The final two teams battled Monday night for the NCAA national championship as the Villanova Wildcats faced off against the North Carolina Tar Heels, in what many people would consider the greatest championship game in NCAA tournament history. In the end, the Wildcats were crowned national champions after a buzzer-beating three by Kris Jenkins, which gave Villanova the 77-74 victory.
It was a back-and-forth contest as the Tar Heels found themselves down 10 with five minutes to go in the second half. North Carolina’s Marcus Paige, scored some of the greatest game-tying three-pointers which led fans to believe in a Tar Heel victory. However, the comeback was short-lived as Kris Jenkins hit the buzzer-beating three at the end of regulation to crown the Villanova Wildcats as the NCAA champions.
Villanova’s defense was on full display during Monday night’s championship game as they limited Tar Heel’s Brice Johnson to 14 points on 3-4 shooting from the field. This is the second game in a row where Villanova’s defense proved to be the X factor. The results were shown in their Final Four victory over the Oklahoma Sooners where they limited Buddy Hield, NCAA’s scoring leader, to 12 points on 4-12 from the field. The key going into Monday’s game was shutting down North Carolina’s forwards from scoring in the paint, the part of the basketball court they’ve thrived from all tournament. The plan worked throughout the game, but North Carolina’s guards Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II went 6-6 from the three-point range in the first half, Berry II finished with 20 points on 7-12 shootings and Jackson ended up with nine points on 7-17. North Carolina finished the game on 11-17 from the three-point range.
The Tar Heels lead a successful 39-34 in the first half. In the second half, Villanova’s defense and offense clicked and built a 10-point-lead with five minutes to go in the game. Tar Heels’ Marcus Paige took over the game hitting two clutch shots with less than a minute to go, including an off-balance one handed three pointer to tie the game at 74. After a Villanova timeout, Ryan Arcidiacono brought the ball down court and handed off to Kris Jenkins as he attempted a three which sealed the deal for the Wildcats at the buzzer.
Villanova won their first national championship since 1985, the 30-year-gap was the second longest in the history of the NCAA tournament. In what was perhaps the greatest ending to a championship game, Ryan Arcidiacono would be named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player of 2016, although the real star of the night was Wildcats’ Kris Jenkins and his game winning shot, which brought home the championship for the city of Villanova, Pennsylvania.