National Championship: Villanova Stuns UNC With Buzzer-Beater In An Instant Classic

March Madness. A seasonal cliché at its finest, but there’s no other way to describe what transpired Monday night in Houston.

Perhaps North Carolina head coach Roy Williams put it best when describing Monday night’s outcome.

“The difference between winning and losing in college basketball is so small,” coach Williams said. “The difference in your feelings is so large. But that’s the NCAA tournament. That’s college basketball.”

Down by three with less than 13 seconds left on the clock and Carolina gets a prayer answered by senior guard Marcus Paige, who ties the game with four seconds left in regulation, 74-74.

North Carolina guard Marcus Paige (5) shoots over Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono (15) during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
North Carolina guard Marcus Paige hits game-tying 3 with 4 seconds left in regulation (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Surely, the National Championship matchup between the No. 1 seed Tar Heels and No. 2 seed Villanova Wildcats was destined for overtime.

Michael Jordan, The G.O.A.T. who won a national championship with the Tar Heels before making a name for himself in the NBA, was even in on the celebration, perhaps a new meme to counter “Crying Jordan?” Perhaps not.

With less than four seconds to make a play, Villanova senior Ryan Arcidiacono rushes the ball up court, ignoring the frenzy that is still buzzing from Paige’s game-tying shot. He crosses mid-court, nears the thee-point line, pulls in two defenders, and stays alert.

“I just heard Kris yelling, ‘Arch, Arch, I’m open,”’ Arcidiacono said post-game.

The senior guard dumps the ball to a trailing Kris Jenkins, who squares up — but may have very well been sharpening the blade that will eventually pierce the heart of every UNC fan and player — and lets it fly from deep. BANG!

Confetti is raining down on the hardwood, and seconds after North Carolina celebrated their big shot, Villanova was celebrating their own that also secured them their first title since 1985 in a stunning victory over the Tar Heels, 77-74.

Four Wildcats scored in double-digits for Jay Wright in Monday night’s title game. It was a collective effort that was strung together by selflessness from each Villanova player in place of the pro prospects the team lacks.

Wright and his Wildcats had to eliminate two No. 1 seeds in order to claim Villanova’s first National Championship in over 30 years.

Villanova point guard Ryan Arcidiacono was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding player, and his relevance couldn’t have been showcased better than his ability to create an opening for Kris Jenkins to sink the game-winning trey.

“I wanted to be aggressive. If I could get a shot, I was going to shoot it,” Arcidiacono said. “But I heard someone screaming in the back of my head. It was Kris. I just gave it to him, and he let it go with confidence.”

Arcidiacono played in his 144th game as a Wildcat Monday night — more than any other player in Villanova history — and fittingly so ended his career in historic fashion.

The shot by Jenkins will be replayed repeatedly this week and for years to come. It will undoubtedly find its place on the top shelf alongside Christian Laettner’s turnaround jumper that pulled Duke past Kentucky in 1992 and have fans reminded of where they were when it took place.

[AP Photo/David J. Phillip]

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