It was a Battle of the Blues. Villanova Blue and Carolina Blue, that is. Or if you want to get technical, Pantone 542 and Pantone 281.
Villanova narrowly defeated North Carolina 77-74, with a last-second three-pointer to take the NCAA Men's Basketball National Championship. It's the Wildcats’ second national title, their first was in 1985.
The first half at NRG Stadium was a tense back-and-forth battle, and by the end of the half, the No. 1 seeded Tar Heels led 39-34.
Both teams were were experienced, led by senior guards (Ryan Arcidiacono and Marcus Paige) on a mission.
Arcidiacono, who was named most outstanding player of the Final Four, scored 16 points. Phil Booth added a team-high 20 for Villanova. Paige answered with a game-high 21 for UNC.
Arcidiacono arrived four years ago, mending a back injury, about to play for team that hadn't been in the Final Four since 2009. “We wanted to get it back to the what the standards of Villanova basketball should be,” he said.
And they did that, with jump shots and pump fakes that kept UNC’s defense off balance.
The ending won't be forgotten anytime soon. The Heels, trailing by 10 with five minutes remaining, fought back with Paige’s double-clutch 3-pointer. The opponents continued to one-up each other. Then it happened. Arcidiacono ran the ball up court and flipped it behind to Jenkins, trailing him. He pulled up for the shot and it rattled through as time expired.
So was it a shock that Villanova won the Championship? No. This season, the name of the game was Parity. There was never just one dominant team. A whopping six teams were ranked no. 1 at some point, UNC and Villanova included. Considering that both teams crushed their Final Four opponents with huge leads, yet came within three points of winning it all Monday night, is a clear indication that Villanova and UNC were ultimately the best. And with the skill these seniors possess, their future looks bright. Really bright.
We saw the highest standards ever in NCAA basketball, so we can only expect future seasons to be just as fascinating to watch.