The one shining moment of the NCAA Tournament came in its final second.
A perfectly run play by Villanova resulted in Kris Jenkins getting off a wide-open look at a 3-pointer at the buzzer and you could see the moment it left his hand it was going to be nothing but net.
Jenkins’ pretty-as-a-rainbow parabola tickled the twine, setting off a wild celebration for the Wildcats as they punched North Carolina in the gut, 77-74.
The Tar Heels had tied the game on one of the most improbable shots in NCAA history, a corkscrew 3-pointer by Marcus Paige that somehow went in even though his body was badly contorted.
In the end, the best team of the NCAA Tournament won. While Villanova probably wasn’t the pick in most office pools, the Wildcats demonstrated their Philly toughness from beginning to end, putting together one of the best stretches of six games I’ve seen in the tournament in a long time.
For Kansas fans, there’s probably some solace now that it lost to the eventual national champion, though that and a quarter may buy you a cup of coffee.
What I like most about Villanova winning the championship is that it’s a team with no superstars, no one-and-done players. The Wildcats were gritty, tenacious and had the shooting eye of expert marksmen.
I really believe the basket at the first-half buzzer by the Wildcats, which cut North Carolina’s lead to 39-34, was a huge momentum swing. North Carolina had used some rare 3-point prowess and an out-of-body experience by Joel Berry II to lead, as he seemingly couldn’t miss.
As always seems to be the case in a big game, there was an unsung hero. Villanova sophomore Phil Booth probably wasn’t on too many radars before the game, but he blazed away off the bench for a career-high 20 points.
I have to admit I felt badly for good ol’ Roy. While Williams has been gone from Kansas for more than a decade, I still have a soft spot in my heart as no coach wears his feelings more on his sleeve. He’s 65 now, a long time removed from that low-paid assistant coach who emerged from obscurity to lead Kansas on some of the best rides ever, even though they never resulted in a national championship.
Williams has won two championships at North Carolina and with an impending investigation into the school that may yield some penalties, you have to wonder how much longer he wants to coach. He battles vertigo and has a bad knee that slows him down, though his mind is still keen and he can still recruit the 4- and 5-Star kids.
The NCAA Tournament is right up there with the Super Bowl and Masters golf tournament in my book for favorite sporting events. While Villanova wasn’t the best team during the regular season, it certainly was for the six-game tournament.