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Big Dance Journal, Tuesday, April 5
by Larry Ness - 04/05/2016
Big Dance Journal (‘Nova Wins!)
The first shot of the 2016 NCAA Tournament was a dunk by Florida Gulf Coast’s Demetris Morant (assisted by Zach Johnson) back on March 15 at Dayton Arena. The final shot of this year’s Big Dance was a dramatic three point buzzer-beater by Villanova’s Kris Jenkins on an assist from Ryan Arcidiacono, giving the Wildcats a thrilling 77-74 victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels in the national championship game Monday night at NRG Stadium. Both teams had advanced to the title game by going 5-0 ATS and North Carolina would be a modest two-point choice at tip-off.
NRG Stadium (the football home of the Houston Texans) was expected to present a difficult shooting background but that was hardly the case for Villanova on Saturday, as the Wildcats shot 71.4 percent from the floor (11 of 18 on threes), in beating Oklahoma 95-51. However, excluding the Wildcats, the other three Final 4 participants went a woeful 18 of 69 (26.1%) from three-point range on Saturday. Last night, Villanova continued its outstanding shooting (more in a bit) by making 8 of 14 three-pointers, while the Tar Heels found their long-range shooting ‘eye,’ connecting on 11 of 17 from beyond the arc.
Think anyone would have predicted a Villanova win KNOWING that North Carolina, with its size advantage inside, could possibly lose if it ended the game having made 11 of 17 threes? Probably not but Villanova capped an amazing six-game run with another ‘masterpiece’ last night, connecting on 58.3 percent of its shots. After beating NC-Ashville (a 15-seed) by 30 points, ‘Nova easily dispatched a slumping Iowa team (a 7-seed), 87-68. However, Villanova’s road to the title, from the Sweet 16 on, presented more that just a few opportunities to get derailed.
Villanova would have none of it, taking down 3-seed Miami-Fl (27 wins) in the Sweet 16 and 1-seed Kansas (33 wins) in the Elite 8. Then it was on to Houston with the Wildcats serving up the biggest “beat down” in Final 4 history with their 95-51 destruction of Oklahoma (a 2-seed with 29 wins). Last and hardly least came North Carolina, the lone 1-seed to reach the Final 4 and a team which entered with 33 wins on the season. When all the dust had settled, Villanova finished the tourney 182 of 311 (58.5%) from the floor, including 56 of 112 (50%) on threes. Note that ‘Nova finished with those lofty shooting percentages, despite making only 21 of 52 vs Kansas, including 4 of 18 on threes.
Ryan Arcidiacono, the Pennsylvania kid born nine years after Villanova's only other title in 1985, scored 16 points against North Carolina after scoring 15 in ‘Nova’s victory over Oklahoma. Playing in his 144th and final game for Villanova, he was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player. Hard to write a better ending than that. After a 67-game tourney, favorites finished 48-18 SU and 37-28-1 ATS (one pick-em), while totals players saw 35 games go over (including all three during the Final 4) and 32 stay under.