The Villanova Wildcats are the national champions of college basketball in 2016.

That’s a dull sentence, but it conveys the result of Monday night’s spectacular national championship game at the Final Four in Houston’s NRG Stadium.

If words seem manifestly inadequate in the face of what a national television audience (and over 74,000 spectators) just witnessed, it’s because they ARE inadequate.

This is a night when writers dream of constructing the perfect words to capture the perfect Shining Moments (more than one) which just flashed before our eyes, but sometimes, dreams have to give way to reality.

Words can’t compete with the events which unfolded in real time on Monday night. It’s best to let the pictures — which ARE worth 1,000 words, so the saying goes — tell the story.

Pictures such as this one:

And this one:

during the 2016 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game at NRG Stadium on April 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas.
during the 2016 NCAA Men’s Final Four National Championship game at NRG Stadium on April 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas.

And this one:


And this, a moving picture from Philadelphia:

These images — of Marcus Paige’s seemingly iconic shot, instantly an all-timer in the annals of Final Four history, only to be violently shoved aside by Kris Jenkins’s championship-winning shot just seconds later — have been seared into our collective consciousness as sports fans.

People of a certain age remember where they were when Michael Jordan — on hand in Houston for this Villanova-North Carolina game — built his legend and gave Dean Smith his first national championship in Chapel Hill.


That night in New Orleans — more than a third of a century ago (yes, we’re all getting older) — was the first of several iconic moments given to us in national championship games of the 1980s.

The next year, 1983, Lorenzo Charles put home Dereck Whittenburg’s heave in Albuquerque.

Two years later, Villanova played the quintessentially perfect game to beat mighty Georgetown by just two points.

In 1987, Keith Smart hit “The Shot” for Indiana against Syracuse.

As the 1990s arrived, college basketball produced one more immortal moment, a snapshot to reside in Valhalla for eternity. In 1992, Christian Laettner ended what many consider the greatest game ever played, as Duke eclipsed Kentucky in another game which temporarily robbed mortal human beings of the power of speech.

These many years later, sports fans and college basketball lovers received a big, beautiful banquet of riches, a moveable feast of ONIONS! which will nourish the imagination for a very long time.

Monday night, we didn’t get one iconic shot in the final seconds of a tense national championship game.

We didn’t get the one Lorenzo Charles or Keith Smart moment.

We didn’t get the Michael Jordan jumper, the moment to top all moments.

No — we didn’t get that One Shining Moment.

We got TWO.

Villanova and North Carolina played “Can you top THIS?” for much of the evening. Several segments of the night’s action witnessed breathtaking, high-degree-of-difficulty shotmaking from both sides. It was an Olympic competition in which even the most nitpicky Russian judge had no choice but to give perfect marks.

How fitting, then, that the evening concluded with a crescendo unlike anything ever produced by the previous 77 national championship basketball games in Final Four history:



One Shining Moment, multiplied.

As a man named Bill Raftery would say, “ONIONS! DOUBLE ORDER!”

Put the sauteed vegetable on a cheesesteak, and party like it’s 1985 on the streets of Philadelphia.

Villanova won its second national championship. The sentence is plain, but the reality behind it — and the images which flowed from it — will add color and beauty and wonderment to our imaginations forever.

About Matt Zemek

| CFB writer since 2001 |