After 68 potential champions had been fighting to win the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Title in the March Madness Tournament, the world found out that last year’s losers are this year’s winners.
The North Carolina Tar Heels lost to the Villanova Wildcats last season thanks to a buzzer-beating shot. This season, they came out with a vengeance on their minds and were not stopping until they won the National Championship that eluded them. Their opponents were the Cinderella-turned-contender team, the Gonzaga University Bulldogs. The game will not be one that will be looked upon for great displays, but in the end, the North Carolina Tar Heels won their sixth Men’s Basketball National Championship by a score of 71-65.
The Tar Heels had continued their woes from behind the arc in this game by shooting a miserable four of twenty-seven from the three and became the first team to win the championship and shoot under 30 percent for the tournament. The difference of the game came with the turnovers as Gonzaga turned the ball over 14 times compared to the Tar Heels only having four. Joel Berry II, a junior guard for the Tar Heels, led the game with 22 points while Gonzaga Bulldog junior guard Nigel Williams-Goss scored 15 points.
The referees of this game made themselves known as well as Michael Stephens, Verne Harris, and Mike Eades called 27 fouls in the second half alone. There were a combined 52 free throws shot during the 40 minutes of actual game time, including both teams being in the bonus with 13 minutes left. Surprisingly only one player (Gonzaga Center Zach Collins) was fouled out of the game by reaching five personal fouls.
There were two major instances of questionable officiating by the referees during the game. With 8:02 remaining in the second half, Berry was called for a foul without even making contact with Karnowski. As Karnowski was heading to the floor, he inadvertently grabbed Berry around the neck and was called for a flagrant foul. As big as that play was, with 00:50 remaining in the game, if the referees believe that both teams have a player with possession of the basketball at the same time, then the team with the possession arrow at the time is awarded possession (the arrow switches every time it is used). When the referees called that North Carolina was awarded the ball due to the skirmish for the ball and the Tar Heels having the arrow, one thing happened that caused social media to explode: The Tar Heel player had his hand out-of-bounds that was missed by referees and would have given Gonzaga the ball.
Tar Heels coach Roy Williams won his third National Championship with the win, breaking the tie with his mentor, Dean Smith and putting him fourth all-time behind John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, and Adolph Rupp.
“I think of Coach Smith [. . .] I don’t think I should be mentioned in the same sentence with him. But we got three because I’ve got these guys with me and that’s all I care about right now- my guys.” Coach Williams said to ESPN after the victory.
Gonzaga was tested and shattered through the glass ceiling that was put upon them throughout the season. Congratulations are in order for both teams for making the 2017 National Championship game one that will be remembered for a long time.