Jenkins’ shot still hangs over Wildcats, Tar Heels
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina’s Joel Berry II still replays it in his mind, over and over.
The ball left the hand of Villanova’s Kris Jenkins, reached the height of its arc as the horn sounded then dropped through the net a split second before confetti started falling from the rafters. And as the Wildcats celebrated a national championship, the Tar Heels walked off the court in Houston in disbelief.
Nearly a year later, that 3-pointer still hangs over both teams as they start the NCAA Tournament as Final Four favorites. For Villanova, the goal is to follow Jenkins’ shot by becoming the first repeat champion since Florida a decade ago. For UNC, it’s about getting back to that moment and finishing.
“I just think about it all the time,” Berry said recently. “Four seconds made a difference in my life. I wish I could get those four seconds back, but I can’t. . This is the time where we just have to lock in, and every time we go out — whether it’s practice, whether we’re just shooting around, no matter what it is — we’ve got to remember that four seconds.”
The play binds two teams offering an unusual bit of continuity amid college basketball’s era of one-and-dones and roster turnover.
The Wildcats (31-3) are the tournament’s top overall seed in the East Region while the Tar Heels (27-7) headline the South , making this only the second time the national finalists both earned a No. 1 seed the following year since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 (Duke and Kansas were the others in 1992).
And five current players were on the court for those final 4.7 seconds: Jenkins and national player of the year candidate Josh Hart for Villanova; Berry, Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Justin Jackson and Isaiah Hicks for UNC.
“We know this year’s going to be tougher,” Jenkins said. “It’s a totally different year. Teams are different. The teams that we’re going to face are different, but last year does nothing for us.”