NCAA

Villanova Can Thank Kris Jenkins for the Wildcats’ Greatest Moment in March Madness History

The very idea of the March Madness encourages big moments that only grow with each passing round. As such, the NCAA basketball championship may hold greater stakes than any other event. Kris Jenkins and the Villanova Wildcats learned this in 2016 when the stars aligned to create one of the most memorable moments in March Madness history.

Villanova Wildcats vs. North Carolina Tar Heels

Both Villanova and their opponent, the University of North Carolina, were among the best teams in college basketball entering the tournament. Villanova, led by Josh Hart, Ryan Arcidiacono, Jalen Brunson, and Daniel Ochefu in addition to Jenkins, made its way through legendary Big East conference like a force to be reckoned with.

The team went 355 on the season thanks to team chemistry and the winning ways set down by coach Jay Wright. (He took over the team in 2001 after a successful career at Hofstra.) Wright’s tough mindset proved vital to Villanova’s success. Entering the game, the Wildcats had not won since its 1984 victory, one of the best Cinderella stories in history. 

On the other side, Roy Williams and his legendary UNC program were led by Brice Johnson, Joel Berry, Justin Jackson, Marcus Paige, and a deep bench filled with future NBA talent and top recruits. Entering the tournament as a No. 1 seed, many presumed the Tar Heels to be the favorite, but Wright and company had other plans.

The game

The 2016 NCAA Championship was close for most of the game. The Wildcats and Tarheels traded buckets in the first half, with the Tar Heels taking the halftime advantage. Something had to change if Villanova wanted to hoist the trophy. Heading into the final half of the year, Wright reinvigorated his team.

With only five minutes left in the game, Wright’s team held a 10-point advantage, but Williams was not going to let his squad go down without a fight. UNC gave Villanova one last surge. With just under five seconds left, Paige tied the game with a three-point basket.

With one last chance to either end the season or go into overtime, Villanova delivered. According to The Undefeated, Jenkins passed the ball to Arcidiacono, who charged down the court. Wide-open and confident, Jenkins called for the ball while trailing.

Arcidiacono threw a bullet his way, and Jenkins threw up the type of shot every child dreams of — clock going down, red lights flashing after it leaves their hand, and all eyes on him. The shot went in, and with it, a new NCAA legend was born.

Kris Jenkins and Villanova’s legacy

Not only was Jenkins’ shot the first championship-winner in over three decades, but it was the first three-point game-winner in the history of the championship game. March Madness has seen plenty of memorable moments in the finals. But the shot Jenkins hit will live on.

Villanova won again two years later, but that first championship was special. Several of the Villanova players went on for a shot in the NB. Despite hitting what many believe to be the best shot in March Madness history, Jenkins had to watch from afar.

He reminisced about the shot with The Undefeated. “[In the future, I’ll say my] shot was Kobe Bryant-esque,” Jenkins said. “Cold-blooded. But that’s 20, 30 years from now. Right now, it was just one of the many shots I shot, that I take every day. I’ve shot that shot a million times.”

Jenkins has had a rough go extending his career past college. He failed a physical for a team in Turkey and struggled during his brief stints in the G-League and NBA Summer League. Despite this, Jenkins can take solace on the fact that the college history books will remember him kindly.

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