Before April 4, 2016, few people knew who Kris Jenkins was. Of course, people had heard his name throughout the tournament, and Villanova followers knew exactly what he could do. But after the ending of the NCAA championship game Monday night, no one will ever forget his name or what he did.
The championship game was a toss-up. Two-seed Villanova had just come off of a forty-four point win (the largest-ever margin in the Final Four game) against Buddy Hield and Oklahoma. One-seed UNC had beaten ten-seed Syracuse in what was, compared to the Villanova-Oklahoma matchup, overall a pretty close game. The Tar Heels won by seventeen, though the final score does not accurately depict how close the game really was. Fans all over the country watched the games and made their picks for the championship. A Villanova win would be their first championship since 1985, and a UNC win would be their first since 2009.
The game started off slowly. A minute and five seconds went by before either team made a shot, and at the 15:07 mark the score was only 9-9. The game picked up in scoring as the clock continued to run. The lead changed nine times in the first half alone, but there were several stretches where no one scored. From 7:28-5:53, neither team scored. UNC turned the ball over three times in that amount of time as well. The end of the first half saw UNC leading the Wildcats 39-34.
The second half was a different story. Once Villanova took the lead in the second half, they never trailed again. As time wound down, it looked like Villanova had the game locked in. With six seconds left on the clock, UNC got it down the court and senior guard Marcus Paige threw up a wild-looking three-pointer—and made it—to tie the game. 4.7 seconds remained on the clock when Villanova took the final timeout of the game. The expectation at this point was overtime, but the Wildcats had other ideas. They inbounded the ball to Ryan Arcidiacono who saw a wide-open Kris Jenkins just outside the three-point arc. The Tar Heels had expected Villanova to drive to the basket and try to get fouled. They were all clustered inside, and no one was on Jenkins. He caught the ball, turned, and released it with one second left on the clock. The entire country held its breath for what felt like an eternity—and watched the ball drop in the hoop.
It was perhaps the most dramatic ending to a national championship ever. It was the first buzzer-beater win since NC State’s in 1983. The officials reviewed it, but it was clear that Jenkins had gotten the shot off in time. After a heartbreaking third-round loss in the 2015 NCAA tournament, the Wildcats are where they want to be: on top.