Well we are now almost 48 hours removed from the National Championship game and the thought of it still gives me goose bumps. A lot of the time when you hear people claim, “That was the best game ever” they’re just living in the moment. A few days later they usually take that back and return to reality. But two days after Nova’s last second victory over North Carolina, it still seems surreal. When TBS analyst Bill Raftery shouted “Strap in, it’s gonna be a good one!” at the first TV timeout, you had a feeling this game was going to be special. A game that started so fast and never took its foot off the gas, a game that had absolutely everything; it was the perfect recipe for a perfect championship. There are many reasons why this will go down as the greatest championship game of all time so let’s take a look at the biggest ones.
When talking about these two coaches, these players have nothing but praise for Jay Wright and Roy Williams. Since Wright has gotten to Nova, he’s done nothing but win. The Council Rock native boasts a .693 winning percentage with the Wildcats and now has a championship under his belt. On the other side, Roy Williams has a .772 winning percentage with the Tar Heels to go along with his 70 career tournament wins and two championships.This coaching matchup had the potential to be a great one and it sure did live up to it. Both of these coaches, in a time when a lot of college basketball stars leave for the NBA after one year, went to the championship game riding the backs of their seniors. The Tar Heels were led by seniors Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige while Daniel Ochefu and Ryan Arcidiacono carried the Wildcats through the tournament and propelled them to a championship win. Both coaches had their teams hungry and prepared which made this game that much greater.
Very rarely do you get to watch two teams playing at their absolute best and very rarely do you get to watch two of the hottest teams play each other. If you put those two things together, you get an outstanding back and forth basketball game. You also get a fantastic shooting display. Villanova shot a ridiculous 58% for the game while Carolina shot 43% but made up for it with their 65% clip from 3.
The Cats were led in scoring by sophomore Phil Booth who had 20 points on 6-7 shooting while Marcus Paige led the way for UNC in his final game wearing Tar Heel blue putting up 21, shooting 4-7 from 3- none bigger than his last one. Up and down these teams went scoring at will against great defenses. Luckily for Nova, whichever team had the ball in their hands last was going to pull out the win.
Something that separates college basketball from the NBA is the heart and emotion shown by all the players. After all, these kids are no older than 22. That’s why this game was both an extreme high and extreme low.
For the Carolina players, it was impossible for them to hold back the tears after that gut-wrenching defeat. Even Coach Williams couldn’t help but let out a few drops. The Wildcats were ecstatic, and rightfully so.
You only dream of a championship game ending like it did and these players were literally living the dream. The joy across those players’ faces was felt all throughout Nova Nation and well beyond. You couldn’t help but feel terrible for the Tar Heel players, especially Marcus Paige, the senior who hit the improbable shot to send the game into overtime, or so he thought. The Wildcats had other plans.
Is it possible to talk about this game and not mention the ending? Probably not. With 4:42 left in the game, Carolina was down 10 points. In the next 4 plus minutes, the Heels did everything they were supposed to.
They sent Nova to the line as they chipped away at the lead. Then Marcus Paige, in the final game of his career, took over. He scored 8 points in the final 1:35. Those 8 points included the biggest shot of his career- a double clutch 3- pointer with 6 seconds left. Jay Wright immediately calls a time out and draws up a play.
Out of that time out Arcidiacono dribbles up the court, flips it to Kris Jenkins, and the rest is history. Confetti falls and the Wildcats bring Philadelphia its first title since 2008 (if you don’t count the Philadelphia Soul). A great game throughout that ended in complete ecstasy for one team and complete heartbreak for the other. So if you take a look at all of the various aspects of this game, it makes it a lot easier to proclaim it as the greatest championship ever.
photo credit: David J. Phillip / Associated Press