The Villanova Wildcats fans deserved that in more ways than one.
Following their historic 95-51 rout of Oklahoma, the largest margin of victory ever in a Final Four game in which they covered the spread by 42 points, Nova was due for a nail-biter. On Monday night, the Villanova faithful experienced those nerve-wrenching jitters.
4.7 seconds left on the clock in a 74-74 tied ballgame against the University of North Carolina with the NCAA Men’s Division I National Championship on the line, Villanova fans were on the edges of their seats.
Tar Heels senior Marcus Paige had just evened up the score with an unthinkable double-clutch three-pointer. Now it was Villanova’s turn for heroics, and junior forward Kris Jenkins stepped up to the line and drained a 21-footer as time expired to give the Wildcats the title and the university its most iconic moment in history.
“Bang,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said as the ball fell through the net. Cool, calm, collected and always stylish, the coach in his 15th season calmly walked to half court to shake hands with UNC coach Roy Williams.
“About my reaction, when you’re a coach, you’re always thinking about the next play,” Wright told reporters. “I was really thinking, ‘Is there going to be more time on the clock?'”
No Time Like the Present
Wright’s thinking of the next play was unneeded as Jenkins barely got off the shot before the clock struck zero. A two-point underdog according to the books in Las Vegas, Villanova’s last-second stunner not only gave them the Wooden Trophy, but also annulled all bets on the Tar Heels.
Over the course of his 15 years at Villanova, Wright has amassed a record of 354-157 (.693) in the deeply talented Big East Conference. An impressive mark considering Nova contended against the likes of Syracuse and UConn over the years and still plays Butler, Seton Hall, Xavier, Marquette, and Georgetown during the regular season.
Wright has led the Wildcats to 11 NCAA tournament appearances in those 15 years, but he had never reached the finale until his team’s win over the Sooners on Saturday. Wright’s previous inability to go all the way raised suspicions among some in Philadelphia in recent years, but today all arguments, like those wagers on UNC, are obsolete.
The final eight seconds of Monday night’s championship are quickly gaining traction of potentially being dubbed the best eight seconds in the history of college basketball.
68 teams and 44 games of March Madness all boiled down to eight captivating seconds.
“How can Monday night’s finish not have been one of the finest ever, all things considered?” NCAA.com writer Mike Lopresti asked. “How could it have been any more compelling, more dramatic, more drop-your-jaw shocking, those eight seconds?”
The NCAA tournament championship is rarely determined on a final moment shot. In fact, over the last 25 years, only six games have been determined by three or fewer points as the second half concluded.
“Right now, I’m numb. I really am,” Wright told Philadelphia’s local ABC affiliate. “It is a thrill, it is humbling to feel so fortunate with these guys.”