Kris Jenkins finished with 14 points, but Villanova, North Carolina and college basketball will never forget his final three. Jenkins’ buzzer-beating three-pointer gave the Wildcats a 74-71 victory for the national championship.
After Saturday’s two miserably lopsided national semifinals, the NCAA Tournament was resuscitated Monday night with one of the most memorable title games ever played — punctuated by two absurd twists in the final five seconds.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams felt like he had to get these Tar Heels to the Final Four. His point of reference for disappointment is the 1997 Kansas team, which was 34-1 and ranked first in the nation before losing to Arizona in the NCAA Tournament.
In 2007, Kris Jenkins moved into the house of Nate Britt Jr. Little did anyone know at the time that nine years later their teams — Villanova and North Carolina — would oppose each other in the NCAA Tournament championship game.
North Carolina will meet Villanova for the NCAA championship. The Tar Heels beat Syracuse 83-66 in Saturday’s semifinal despite missing their first 12 three-pointers. The Orange couldn’t muster the same magic that carried them to a comeback victory over Virginia in the region final.
Oklahoma knew it would be in for a struggle with Villanova at the NCAA Final Four in Houston. Neither the Sooners nor the Wildcats could have expected an epic margin of victory. In a meeting of two No. 2 seeds, the Wildcats beat the Sooners 95-51 in the biggest blowout in Final Four history.
Former Kansas State basketball star Steve Henson will be introduced next Friday as the new head coach at Texas-San Antonio. Henson will continue as Oklahoma’s assistant coach during the Final Four. The Sooners meet Villanova in Saturday’s semifinal.
Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield was the Big 12 player of the year as a junior, and that wasn’t good enough. He improved in several areas and returned to become one of the nation’s top players and has led the Sooners to the Final Four.
On the basketball court, North Carolina and Syracuse advanced to the Final Four. Off the floor, they failed to run clean programs in the eyes of the NCAA. Hall of Fame coaches Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim are dealing with the clouds over their programs.
Revenue for postseason basketball is paid from the NCAA to conferences for the success of its teams. The more you win, the more you get. The Big 12 was 9-7 in this year’s tournament before the Final Four and that means about $4 million in additional revenue for the conference.
The NCAA has been playing wait-and-see when it comes to religious freedom laws or constitutional amendments running through statehouses. But the organization signaled a stronger stance on Thursday if that includes a site ban, hoop-loving states like Missouri and North Carolina could feel the impact.