The 2016 NCAA tournament was full of upsets, surprises, and close games, but the final four was completely different. The first game of the Final Four was a match-up between two-seed Villanova Wildcats and two-seed Oklahoma Sooners. Both teams had a relatively easy path to the Final Four, winning by large margins in most of their early round games. This game was expected to be close, but Villanova went on to defeat the Sooners 95 to 51, which is the largest margin of victory in Final Four history. The game was close most of the first half, but Villanova went on a scoring run late in the half to push their lead to 42-28 at halftime. The second half was completely dominated by Villanova, leading to their blowout win. Villanova’s shooting percentage was 71% while Oklahoma shot only 31%, which was a major factor leading to the large win. Josh Hart led the way for Villanova scoring 23 points, Kris Jenkins scored 18, and Ryan Arcidiacono added 15. Jordan Woodard was Oklahoma’s leading scorer in the game with 12 points, Buddy Hield scored 9, and Isaiah Cousins scored 8. Villanova moved on to the national championship game for the first time since 1985, which is also the year of their last title.
The second game of the Final Four was between two Atlantic Coast Conference rivals, the one-seed North Carolina Tar Heels and the ten-seed Syracuse Orange. Syracuse was one of the tournament’s biggest surprises. They were not expected to make the tournament, but they slid in and went on to put together one of the most impressive runs in tournament history to reach the Final Four. North Carolina was favored to win this game by a large margin, and that is exactly what happened. They defeated the Orange by a score of 83-66. North Carolina led most of the first half to earn a 39-28 halftime lead. Syracuse cut the deficit to six late in the second half, but North Carolina quickly pulled ahead again into a double-digit lead. Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson both scored 16 points for North Carolina. Kennedy Meeks scored 15 and Marcus Paige scored 13 to help the Tar Heels. Trevor Cooney, the game’s leading scorer, scored 22 for Syracuse. Malachi Richardson scored 17 and Michael Gbinije scored 12 for the Orange in the loss. North Carolina advanced to the Championship game to face the underdogs, the Villanova Wildcats.
The lack of exciting basketball in the Final Four was made up for by The National Championship Game, a game many are considering one of the best in the history of college basketball. The North Carolina Tar Heels and Villanova Wildcats battled from start to finish in what was a back-and-forth game. The Wildcats won by a score of 77-74, overcoming a five point halftime deficit. The Tar Heel point guard, Marcus Paige, made a three point shot with five seconds remaining in the game to tie the score at 74. Seconds later, Kris Jenkins made a buzzer beating three pointer for the Wildcats to clinch the National Championship for his school. Phil Booth scored 20 off the bench to lead Villanova while Arcidiacono scored 16 and Jenkins added 14. Marcus Paige was the game’s highest scorer with 21 for North Carolina. Joel Berry scored 20 and Brice Johnson scored 14 in the loss. This game, one of the best ever, with one of the best finishes ever, was a proper end to a college basketball season that was unpredictable and full of surprises.