April 4, 2016: Villanova defeated North Carolina, 77-74, in a game that will go down as one of the best championship games in history. Kris Jenkins drained a three-pointer as time expired to crush the hearts of Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, and the rest of the Tar Heels.
April 3, 2017: North Carolina has earned their revenge, with a 71-65 victory over a game Gonzaga team. We didn’t have quite the dramatics that we witnessed about a year ago, but I’m sure North Carolina fans will be pleased.
Why did the Tar Heels come back from a 35-32 halftime deficit to win their third national championship since 2005? You could argue it was because of Joel Berry II‘s 22 points, Roy Williams’ adjustments, Justin Jackson‘s and-one in the final minutes, Kennedy Meeks‘ block on Nigel Williams-Goss, or a plethora of other moments. But the real reason this team was able to surpass Gonzaga, was because of their heartbreaking loss from a year ago.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) April 4, 2017
North Carolina was fueled all season long because of the Villanova loss, and Williams used it to motivate his team. And this time around, they weren’t going to let it slip away. The junior trio of Berry, Jackson, and Theo Pinson combined for 44 points and 16 rebounds.
Isaiah Hicks and Meeks, who were playing their final collegiate game, made winning plays with a clutch bucket from the former and a game-clinching block and steal by the latter.
And as difficult as it was to endure the last 364 days of heartbreak for the Tar Heels, it makes this hard fought victory that much sweeter.
Photo Credit: Sporting News.