College basketball crowns its championships

Kansas+won+their+second+national+championship+under+head+coach+Bill+Self%2C+defeating+North+Carolina+on+Monday+night.

TNS

Kansas won their second national championship under head coach Bill Self, defeating North Carolina on Monday night.

DREW HILL

Both the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments finally came to a close this past weekend. After nearly three weeks of edge-of-your-seat action, upsets and dominant performances, the champions have cut down the nets and made their mark on history.

In the women’s Final Four, with the semifinal games being played on Friday and the championship on Sunday, familiar faces dueled it out. First,  No. 1 overall-seed South Carolina took down Louisville 72-59 behind 23 points and 18 rebounds from player of the year Aliyah Boston. Then, in a tight game, Connecticut (UConn) upset the defending champion Stanford Cardinal 63-58 to set up a championship game with South Carolina.

Unlike the Final Four game between Stanford and UConn, this game was not very close, with South Carolina winning 64-49 to claim its second championship of the last five tournaments, with the other in 2017. Coincidentally, 2017 was the first time in five years that UConn did not win a championship, snapping a four-in-a-row streak that began in 2013. The last time the UConn women had a national title drought five years or longer was before 1995, the first of their women’s championships.

The men’s Final Four started off with a near blowout, as the lone surviving one-seed, the Kansas Jayhawks, took down Villanova 81-65. Villanova was missing key starter Justin Moore, who was injured in their previous game, and it showed in the defeat.

The other semifinal game was a legendary matchup sports commentators and reporters dream of: Duke versus North Carolina. Strangely, despite incredible NCAA tournament success among both teams, with the teams combining to claim nine of the thirty championships from 1991-2021, the two rivals had never faced in the NCAA tournament. What made the game even more monumental was that this was the last game of Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, arguably the greatest coach in NCAA basketball history, with 1,202 wins. The teams had split the season series, with each team winning at the other’s home court.

The first half saw both teams go back-and-forth in a battle of explosive offenses. With Duke leading in the second half, North Carolina did what they have done all tournament, nailing three three-pointers in a row, followed by two more baskets to take a 47-41 lead. Duke responded with a 6-0 run to tie the game.

Both teams kept battling in the second half. With North Carolina up by one with about 25 seconds left, guard Caleb Love hit a three-pointer to extend the Tar Heels’ lead to four. Love made three out of four free throws to close out the game and give North Carolina an 81-77 win over their hated rivals. It was a game that neither team will soon forget.

The title game looked like it would not be quite as exciting at several points. North Carolina proceeded to close the half on an 18-3 run to take a 40-25 lead into halftime. They were 46-0 when leading by ten or more at the half in the NCAA tournament, and all momentum favored the Tar Heels going forward.

However, Kansas had noplans to roll over and quit. In less than ten minutes, the Jayhawks tied the game at 50. Less than a minute later, they had a six-point lead at 56-50. North Carolina kept fighting, and they finally regained the lead at 69-68 with about 1:40 to go. Kansas’ David McCormack nailed a hook shot to give Kansas back the lead. On the next play, Armando Bacot, North Carolina’s star who became the first player to get a double-double in six games in the NCAA tournament, injured his ankle, which forced him to sit out the rest of the game. With him out, McCormack scored another hook shot to give Kansas a 72-69 lead. North Carolina missed two threes, and then threw the ball out of bounds to give it to Kansas with 4.3 seconds left.

The game appeared to be over. Following a KU turnover Love missed a last-chance three, and Kansas won the championship.

It was Kansas’ first championship since 2008. They made history by overcoming the largest deficit in championship history, being down 16 at one point. If North Carolina had won, they would have made history by being just the second ever eight-seed to win a championship.

Now that the tourney is over, college basketball fans are left asking, “What next?” It’s going to be a long eight months until college basketball starts again in November.