Monday night’s NCAA men’s basketball final was North Carolina’s redemption story.
After last season’s disappointment of losing to Villanova at the buzzer, Roy Williams’ team managed to get back to the top. It took a 71-65 win over Gonzaga to put last season away.
The game itself was a good representation of this year’s March Madness, pretty disappointing.
The first half was brilliantly average. It seemed neither team could hit a shot, even wide open threes. The Zags should have put the game away, but only managed to extend their lead to only seven.
UNC played like they had all tournament long, just well enough to stay in the game. Trailing by just three at halftime.
Then came the second half, which was deprived of any pace. In the first 12 minutes of the half, the two teams combined for 21 fouls. Both teams were in the bonus for two minutes by that point.
It was predicted the game was going to feature a battle in the paint. Gonzaga’s big men Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins against the Tar Heels’ Kennedy Meeks were primed for a showdown to decide the game.
Instead, Collins fouled out with five minutes to play, and the other two finished with four fouls.
The fouls brought the game to a halt. It made it almost unbearable to watch. Add on to that the teams shot 35 and 33 percent from the field, and UNC was 15 percent from three-point range. Joel Berry II was the only Tar Heel to hit from outside the arc.
Karnowski, one of the best big men in the nation, had five more points from the free throw line than the field.
By the end, there were 52 free throws in the game. UNC couldn’t hit those either, going 15 of 26.
The ugly game was a fitting end of the tournament. Overall, it was disappointing.
The lack of a true Cinderella proved detrimental to the tournament.
It is really hard to call a school from a Power 5 conference a Cinderella as a single-digit seed. Michigan was the closest to that title. But that stemmed more from the fact they made a good run in the Big 10 tournament after the runway debacle.
South Carolina? Their trip to the Final Four was nice, but failed to really capture the hearts of the fans.
It takes a team that comes from nowhere to really pull at the nation’s heartstrings to be considered a Cinderella.
There was not a team like Florida Gulf Coast, Viginia Commonwealth or a low-seeded Butler to make a splash this year.
As for big upsets, there were few.
There was one twelve over five upset this year. That happened be the one that featured a way over-seeded Minnesota squad. There was also just one double-digit seed in the second weekend, Xaiver.
Would this tournament have been better with the high-paced UNC Wilmington, a Dunk City revival, Wichita State with another shocker? It really would have.
Instead, it was a poor tournament with few moments that will transcend time. Luke Maye’s winner for the Tar Heels in the Elite Eight against will live on. So will Williams’ third championship ring, moving him into rare air.
Other than that, this one will be forgotten.
It is time to move on, and here is to hoping that next year’s tournament will be much better.