DENEGA: Nova gave the college basketball season a fitting end
The 2015-2016 college basketball season was wild, fantastic and unpredictable.
Right to the glorious end.
Villanova and North Carolina gave the men’s college basketball season the ending it so appropriately deserved.
The No. 2-seeded Wildcats claimed the national title after junior forward Kris Jenkins hit a deep 3-pointer from the left wing as time expired, which gave Villanova its first championship since 1985.
It was the first time in 23 years that the championship game ended on a buzzer beater.
But it’s how we got there that made the game quite possibly the best national championship game ever.
The game was a back-and-forth affair that saw both teams making big-time plays.
It wasn’t a grinder or a slop fest, but a symphony of high-intensity basketball.
And with under 10 seconds to go, two of the greatest shots in NCAA tournament history occurred.
With 4.7 seconds left, UNC senior guard Marcus Paige connected on a trey from the left wing after he had to alter his shot, double-clutching mid jump before drilling a bucket that tied the game at 74.
Immediately after that shot I said to myself, ‘North Carolina just won. It will end up winning in overtime, and that shot by Paige is one of the greatest shots I’ve ever seen.’
The degree of difficulty on that 3 was ridiculous, and the whole sequence looked very awkward. But Paige somehow found the bottom of the net.
Yet somehow, that shot is seemingly forgotten, like a milepost on I-94.
That’s because when it passed through the net, there was still just under five seconds to play.
Just enough time for Villanova to advance the ball up the floor for Jenkins’ heroics.
This was the perfect basketball game.
The game could have been a rout, as North Carolina was the preseason favorite to win it all with numerous future professionals on their roster. It wouldn’t been out of the question for the Tar Heels to dispatch the upset-minded Wildcats.
The game could have crawled to a finish with fouls and timeouts, as so many
basketball games end up doing.
It could have ended with missed shot or a mental breakdown.
Many other scenarios could have played out, but they didn’t.
It simply ended with two great teams going blow for blow, with the Wildcats eventually coming out ahead.
And rightfully so.
In a season where the No. 1 ranking was a revolving door and there was no true dominant team, this is the end for which the college basketball season clamored.
But don’t let this magnificent championship game overshadow some other fantastic tournament moments.
Don’t forget No. 15-seeded Middle Tennessee upsetting No. 2-seeded Michigan State – which may have deserved a No. 1 seed – in what many are calling the greatest upset in NCAA tournament history.
Don’t forget No. 11-seeded Northern Iowa blowing a
12-point lead with under 40 seconds to play in regulation against No. 3-seeded Texas A&M in the Round of 32. Perhaps the greatest collapse in tournament history.
Don’t forget Arkansas-Little Rock rallying from a 13-point deficit with under four minutes to play to force overtime en route to an upset of No. 5-seeded Purdue.
Many other games and instances that made us realize there’s nothing quite like March Madness.
This tournament had its shining moment in Jenkins’ trey, but there many more moments that made the tournament special yet again.
This is the opinion of John Denega who covers Minot High athletics, Minot State softball and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @JohnDenega_MDN.