Villanova Defeats North Carolina At Buzzer To Win National Championship

Final Four: In one of the most dramatic endings in Final Four history, Villanova shocks UNC to win 2nd ever National Title:


Via SI dot com:

HOUSTON — Jay Wright felt bad for Oklahoma. And not only because his Villanova team played just about perfect on Saturday night and delivered the worst beating in the history of the Final Four. It was a 95–51 win that was so exacting and destructive that it became boring. Even the theoretically lyrical part about it—Villanova’s breathtaking 71.4% shooting was the second-best rate ever in this event, trailing only Villanova’s 1985 team which shot 78.6% in its shocking title-game upset of Georgetown—didn’t feel like poetry. So, sure, these were some reasons Wright felt bad. It was almost impossible to conceive of his team playing this well, at this point. Oklahoma was supposed to show up here with a chance, and it did not have a chance at all.

But Wright, who is in his 15th year with the Wildcats, felt bad, additionally, because he could relate. He knew what it felt like to stand on a Final Four sideline in a giant stadium and look out and think everything was going to be fine. He knew about the knot in your stomach that starts burning hot when you realize, too late, that everything will not be fine. He knew what it was like to see the game recede suspiciously fast, to come to the grim understanding that the ensuing rogue wave is inevitable and will leave nothing behind after it lands.

He knew because that is how he felt seven years ago, maybe 10 minutes into a national semifinal against North Carolina. In his Villanova team, he saw a group playing a game. In the Tar Heels, he saw a group obsessed about owning a game. So North Carolina quickly took a 17-point lead, and it was over. Wright knew it, and it gnawed at him so much that he vowed he’d never let it happen again. He wouldn’t tell his kids to enjoy the moment. He wouldn’t let them soak it all in. He wouldn’t even permit them to walk through the hotel lobby to get to the team bus, lest any overzealous well-wishers clog a direct path to the business at hand. If Villanova ever returned to a Final Four, Wright promised himself, it was not for fun.

So that is a more complete explanation for why Villanova’s coach felt bad Saturday night, after his team embarrassed another very good team and turned the last chapter of Oklahoma superstar Buddy Hield’s college career to ash. He knew what it was like to see one team remorselessly seize upon this moment. And he knew what it felt like to see the wave coming on the other side, and to be unable to do a thing about it.

Thirty-one years later, after that charmed night against mighty Georgetown, Villanova played another all-but-flawless Final Four game.

Following a few days of hand-wringing about the NRG Stadium shooting backdrop potentially wreaking havoc on offenses, the Wildcats hit 35-of-49 shots, including 11 three-pointers. They averaged 1.484 points per possession, which is the sort of efficiency that a team of bionic basketball machines would have a hard time matching. On the defensive end, they ruined Oklahoma, forcing 17 turnovers and holding the Sooners to 31.7% accuracy and a gruesome .785 points per possession. They eliminated Hield, the nation’s preeminent scorer, deploying a vast array of defenders that collectively limited Hield to nine points on 4-of-12 shooting.

At one point in the second half, the Wildcats put together a 25–0 run. Someone probably should have quizzed Vice President Joe Biden, in the building for the games, about his authority to declare states of emergency. “It was one of those nights,” Villanova senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono said.

It was borne of a couple other nights, actually, the first being April 4, 2009. Wright apologized to his team after that Final Four loss to North Carolina, assuming all the blame for a bad preparation plan. He wanted them to see the sights and talk to family and friends and when it came time to watch film or practice, they could concentrate then. He didn’t grasp how much that approach would harm their outcome.

So this 2016 trip has been rigid. “Extremely sharp focus,” senior center Daniel Ochefu said. “We’ve seen the inside of the bus, the inside of the hotel, the airplane, the arena and the locker room.” So unyielding is Wright’s commitment to vanquishing all distraction that the Wildcats do now as Wright had planned after the 2009 loss and don’t walk through the hotel lobby when they’re heading out to one venue or another. They leave the elevator and walk through a different hallway, somewhat segregated from the masses, and exit a side door to get on the bus.

“You have to look around at some point,” junior forward Darryl Reynolds said. “You can’t walk around with your eyes closed. But coach has been here before. He understands that guys can easily get caught up in all this stuff.”

Concentrating really hard might not explain 71.4% shooting. But it applies when evaluating the defensive performance against Hield. The Wildcats were conscious of extending their defense on the perimeter so Oklahoma couldn’t simply walk into shots, and after that, they chased Hield with pretty much everybody; any player on the floor could switch on a screen and assume the responsibility of leaving the Sooners’ sharpshooter hardly any room at all. The result was a team that, defensively, appeared locked into its plan.

Villanova freshman guard Donte DiVincenzo was tasked withimpersonating Hield on the scout team, right down to Hield’s favorite step-back three-pointers, but as DiVicenzo tried to attack and get the Villanova regulars off balance in workouts leading up to the game, he noticed something. “I didn’t see a lot of space,” DiVincenzo said.

“It was about the guy on the ball, but also the guys behind him, ready to help him out,” junior guard Josh Hart said. “I was up in [Hield] in the first half. He drove. Kris Jenkins took a charge. That’s being ready to step up for your brother.”

The other night that informed this very good night was Dec. 7, 2015, when players who weren’t around for that Final Four in 2009 had the experience their coach desperately sought to preclude this time around.

To continue reading: Via SI



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Posted on April 5, 2016, in NCAA Basketball, Sports Media World and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Villanova Defeats North Carolina At Buzzer To Win National Championship.

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