By Matthew Bagdat,
Sports Business Assistant Editor
In one of the most thrilling college basketball games ever played, the Villanova Wildcats topped the North Carolina Tar Heels to win the 2016 NCAA title. The tournament, which was filled with upsets and surprises had a fitting end, as this final was an instant classic.
The game played at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas in front of 74,340 marked the second highest attendance in a championship game.
Ranked a number two seed on selection Sunday, Villanova (Big East) defeated Oklahoma by a record 44 points in the final four to make it to the finals in Houston. On the other side, North Carolina (ACC) beat a Cinderella Syracuse team 83-66 to qualify.
In pursuit of their sixth national title, and third under head coach Roy Williams, the Tar Heels were ahead at halftime. However, like a majority of college basketball games this season, a thrilling ending was anticipated. All-Big East first team selection Josh Hart scored two of his 12 points on free throws to give Villanova a three point lead with just under 14 seconds remaining. North Carolina, in desperation mode, inbounded the ball in need of a quick score.
Tar Heels senior guard Marcus Paige double-pumped in midair and hit a miraculous three pointer, tying the game at 74 with 4.7 seconds left.
The crowd was in a frenzy after the unbelievable shot, and this final had the looks of an instant classic.
Villanova used their final timeout after the basket, and had one final chance to win the game in regulation time. After the timeout, Villanova senior point guard Ryan Arcidiacono quickly brought the ball up the court, running the play called “Nova.”
He then flipped the ball back to Kris Jenkins who was well behind the three-point line. Jenkins fired the shot, and saw it rattle in as the buzzer went off. It was an absolute thrilling finish to an unforgettable game, as Villanova were crowned national champions as the buzzer went off.
Villanova finished the game with 58.3 percent shooting from the field, and made 8 out of 14 three-point attempts. Despite only six total assists and two offensive rebounds, they emerged victorious. Senior Ryan Arcidiacono was named the Final Four’s most outstanding player, and finished with 16 points.
Phil Booth led the team with 20, and the game’s hero Kris Jenkins added 14. North Carolina’s Marcus Paige was the game’s high scorer with 21, despite his team’s loss. After 15 seasons with the team, Jay Wright finally brought a championship to the school located northwest of Philadelphia. It was Villanova’s second title win in program history, with the first being in 1985. The game was broadcasted along 188 countries, and averaged 22.3 million viewers in the last few minutes, the second-most ever.
There was also an increase in live streaming, as there were 3.4 million streams for the title game, a record. 2016 was another unforgettable season in college basketball, and this final will go down in history among the greatest ever.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 12th print edition.
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