Almost exactly one year ago to date, The University of North Carolina Tar Heels took the floor at NRG Stadium in Houston against the Villanova Wildcats. As time expired the Tar Heels watched their dreams shatter before their eyes as Kris Jenkins shot a three-pointer to break the tie and give the Wildcats a 77-74 win.
One thing that the Tar Heels did not lack, however, entering this season was experience. They returned nine players from the National Runner-up team a year ago. All five of their starters this season had experience on last year’s team and that really showed late in this tournament. In the six games that they had to win in the tournament to be crowned champions, four of them were decided by seven points or less. “You could just tell the UNC’s experience won them that game, they were down early and didn’t panic. They kept their composure and chipped away,” said UNC fan Michael Digirolamo.
Even though Gonzaga has experienced players on their roster, they really do not have much tournament experience. Since 2000, the Gonzaga Bulldogs have only reached the Elite Eight or further one other time than this year and that came in 2015. On the contrary, the Tar Heels have eight appearances in that category.
Aside from all that, this was a game to remember, and not for the right reasons. If you are a fan of good quality basketball, this was certainly not a game that you would enjoy. North Carolina shot 15 percent from behind the arc and just 58 percent from the charity stripe. On the season as a team they shot 36 percent and 70 percent respectively. As for the Bulldogs, they shot 34 percent from the floor and 65 percent from the free throw line. Both of those statistics were well below their season averages.
On top of the poor play from both sides, the officiating was not up to par. Over the course of the game there were 44 fouls called and a total of 52 free throws taken. Many watching were hoping for a competitive game and exciting big man play. However, due to the officiating crew, Gonzaga’s front court did not play as well as hoped due to the lack of minutes because of foul trouble.
One of the biggest stars in the basketball world, LeBron James, (@KingJames) had something to say on Twitter about last night's performance: “Man I can't watch this anymore man! I would like to see the kids decide who wins the game! I mean Bruh!! Smh.” With this comment, James is inferring that the officials were deciding the outcome of the game based on calls that they made.
However, in the end, the blame cannot solely be put upon the officiating crew. The University of North Carolina deserves all the credit in the world for winning such a rigorous three-week long tournament. With this win, the Tar Heels fully redeem themselves and are now crowned the champions of the college basketball world. When asked by ESPN reporters after the conclusion of the game, UNC guard Joel Berry summed everything up in seven words, “We can now forget about last year.”