Before Monday’s National Championship game between North Carolina and Villanova, I had already started to look forward to next year’s March Madness. Prior to the championship game, the tournament, with the exception of all games involving Northern Iowa or Middle Tennessee State, had been relatively dull. Although some of the usually exciting programs—Kansas and North Carolina—made deep runs in the tournament, the playing field lacked an iconic team that was fun to watch on any given night, a la the likes of Michigan’s Fab Five, Florida in the mid-2000’s, or one of John Calipari’s freshman-led Kentucky teams.
With that being said, an even playing field is an ideal condition for numerous upsets or Cinderella stories, but this year, Gonzaga, an annual basketball powerhouse, was the only “mid-major” who made it past the second round. Even Syracuse, a perennial title contender, was the lowest seeded team in the Final Four. Just to make matters more boring, the national semifinal games were won by a combined margin of 61 points. Needless to say, I was less than excited for the matchup (covered on TBS, of all networks) between an above average version of a cliché team, North Carolina, and Villanova, a Big East team with no NBA-caliber players.
The game started out the way I had imagined. Nerves were high, so routine shots did not fall. Like the previous semifinal games, a lopsided lead began to form. Despite the fact that I am a college basketball player and an avid basketball fan in general, I was even considering turning the TV off to do some calculus homework. Thank goodness, I decided to stick with the game as my excitement accelerated from zero to 60 in the last five minutes of the game. In just a matter of minutes, North Carolina mounted a wild 10-point comeback. Then, Tar Heel point guard Marcus Paige somehow hit one of the greatest shots destined to be forgotten, a double-clutch, leaning three -oint shot with five seconds remaining. Finally, Villanova’s Kris Jenkins countered with a surreal three-point shot that every kid dreams of making to not only win the national championship, but also salvage this year’s March Madness.
With relatively few upsets and a multitude of uninteresting matchups, this year’s March Madness nearly forgot its own recipe for success. Fortunately, a starless team, historically known as an underdog, defeated a Goliath of college basketball, whose notable alumni list includes Michael Jordan, on a 25-foot buzzer beater in the national championship. Kris Jenkins’ shot filled in the blanks for everything that this entire season had lacked and gave us a reminder of the things we love about college basketball: unpredictable storybook endings, underdog victories, and deserving champions. It gave us reason to jump out of our seats in pure joy, agony, or surprise. It took us back in time to college basketball’s best and worst memories such as Christian Laettner’s turnaround, or Lorenzo Charles’ put-back dunk for North Carolina State. However, more importantly, it gave us the desperately needed “One Shining Moment” in the 2016 March Madness tournament.