In what many pundits are already calling the greatest National Championship in the history of college basketball, the Villanova Wildcats defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels by a score of 67 to 64.
The game was entartaining all night, with each team appearing to have opportunities to pull away at seperate points in the game.
The Wildcats held a 10 point lead with a little over two minutes reamining in the game, but North Carolina was able to battle back and eventually tie the game with four seconds remaining — thanks to an absolutely ridiculous three point shot by senior guard Marcus Paige.
In a shot that will ultimaely be forgotten, Paige made one of the most acrobatic shots of the year as he double-clutched underneath a defender, kicked out his legs and somehow muscled the ball to the basket.
When Paige’s shot fell through it seemed almost certain that the game was destined for overtime, and likely a North Carolina win.
This however was not to be the case, as four seconds proved to be plenty of time for Villanova to win the game. Villanova ran down the court quickly and flipped the ball to junior forward Kris Jenkins who launched a deep three -point-shot from the top of the key. As the ball flew through the air, time seemingly standing still, Jenkins crouched and leaned to the left, waiting and watching for a result he knew was coming.
As the ball fell through the hoop, and as his teammates and coaches barralled towards him, Jenkins stood straight up, raised his arms in the air and allowed his teammates to tackle him.
The shot going in followed immediatley by the explossion of confetti was an unbelievable sight and a perfect ending to one of the best college basketball seasons in years.
North Carolina is one of the so-called “blue bloods” of college basketball. They expect to win National Championships every year and the fan base is disapointed in anything but victory.
Villanova, on the other hand, is not a college basketball “blue blood.” They are continually competiitive, but do not have the history or fan base following that North Carolina has. They also, simply put, do not have the same level of talent that North Carolina has.
While UNC constantly brings in the top players in every recruiting class, Villanova finds itself landing less highly touted players. They have developed a system that players buy into, and head coach Jay Wright has cultivated an environment in which the small fan base and athletes completely believe in.
The model that Villanova has developed is one that Wake Forest should model itself after, in my opinion. Villanova are extremlely similar schools, in athletics, academics and overall feel.
Villanova and Wake Forest are both relatively small private schools, whose fan bases are small, but extremely passionate about their basketball teams.
While Villanova has now won two national championships, their overall basketball history is not any better than that of Wake Forest’s.
Villanova faces the same types of rigourous academic standards that Wake Forest has and plays in a lesser conference than the ACC. And yet, despite the similarities, the culture that has been created around Villanova’s basketball team seems much better than that of Wake Forest’s.
Now, it is quite possible that Villanova simply got lucky, that Jay Wright became a better coach than anyone could’ve imagined and that they constantly hit on less highly touted recruits. It could potentially be argued that this model that Villanova has created would not be sustainable at other schools and that this model will eventaully fail at Villanova.
After all, other small private schools around the country haven’t experienced the sucess that Villanova has experienced.
The reason Villanova has excelled in college basketball as a small private school is because of the environment that has been created around Wildcat sports. Everyone at Villanova loves the school, and they love the basketball team. The reason that Wake Forest could emulate this blueprint layed out by Vilanova is because of the great basketball histroy of the school. The Demon Deacons have had some incredibly succesful basketball seasons and were once considered to be a “basketball school.”
In order for this to once again become a possibility, the culture of the school has to change. There needs to be a belief among students and administrators that Wake Forest can and will be great at basketball once again. Under Danny Manning, Wake Forest can recruit talented players who will buy into his system and stay and win at Wake Forest for four years.