The soul of college basketball was saved on Monday night. Thanks to small Catholic school on the north side of Philadelphia.
With .4 seconds on the clock, Kris Jenkins let fly a beautiful three point shot over an outreached Tarheel defender and secured an amazing 77-74 victory, not just for the Wildcats themselves, but for all those who love a certain kind of college basketball.
The kind of basketball that has ten schools and plays home and away round robin conference games. The type of basketball that passes out double technicals because one wouldn't make sense. It's the type of basketball that consumes you in the fall, carries you through the harsh winter and either makes (but usually breaks) your heart right before spring settles in.
Villanova saved us from what might have been...irrelevancy. As members of the Big East, they play their conference tournament in the World's Most Famous Arena and have their games televised on a major network. That puts them and their conference mates at the table with those conferences where football is king. Come March, everything is equal.
But conference tournament homes and big TV contracts only help with perception so much. You have to win to really matter. College basketball needed a purebred to win the title. A (albeit smaller) nationwide audience was watching.
Fortunately Nova is coached by a guy is who is so good, he has his own soap commercial. Leading his team to victory seems to be no big deal to this guy. Thankfully Jay saved his excitement as he summed it up best about the importance of this win.
“I’m really, really happy for the Big East,” Wright said afterward. “We're a new entity that college basketball just is trying to figure out, you know. And I just hope the power five sees a value in us as a part of all of this in basketball. We want to keep up with the power five. We want to do everything they're doing, just do it in basketball. I hope this gives us a place at the table because basketball is really important to all these schools.”
No doubt this win was huge. Sure other "like" schools have broken some ceilings. George Mason has been to the Final Four. So has VCU. Butler has been to back-to-back title games. None of them changed the dynamics, or the creeping perception that football schools would rule the basketball landscape like an aloof overlord. Nova did.
A great run, by a great team with a great coach. Because of this win, basketball will continue to be an exciting, promising, hope filling exercise for many, many fans. Be thankful for the 2016 Villanova Wildcats basketball fans, because of them the college game still has a soul.