It’s all over. The confetti has fallen and the nets have been cut down. The Villanova Wildcats are your 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Champs. They defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels 77-74 in regulation. It was an epic game that came down to the last few possessions. Let’s rewind the tape and see exactly how it all happened.
Villanova’s D came to play
This swarming unit was all over UNC from the opening tip. They forced turnovers and contested every shot. They really made life hell for the Tar Heel offense which is accustom to working the ball into the paint where they usually dominate. Not in this game. The passing lanes were clogged and North Carolina struggled to get consistent looks down the stretch. Coach Jay Wright should be proud of his team’s stellar defense.
The guards led the way
Senior Ryan Arcidiacono was a leader all tourney and he showed up big on Monday with 16 points. More importantly, he provided a calming presence in those wild last seconds as UNC stormed back. He also smartly passed the ball to Kris Jenkins who nailed the game-winning three. Arcidiacono could have taken the shot himself but Jenkins was open. This buzzer beater will go down in history as one of the all time best.
Marcus Paige is a beast
The only reason Nova was tied with UNC was because guard Marcus Paige was draining threes. His last shot was insane. He jumped, made a ball fake and then forced it up. It tied the game at 74 with only 4.7 seconds left. He led all scorers with 21 points, plus had another 5 rebounds and 6 assists. This game could have easily been out of hand but Paige’s heroics keep things super dramatic. Keep your eye on this dude.
Booth off the bench
Phil Booth finished with 20 of Villanova’s 77 points, all while coming off the bench. He was the leading scorer for the Wildcats when no starter had more than 16 points. He continually hit clutch shots, made all 6 of his free throws and both of his three point attempts. It seemed like every time Carolina hit a big bucket, Phil Booth answered the call. There is no victory without Booth. He may just have secured a spot on someone’s starting five.
Nova refused to lose
Down 34-39 at the half, it seemed like the popular narrative was playing out. The #1 seed Tar Heels had a lead and were playing their game. Coach Roy Williams was 20 minutes from his third championship. But Nova would not go away. Their defense locked in and suddenly things started to turn. UNC couldn’t get a pass inside and the Wildcats were swarming. Mikal Bridges was especially great in those end moments.
This is Villanova’s first title since 1985 and these guys truly earned it. They played a killer tournament and ended on the highest possible note. This team was a Marcus Paige away from winning by 10 and I’m sure they never wanted it to be that close but I’m positive that Kris Jenkins and other Villanova Wildcats wouldn’t have it any other way.
What a quality tournament so far. We’ve seen big upsets, buzzer beaters, double overtime and everything in between. Now only four teams remain. My bracket is pretty busted. I only have 1 Final Four team correct but I have them winning it all so I may still finish in a reasonable place. But this isn’t about me, let’s get to know the squads who have braved the tourney so far. These are your Final Four of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
They are a 10 seed in the Final Four. That has never happened before. Just for that reason they should win. So hats off to the ultimate cinderella team. I’m pulling for the Orange. It’s so rare what they are attempting. Make that history. People always say that the tournament is about momentum, if that is true then head coach Jim Boeheim should be getting ready to party. Boeheim has had a great career (won the title in 2003) and this would be just gravy for one of college’s best coaches.
My bracket pick to win it all. The only 1 seed left alive. Coach Roy Williams has the Tar Heels firing on all cylinders. No one wants to play this crew. Historically, 1 seeds have done super well in the tourney. No other seed has more championships. As the only 1 seed, UNC, must be considered the overall favorite moving forward. The math is in their favor. And if I know anything about basketball it’s that math is a big part of it. North Carolina has five national titles. That’s a lot of trophies. Duke also has five. With only Kentucky (8) and UCLA (11) sporting more.
This 2 seed shocked Kansas, who many picked it win it all. Maybe Highlander rules apply and now Nova has all the Jayhawks’ power. If that’s true then Villa may go Super-Nova on anyone left in their path to a title. Villanova has only ever won the tournament once and that was back in 1985. The first year the bracket was expanded to 64 teams. The Wildcats are still playing in March Madness because their defense has been stout. They force turnovers and those possessions lead to easy baskets.
Another 2 seed. Is it too soon to call this the Sooners year? They are playing at such a high level and have been so fun to watch. They handled a solid Oregon team and looked in complete control. Oklahoma has never won a national championship. They were runners up in 1947 (lost to Holy Cross) and 1988 (lost to Kansas) so it would be great to see this lineup bring some hardware back to Norman, OK.
So I like all the teams. Sue me. Oh god, please don’t do that. I’m so broke and so is my bracket. Have mercy. Jokes aside, all four of these programs look strong and poised for a big win. It’s truly hard to discount any of these schools. I can see them all cutting down the nets come April 4th. Sit back and enjoy what will be some great college hoops.