It’s one thing to be a prisoner of the moment; it’s another to immediately recognize greatness for what it is.
Yes, many people feel that Monday’s national championship game between Villanova and North Carolina – which, in the final five seconds, gave us two of the greatest shots in NCAA Tournament history – was the best title game ever.
“Well, considering I was an assistant coach in 1985 when we won at Villanova and then I spent nine years there as a head coach, I got to say these are the two best games ever,” CBS Sports Network college basketball analyst Steve Lappas said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “They happened to be both Villanova games – ’85 and 2016. An unbelievable game. I really do believe those are the two best games ever. It’s just ironic that Villanova was in both of them.”
Lappas, of course, has an emotional attachment to both Villanova wins, but what about NC State’s upset of Houston in 1983? What about Lorenzo Charles’ bucket at the buzzer to stun Phi Slama Jama? Wasn’t that the greatest game ever?
“I got no problem making that No. 2,” Lappas said. “I got 1, 1A and 2. Whichever one you want – ’85 or ’16 – are 1 and 1A, and then I’ll put (’83) second. That’s pretty good, isn’t it? Second all-time? Wouldn’t you like to be second all-time in something?”
Looking at Monday’s game, Lappas was impressed that Villanova weathered the first-half storm with Kris Jenkins saddled on the bench with two early fouls. Jenkins’ absence noticeably hampered Nova’s offense, which mustered just 34 points in the first half but 43 in the second.
“I thought (his absence) was critical (in the first half),” Lappas said. “I thought – and I said before the game – that Kris Jenkins was the most important guy playing for Villanova. I’m not even saying he wasn’t the best guy. He could have been the best guy, too. But he was certainly the most important because he’s that stretch-4 man, and that’s the most important guy in college basketball today. It’s kind of a new position. It wasn’t even really there when I was coaching. It’s a 4-man who is decent rebounder, a good rebounder, who can really take the defense way out because he can shoot the ball and that spreads everything out for all the other Villanova players. So I think the key to their team is Kris Jenkins. He creates the spacing that allows those guys to drive the lane and do the other things they do, so not having him out there was a critical thing.”
Lappas, it is worth noting, predicted that Nova would beat North Carolina. In fact, he picked Kansas to win it all at the beginning of the tournament but switched to Nova after watching Nova decimate Iowa in the Round of 32. The Wildcats led 54-29 at halftime and won 87-68.
“You can look on CBS Sports Network,” Lappas said, laughing. “You’ll see (I picked Villanova after that game going forward). There’s proof there.”