After 14 years of waiting, Kansas is NCAA Champion again! At the end of a match with a crazy scenario, the Jayhawks, at the end of the suspense, defeated North Carolina (72-69) and won the 4th title in their history.
It started off pretty badly for Kansas, though, who despite a quick first break (11-5), then took to the water before North Carolina woke up. Totally apathetic at the beginning of the game, undoubtedly a little nervous, the Tar Heels launched the machine little by little, under the impetus of an exceptional Armando Bacot (12 points and 10 rebounds) and a still very valuable RJ Davis – Brady Manek duo . Impotent, the Jayhawks take a tremendous slap: UNC hits a 35-14 to conclude the first half (40-25).
After the break, it’s a transformed Kansas team that takes to the court. The Jayhawks turn up the heat on defense, punish the Tar Heels on the fast break, and above all finally find rhythm on offense, with the impetus of Ochai Agbaji and David McCormack. And in just 10 minutes, Bill Self’s men are back at UNC (50-50)! the impulse harvested by North Carolina during the first half is just a distant memory. Hubert Davis’s troop entangles the bushes and goes on the attack. Armando Bacot no longer has the same efficiency around the rim as RJ Davis and Brady Manek do behind the arc.
During the last ten minutes, the two teams meet, with one team signing a great pass, before the other responds immediately. Then comes the fateful moment of the game, at the last minute: as North Carolina wins 69-68, Armando Bacot, injured in the ankle against Duke, sprains the same ankle again. Through tears, the pivot joined the bench, suspecting that the outcome of the match could change at this time.
And so it is: Without Bacot’s physique to deter attacks near the circle, UNC picks up a basket from David McCormack (15 points, 10 rebounds) on the ensuing possession. Cleverly noticing that their center is being defended by Brady Manek, shorter and much less stocky than McCormack, the Jayhawks immediately poke the muscular center into the low post, which he scores easily. Kansas takes the lead (70-69), before going +3 at the free throw line a few seconds later (72-69).
Kansas 4th title
Clutch during this March Madness, Caleb Love misses the tying shot and Kansas wins, having regained the widest gap in Final Four history. For the second time in his career, Bill Self is a national champion and the Jayhawks add a fourth trophy to his list.
For the Tar Heels, it’s a cruel result after such a first half. But the Jayhawks upped their game in every area in the second half and were the better team in the game’s biggest moments. North Carolina, seeded No. 8 in this tournament, has nothing to be ashamed of this loss and can look forward to next season with head held high, with pride.
After two tawdry seasons, the legendary Chapel Hill show is back on top, for Hubert Davis’ first season on the bench. The future is bright, and tonight’s painful loss will only be motivation to try and get back on the same tournament stage next season, and beyond.