Villanova was leading North Carolina by three points and the Tarheels had one possession to tie the game up and send it into overtime. North Carolina tried to force the ball to Marcus Paige, so much so that it almost cost them a turnover. Wildcat center Daniel Ochefu got switched and had to cover Paige. He almost came up with a steal, but fell down, giving Paige a little room to move. Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova’s point guard, came over to help and forced Paige to throw up an awkward shot from long range. Paige went up, then double-clutched and let the ball fly. He sank the shot, which tied the game up with 4.7 seconds left. It was one of the best shots in NCAA Tournament history and could have easily forced overtime, but the Wildcats had other ideas.
Jay Wright, the head coach at Villanova, took a timeout. He laid out the plan for the Wildcats to win the game. That plan was simple, give the ball to Arcidiacono and let the senior make a play. Arcidiacono has been one of Villanova’s greatest players of all time and earned the right to have the ball in his hands. The crazy thing was the ball wouldn’t finish in his hands. Kris Jenkins passed the ball in to Arcidiacono, and then proceeded to race up the floor. Arcidiacono raced to the three point line and did a shovel hand-off to Jenkins, who locked and loaded. The shot went in right after the buzzer sounded. The Wildcats, other than Wright, celebrated with much jubilation.
The last minutes of the game may get all of the attention, but the game was good throughout. North Carolina led the game for the first half and then Villanova came back to lead by ten late in the game. The Tarheels clawed their way back into it and made the finish great.
There have been other great championship games, but none were as good as this year’s championship game. The 1983 National Championship featured a buzzer beater from Lorenzo Charles, who tip-slammed Derek Whittenburg’s game-winning attempt. Whittenburg had teammates open, but he preferred to shoot a low percentage shot, and got bailed out by his teammate. A lot of credit should be given to Charles for not giving up on the play, but the last play by Villanova featured an unselfish play by Arcidiacono, which led to a wide open shot from deep to win the game. While N.C. State’s win over Houston was a bigger upset it wasn’t a better game, although Jim Valvano’s reaction was a bit more like what you would expect out of a coach that just won a championship.
Another game that could be thrown into the conversation is the 1982 National Championship between North Carolina and Georgetown. A relatively unknown Michael Jordan hit a jump shot with fifteen seconds left to give the Tarheels the lead. Georgetown had a chance to respond, but Fred Brown threw mistook a North Carolina player for his teammate and turned the ball over. The shot by Jordan was great, but the last fifteen seconds were very anti-climatic, making 2016 better.
The 2008 NCAA Championship featured a good game with a wild finish as well. Kansas was down nine points with under two minutes left and came back to force overtime on a great three-point shot by Mario Chalmers. The Jayhawks ran away with the game in overtime, making it another game with an uninteresting ending.
This year’s National Championship Game was played well throughout and had great drama that lasted past the final buzzer, making it the best college basketball Championship Game of all time.