Today, Villanova men's basketball can be viewed as something of a modern-day blue blood, having won two national championships in three seasons and seven of the Big East's eight regular-season titles with its current membership.
But prior to April 4, 2016, the Wildcats' only national championship came from when the biggest of Cinderella stories, as their 1985 squad entered the first-ever 64-team NCAA tournament as a No. 8 seed, marched through the six-game gauntlet with a combined margin of victory of 30 points as they defeated half of the No. 1 seeds and half of the No. 2 seeds. Their championship-sealing victory came over mighty Georgetown — the defending national champion and a program playing in its third national championship in four seasons — in a game where the Wildcats needed to shoot 78.6 percent from the field just to win by two, 66-64.
That was Villanova's claim to fame in March, as its last five trips to the NCAA tournament had resulted in exits in the round of 32, including once when the Wildcats were a No. 1 seed and twice as a No. 2 seed.
With two passes, six dribbles and one silky smooth jumper, Villanova's trophy case doubled and the March Madness gold standard for "Where were you when...?" moments had been elevated to the highest of possible summits.
As we go into the NCAA Video Vault, here is a complete breakdown of every angle and every aspect of Kris Jenkins' championship-winning buzzer-beater in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
The overlapping reconstructions of the Big East and Villanova men's basketball
Jay Wright, the former Bucknell guard and Hofstra coach, had been hired by Villanova in 2001 after leading the Pride to consecutive seasons in which they swept the America East's regular-season and conference tournament titles to make the NCAA tournament. In an era of the old Big East that was dominated by programs like UConn, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, and players such as Caron Butler, Troy Bell, Emeka Okafor, Carmelo Anthony and Ben Gordon, Villlanova was annually just another middle-of-the-pack team in the Atlantic seaboard's 14-team, basketball-crazy conference.
In Wright's first three seasons, Villanova went 19-13 (7-9 Big East), 15-16 (8-8 Big East) and 18-17 (6-10 Big East), spinning its wheels at or below .500 in conference play, before the Wildcats made the NCAA tournament in Wright's fourth season. That was the first in a seven-year streak of NCAA tournament appearances, which reached a high-water mark of a Final Four appearance in 2009 thanks to a roster of guards, notably Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher, who played around forward Dante Cunningham. In the national semifinal, they fell to No. 1 seed North Carolina, which went on to win its fifth national championship.
It was yet another edition of North Carolina versus Villanova in the NCAA tournament, which is today tied for the most-frequent NCAA tournament matchup between two programs. The Tar Heels and Wildcats have met six times in the Big Dance.
However, not only would Villanova not make it back to the Final Four for seven more years, the Wildcats wouldn't make it back to the second weekend, despite having multiple teams whose win totals and seeds suggested otherwise. In 2012, Villanova went just 13-19 (5-13 Big East), both of which are still the worst marks in Wright's 21-season tenure at the school.
When the conference restructured to the current iteration of the Big East starting in the 2013-14 season, Villanova immediately proved to be the class of the conference and its closest program to an annual national title contender.
But the 2014 Wildcats, which peaked at No. 3 in the AP poll and earned a No. 2 seed, were knocked out of the NCAA tournament in a 12-point loss at the hands of old conference foe and No. 7 seed UConn, which went on to become perhaps the most unlikely national champion since Villanova's 1985 team. The next season it was No. 8 seed NC State that sent top-seeded Villanova home in the second round.
Villanova was winning a lot, but not when it mattered the most.
Many of the same players, but a different result
The 2015 Wildcats, the ones that went 33-3 and had their 16-game winning streak ended by the Wolfpack, returned much of the same roster in 2016. They lost leading scorer Darrun Hilliard and his 14.3 points per game, guard Dylan Ennis (9.9 points per game) transferred and senior Jayvaughn Pinkston (9.7 points per game) graduated, but back were two starters — guard Ryan Arcidiacono (10.1 points per game) and forward Daniel Ochefu (9.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game), plus three other players who averaged at least 14 minutes per game.
A freshman class featuring point guard Jalen Brunson and guard Donte DiVincenzo arrived on campus and wing Mikal Bridges, who had redshirted the previous season, was now also in the fold.
The group clicked.
Villanova had the most-efficient offense and defense in Big East play, playing at the slowest offensive tempo in the conference, while forcing its opponents into the shortest average possession by a defense, according to kenpom.com.
Josh Hart, who started just two games in 2015, blossomed into the team's leading scorer at 15.5 points per game, while a 6-6 junior forward named Kris Jenkins had more than doubled his scoring average year-over-year, from 6.3 points per game as the team's seventh man to 13.6.
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Villanova took its licks in non-conference play with a 23-point loss to Oklahoma and eventual national player of the year Buddy Hield, and the Wildcats lost by 11 at Virginia, another "V" program that was also rising to become a national power at this time in men's basketball. But the Wildcats entered Selection Sunday with a 29-5 record and earned a No. 2 seed, hoping to avoid their previous pitfalls of five second-round exits in a row when they had made the NCAA tournament.
And boy, did they ever.
Villanova won its first three NCAA tournament games by a combined 72 points before a five-point win over No. 1 seed Kansas. That set up another game against Oklahoma, which had so thoroughly smacked Villanova just months earlier.
Villanova had the last word, winning by 44 points.
For the first time since 1985, Villanova had a chance to play for a national championship.
The lead-up to the shot
North Carolina was ranked No. 3 in the final AP poll before the NCAA tournament and Villanova was ranked No. 6, so while the AP poll voters didn't think these were the two best teams, they were unquestionably two of the season's best teams.
The entire game was competitive, with North Carolina's biggest lead in the first half being seven points and Villanova's greatest advantage being five. The Tar Heels took a five-point lead into halftime, 39-34. After a back-and-forth start to the second half, the Wildcats went on a 7-0 run to pull ahead 53-46 and another 7-0 run gave the Wildcats a 10-point lead, 67-57, with 5:29 to play. When North Carolina guard Marcus Paige's layup cut Villanova's lead to 72-71, Hart made a pair of free throws to put the Wildcats ahead by three, 74-71.
That set up what could someday become one of the most consequential yet most forgotten shots in NCAA tournament history. With North Carolina trailing by three points and 13.5 seconds remaining, North Carolina could play for the final possession if it wanted, or it could try to score quickly, then foul Villanova to get another shot on offense.
North Carolina point guard Joel Berry II sent a bounce pass to Paige and Ochefu, the Villanova big man, hit the ground going for a steal, which gave Paige just enough daylight. With two help-side defenders closing in on him, he hit a double-clutched, delayed 3-pointer, in which each leg was going in opposite directions, one forward and one backward, as his 3-pointer from the right-wing circled in the hoop to tie the game.
"Impossible!" Jim Nantz said on the broadcast. "How did he do that? Ties the game with 4.7 seconds to go."
Click on the video below to watch the entire sequence.
That gave Villanova the ball back with 4.7 seconds to go the length of the court.
After a timeout, Villanova sent the following five players on the court: Jenkins, Arcidiacono, Ochefu, Hart and Phil Booth.
Jenkins was the trigger man, set to inbound the ball. Arcidiacono was the recipient of the inbounds pass. The play-maker.
Ochefu was also in the backcourt, ready to set a screen for Arcidiacono.
North Carolina didn't defend the inbounds pass from Jenkins, with three Tar Heels defends across midcourt, along with Hart and Booth. Among Villanova's rotation players, Jenkins was the team's most prolific 3-point shooter, with 6.5 tries and 2.5 makes per game, and he was the Wildcats' second-best 3-point shooter by percentage, 38.6 percent.
While keeping an eye on his defender, Berry, Arcidiacono broke towards the ball and caught the inbounds pass roughly parallel with the free throw line. When he caught the ball, he was parallel to the sideline and the primary TV camera angle, so that he could turn and make the most of the final 4.7 seconds of Villanova's season and his college career.
Arcidiacono was playing in the 144th and final game in his career and up to that point, 116 of them had been wins, but just three had come in the NCAA tournament, each in the first round.
The senior point guard took six dribbles, three with each hand, as he crossed over from his left hand to his right about eight feet before the midcourt line in order to set up Berry to run into Ochefu's screen.
"Three seconds, at midcourt," Nantz said.
"Jenkins," chimed in color analyst Grant Hill, presciently.
Not only had North Carolina elected not to guard the inbounds pass but the Tar Heels never picked up the trailing forward, who had made five field goals, including one three, up to that point in the game. After crossing the Final Four logo at midcourt, Arcidiacono turned to shovel the ball to Jenkins. "Ryan Arcidiacono found me right in stride," Jenkins told the late Craig Sager in a postgame interview on the court, "and I one, two, stepped, and it was going up."
The nearest defender, Berry, was facing towards his own basket and the next-closest defender, forward Isaiah Hicks, was still moving backward.
Hicks tried to contest the shot, but Hicks was still crouched, ready to jump, when Jenkins was well into his shooting motion.
"Gives it to Jenkins," Nantz said, "for the championship!"
The final buzzer sounded as Nantz was saying "for," and as the prolonged "-ip" was leaving Nantz's mouth, the shot went in, with an exclamatory rattle off the back-left side of the rim.
Jenkins stood, both feet planted. He didn't move.
He raised both arms, making the "three" sign with each hand, as his teammates soon engulfed him like a pet dog does when its owner returns home from work. The North Carolina players wandered back to their bench in stunned silence.
"Wow, yes! Villanova! Phenomenal! The national champions," Nantz said in a seven-word, four-sentence reaction that was perfect for the moment.
"We had great confidence that our guys would execute coming out of the huddle," Wright later told March Madness correspondent Andy Katz in a sit-down interview in 2020, "and it was right in front me, it was at our end. (Time) really did slow down. I saw Arch make that pass slowly. I saw Kris go up slowly. I watched the ball in the air. You know, in my mind, I said, 'Bang' like I always do."
Video of Wright on the sidelines shows him mouthing the word "bang."
"And I was just thinking, like, 'Is this going to go or not?'" Wright continued. "It's in God's hands, you know. And it did and I just thought, 'Wow.'"
According to Sports Reference, there have been nine buzzer-beaters in the NCAA men's basketball tournament that were longer than Jenkins' 25-footer, but none of those shots won a championship.
"Man, we just trying to be legendary," Jenkins told Sager.
That he is.
None of the nine March Madness game-winning buzzer-beaters longer than Jenkins' shot had the magnitude of the program that was the ultimate March Madness Cinderella 31 years prior now being responsible for the ultimate March Madness moment. During that improbable run, Villanova had defeated No. 2 seed North Carolina in the Elite Eight en route to its first title.
North Carolina ended Villanova's season in 1991 and 2009 on the way to championships of its own.
But this time, it was Villanova that came out on top, with a shot synonymous with the sport's single-elimination postseason that's both heartbreaking and hero-making.
You can watch and listen to Jay Wright break down the play below.
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