A truly epic clash of physicality, Hall of Fame coaching and big-time shots.
North Carolina’s Marcus Paige hit one of the most unbelievable shots to tie the game with 4.7 seconds left and people went crazy. Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacano dribbled the ball up the court, dished it back to Kris Jenkins and at the buzzer, people went crazier. With this shot, Jenkins and the Wildcats entered college basketball lore forever.
Cue the celebration, the confetti and the trophy celebration. In a 77-74 victory, the Villanova Wildcats are this year’s college basketball national champions.
With this win, Villanova is national champions for the first time since 1985, the second-longest gap between championships in college basketball history. In 1985, they defeated college basketball giants, Patrick Ewing and the No. 1 seeded Georgetown Hoyas. And in 2016, they defeated another No. 1 seed, the North Carolina Tar Heels.
One moment North Carolina is up in the clouds, a few moments later they are in dismay. It’s the ecstasy and agony of March, but it’s what makes March Madness great.
Coming off the second-highest shooting percentage in Final Four history, the Wildcats were tasked with keeping a hot hand all while handling one of college basketball’s most dynamic offenses. Both of these teams had mostly dominated every opponent on their path to the final round. Now, it was time to prove who was the best of the best.
North Carolina finished the first half on top 39-34, but the second half was anyone’s game.
The last five minutes were a spectacle for all people to enjoy. No matter where your allegiance stood, what you were doing, we stopped to watch the two best teams in college basketball duel it out for what every coach, player and fan dreams of.
With the clock under two minutes, it was all Marcus Paige. The senior sunk a layup and two three-pointers to keep his team alive. Then, the heartbreaker happened.
After hitting an acrobatic, double-clutch three that sent America into shock, Paige and the Tar Heels experienced their own shock at the hand of Kris Jenkins.
In the loss, North Carolina’s guards played arguably their best game of the season. Their two points guards, Paige and Joel Berry, scored 21 and 20 points and knocked down four three-pointers each. Justin Jackson added three more shots from deep. The Tar Heels made 11-of-17 three-point shots overall.
Senior forward Brice Johnson, one of college basketball’s most dominant big men, finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. Villanova held Carolina’s other two bigs, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, to just four points each.
The traditional powerhouse and their powerhouse of an offense fell victim to the balanced, consistent attack of the Wildcats.
Villanova had four players in double-figures, led in scoring by Phil Booth’s 20 points off the bench and nearly flawless shooting performance (6-or-7 from field, 6-of-6 from free throw line). But while the sophomore had the biggest game of his career, the real hero was obviously Jenkins.
Jenkins’ game-winning three marked the first buzzer-beater to win the national championship since 1983, when Lorenzo Charles grabbed a hopeless air ball and slammed it in to create one of the wildest moments in NCAA tournament history.
Kris Jenkins, the brother of Carolina’s Nate Britt, will not only forever have brotherly bragging rights, but a permanent place in college basketball lore.
This finish was a perfect cap to this legendary tournament. Until next year, March Madness.
Featured image courtesy of justinknabb
Edited by David Bradford
Dalton, a firm believer that sporting events are best spent on Twitter, is an Assistant Sports Editor for TNJN and a sophomore studying Journalism at the University of Tennessee. Two of his favorite pastimes include beating his roommates at 2k and remaining in awe of the amount of stories fellow editor David Bradford writes. Twitter: @dk_writes