The story of Villanova's national championship run is going to be passed down for decades, and there are so many ways to tell it. If you really wanted to, you could let numbers paint the picture. There are a lot of numbers:
- Villanova shot 58.2 percent from the field in the NCAA Tournament, the highest shooting percentage ever for a champion. It also hit 50 percent of its threes during the tournament, a record for a national championship-winning team.
- Villanova shot 64.9 percent from the floor and 59.4 percent from three over in its two Final Four games. That's the highest percentage ever.
- Villanova's average margin of victory of 20.6 in the NCAA Tournament was the second-best ever, only behind 1996 Kentucky.
- Point guard Ryan Arcidiacono hit 71 percent of his twos and 62 percent of his threes during the NCAA Tournament. He was named Most Outstanding Player.
- Villanova's six assists (six!) were tied for the fewest ever by the winning team in a national title game since they started tracking that kind of thing.
You could take a step back and let the moments breathe. Kris Jenkins' shot may as well live on forever, a true buzzer-beater and the first time the NCAA Tournament ever ended with the game on the line and the ball in the air. There was Jay Wright's mesmerizing nonplussed reaction, Michael Jordan's subtle nod of begrudging approval, a security guard stunned by an erupting crowd. There was Charles Barkley, lifted into the air by the spirit of the moment, jumping higher than he has since about 1999.
The real story of how Villanova basketball won the 2016 national championship is all of that and more. It's vindication for the Big East, redemption for the crying piccolo girl and validation for Wright after three straight early exits in March.
But mostly, it's about the right team coming along in the right year and playing damn near perfect basketball at the right time.
(Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
This regular season was defined by calamity, the realization of the preseason idea this year was wide open and free for the taking. Five No. 1 teams fell before February for the first time since the 1940s, with top-10 upsets being about the only thing you could count on.
There was no dominant team like Kentucky, Duke or Wisconsin a year earlier. The national recruiting class of 2015 simply didn't have a Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor like the one before it. Many of the top freshmen either failed to live up to the hype or put themselves in compromising situations by choice. A down year for one-and-done freshmen was a great year for seniors, with players like Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine proving staying in school can be the right choice sometimes, too.
In a way, Villanova is the perfect representation of everything this year was about. They won the national championship without a first-round draft pick on the roster. They were led by seniors in the backcourt (Arcidiacono) and up front (Daniel Ochefu). They built up slowly but surely behind four-star recruits and consistency on both ends of the floor.
There is no way to poke holes in Villanova's run. The Wildcats set records for offensive efficiency. They beat the No. 1 overall seed in the Elite Eight, the best player in the country in the Final Four and the preseason No. 1 in the national title game. 'Nova only lost to an unranked team once all year, when a red-hot Seton Hall squad upset them in the Big East title game.
There was evidence that this was already one of the greatest NCAA Tournaments ever leading up to Monday night, but it needed one more moment. Middle Tennessee State's win over betting favorite Michigan State might have been the tournament's biggest upset ever. Northern Iowa won on a half-court buzzer-beater then suffered the biggest collapse of all time two days later. The two Final Four games were both blowouts, setting the stage for what everyone thought would be an amazing title game.
College basketball doesn't have to reward our expectations, scramble our brains or provide the type of life-affirming moments this sport specializes in delivering. It was supposed to be a down year for talent, a season with no great teams, a grace period where everyone learned to adjust to new rules.
Instead, Villanova played about as well as any team we've ever seen and capped it with a shot no one will ever forget. Doubt college basketball at your own peril. This season showed the next indelible moment is always coming from the place you least expect.