What A Game!
April 7, 2016
We should have known something special was going to happen since Villanova was in the finals of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. After all, the Wildcats won the 1985 national championship with the biggest upset ever in the NCAA tournament’s title game. I am aging myself but I still remember how unheralded Villanova upset powerful Georgetown and Patrick Ewing.
In terms of drama, I believe the Wildcats topped that on Monday night. They won an all-time classic national championship with a last second shot that will likely go down as the most unforgettable in the history of college basketball.
In typical Villanova fashion, an unfamiliar name will do down in history. Especially in Philly. Kris Jenkins launched a last-second 3-pointer that instantly took its spot in the annals of the sport—right there alongside Michael Jordan as a freshman Christian Laettner beating the buzzer. Jenkins effort as time expired gave No. 2 seed Villanova a classic 77-74 upset over No. 1 seed North Carolina.
A great game became an epic during the final five seconds. It started with a miraculous shot and ended with an even more miraculous shot.
North Carolina had battled back from a 10-point deficit when the ball came to senior guard Marcus Paige with the Tar Heels down three points in the game’s closing seconds. He elevated, and had to double-pump while still in the air due to the closeness of a Wildcat defender. Still, he drilled the three-pointer that tied the game with 4.7 seconds left.
Villanova’s Kris Jenkins
Paige’s shot would have supplanted Jordan’s effort as the most memorable shot even in Tar Heels history. Except for what happened next.
Villanova called time out and came out with a play that he practices almost every day in practice. The Wildcats inbounded the ball to their leading scorer, senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono. He gets down the court as fast as possible with the inbounds passer, Jenkins, trailing behind him. Arcidiacano lateraled him the ball. Judging by Jenkins’ follow through, it seemed like he and everyone knew it was going in. That is how confident of a pose he had while the ball was in the air.
The shot swished with no time on the clock, the first buzzer-beater to win a national championship since 1983.
Thinking back, Villanova’s title this year was alot like its last one. The Wildcats went against conventional wisdom. Every school that has won a national championship in the modern era of college basketball had celebrated with sought-after NBA stars cutting down the nets. It seemed impossible to imagine any team could win without such talent.
But Villanova did it without anyone who leaps out as an obvious NBA superstar. Every title team in the past decade or so had a first-round NBA draft pick on its roster. Villanova is now the likely exception.
The Wildcats didn’t need NBA potential. This is college basketball, after all, and their efficient offense and lockdown defense were more than enough for a remarkable NCAA tournament run. This team earned it. All they did was dispatch the NCAA tournament’s No. 1 overall seed (Kansas) in the Elite Eight, eliminate college basketball’s premier individual player (Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield) in the biggest Final Four blowout ever and beat the sport’s preseason No. 1 team (North Carolina) in the national championship with a historic shot.