+ shooting in a championship game, joining the legendary company of Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Bill Walton. Prior to the championship, Villanova was 11-0 when DiVincenzo put up 18-plus points. Now, it is 12-0 and champion for the second time in three years.
After the game, the Wildcats all expressed appreciation for DiVincenzo performance. Phil Booth, in reference to his well-known 20 points performance in the 2016 championship, shouted in celebration, “I didn’t ever get hot like that!” Jay Wright told the press that, “He had a clear head and he did whatever we needed all year. Tonight we needed 31. I didn't think we'd need him to do that but he has done it, so we'll take it.” However, no statement was more telling than Jalen Brunson’s: “He’s worked so hard to make himself the best player he can be every day, honestly, this is nothing special — excuse me, this is very special. This is nothing surprising for us. We’ve seen Donte do this multiple times this year.”
To talk about DiVincenzo as if he simply came out of nowhere in the National Championship would be unfair to the season he put together. A common refrain among broadcasters of Villanova’s games this past season was that it did not only have five starter-caliber players; DiVincenzo was its sixth. Despite starting only 10 of the Wildcats’ 40 games, DiVincenzo was the third-leading scorer on the team, averaging 13.4 PPG on the season on 29.4 MPG. Highlight performances included an outstanding 30-point outburst in a victory against Butler in February, as well as 18 points and five assists in a win over Alabama in the second round of the tournament. DiVincenzo’s ability to lead the team off the bench resulted in his being named the Big East’s Sixth Man of the Year.
No matter what name you call him, “The Michael Jordan of Delaware,” “The Big Ragu,” or “Most Outstanding Player,” DiVincenzo showed, on Monday night and throughout the season, what makes him so important to the Wildcats. DiVincenzo’s championship performance was simply a culmination of everything he had done this year. Anybody who watched Villanova diligently knew that DiVincenzo had this ability within him. While he could declare for the NBA Draft this year, it is unclear what he plans to do. Hopefully, for the Nova Nation’s case, this is not the last time we see him in the blue and white.