After 14 years of waiting, Kansas is again NCAA champion! At the end of a match with a crazy scenario, the Jayhawks, at the end of the suspense, overcame North Carolina (72-69) and won the 4th title in their history.
It started badly enough for Kansas, however, which despite a first quick break (11-5), then took the water against the awakening of North Carolina. Completely apathetic at the start of the match, no doubt a little nervous, the Tar Heels gradually launched the machine, under the impetus of an exceptional Armando Bacot (12 points and 10 rebounds) and a duo RJ Davis – Brady Manek still very valuable. Helpless, the Jayhawks take a huge slap in the face: UNC sticks a 35-14 to conclude the first half (40-25).
After the break, it is a transformed Kansas team which presents itself on the floor. The Jayhawks raise their tone in defense, punish the Tar Heels on counter-attack, and above all finally find rhythm in attack, in the momentum of Ochai Agbaji and David McCormack. And in just 10 minutes, Bill Self’s men return to UNC (50-50)! the momentum garnered by North Carolina during the first half is only a distant memory. The troop of Hubert Davis tangles the brushes and rushes in attack. Armando Bacot no longer has the same efficiency near the basket, just like RJ Davis and Brady Manek behind the arc.
During the last ten minutes, the two teams engage in a crossover, with one team signing a big pass, before the other responds immediately. Then comes the fateful moment of the meeting, in the last minute: while North Carolina leads 69-68, Armando Bacot, injured in the ankle against Duke, twists the same ankle again. In tears, the pivot joined the bench, suspecting that the outcome of the meeting could potentially change at this moment.
And it is indeed the case: without the physique of Bacot to deter attacks close to the circle, UNC collects a basket from David McCormack (15 points and 10 rebounds) on the next possession.
The Jayhawks, who cleverly notice that their pivot is defended by the shorter and much less beefy Brady Manek, immediately serve the muscular pivot at the low post, which scores without difficulty. Kansas takes the lead (70-69), before moving to +3 on the free throw line a few seconds later (72-69).
Kansas’ 4th title
Clutch during this March Madness, Caleb Love misses the equalizer shot, and Kansas wins, having recovered the widest gap in the history of the Final Four. For the second time in his career, Bill Self wins the national title, and the Jayhawks add a 4th trophy to their list.
For the Tar Heels, it’s a cruel outcome after such a first half. But the Jayhawks upped their game in all areas in the second half, and they were the better team in the most important moments of the game. Seeded n°8 in this tournament, North Carolina has nothing to be ashamed of this defeat and can look forward to next season with its head held high, with pride.
After two tasteless seasons, the legendary Chapel Hill program has returned to the top, for Hubert Davis’ first season on the bench. The future is bright, and the painful defeat of this night will only be a motivation to try to return to the same stage of the tournament next season, and the following ones.