It was the result many predicted, with Kansas taking advantage of a winded and banged-up North Carolina team to win a championship. It’s just that it took a very peculiar path to get there. The results? An incredible game, featuring a historic comeback, to put a bow on a particularly entertaining NCAA men’s tournament.
This takes us to the end of today’s liveblog. Thanks to everybody who followed along with the Guardian’s live college basketball coverage over the last two days! Be sure to stick with us in the upcoming days as we wrap up the NCAA tournament. Ciao!
Ochai Agbaji is named most outstanding player. It’s now officially net-cutting time in New Orleans!
Self deflects any talk of winning a second championship as a head coach, saying that what matters is that the Kansas men’s program has now won four. That is the correct answer in college sports-ese.
Trophy presentation time! Bill Self gets the first crack at holding it up. They ask him what exactly he said at halftime.
In summary, basically he just told his team that it was still early and they still had 20 minutes left.
There hasn’t been an obvious player of the game, but I think David McCormack, with his 15 points and 10 rebounds, has a solid case.
As per usual whenever a team wins a championship, we’re going to stay right here for all the postgame celebrations.
I am, however, going to shut off the television the second “One Shining Moment” starts playing. It’s my own March Madness tradition: avoiding the heck out of that song.
It’s difficult not to feel for North Carolina here. They had to have thought they had wrapped this up during halftime but, well, they finally did run out of gas.
They’ll always have the Coach K Retirement game, however.
Kansas wins the championship!
The Kansas Jayhawks have pulled off the biggest comeback in NCAA men’s basketball championship game history! What an ending!
North Carolina 69-72 Kansas, FINAL
North Carolina 69-72 Kansas, FINAL
Caleb Love’s three-point attempt is…
OFF! WELL OFF! KANSAS SURVIVES!
North Carolina takes a timeout with their entire season on the line. Who would have thought we would have been here circa halftime? The refs add a partial second to the clock, to give North Carolina just a tiny bit more time to pull off a miracle.
UNC 69-72 Kansas, 3.2, second half
North Carolina’s hopes aren’t dead quite yet, but it’s going to take a Kansas turnover and a quick three-pointer just to see overtime.
Oh, wow, Harris runs out of bounds! North Carolina might have a chance here!
UNC 69-72 Kansas, 4.2, second half
Awfulness. Bacot rolls his ankle here in the last minute. Kansas doesn’t take advantage of the numbers mismatch with Bacot down. It’s not a great strategic move, but McCormack hits a jumper anyways that gives Kansas a huge lead. North Carolina can’t score and ultimately throw the ball away.
UNC 69-70 Kansas, 1:21, second half
As expected, the lead doesn’t last for another possession. After a Kansas timeout, McCormack hits a jumper to put Kansas back on top.
UNC 69-68 Kansas, 1:41, second half
Somehow, the action’s getting more frantic. Martin hits a three to put Kansas on top, Love makes a layup to cut the Kansas lead to a single point.
Manek, who has mostly been quiet this half, takes advantage of an empty Kansas possession to land a layup that puts the Tar Heels just barely back on top.
UNC 65-65 Kansas, 2:46, second half
Manek gets back on the line with a chance to tie things up after a Martin foul. He makes them both! Tie game!
UNC 63-65 Kansas, 3:45, second half
McCormack has picked up his fourth foul here. Also, the report on Johnson is that he got hit in the stomach and is winded.
Bacot on the line, he makes his two free throws. Once again a two-point game.
I feel like as soon as Davis started dismissing the idea that his team wouldn’t have enough left in the tank to close this out, that’s exactly when this whole thing fell apart.
UNC 61-65 Kansas, 3:49, second half
Something of an icky moment, as Johnson is crouched on the floor and coughing up something. The broadcasters say he’s just winded, which is understandable since he’s been propping up his team’s offense.
On the other end, the hot-handed Remy Martin scores again to extend the Kansas lead to four. Timeout time!
UNC 61-63 Kansas, 4:50, second half
Another Johnson layup makes this a two-point game. Yeah, no one is running away with this one.
UNC 59-63 Kansas, 6:02, second half
Puff Johnson seems to be keeping North Carolina in this game now. He hits a layup but Wilson hits a three for Kansas. The Jayhawks are perfectly happy with that trade.
UNC 57-60 Kansas, 7:20, second half
Lightfoot picked up a fourth foul before our TV timeout. I’m not sure if that will be relevant, since picking up fouls has mostly been his contribution to Kansas’s efforts. North Carolina can’t do anything with their possession, instead Martin breaks the tie with a three-pointer.
I normally wouldn’t say this at 11:00 pm, but I’m totally down for this one heading to overtime. This has gone from a ho-hum potential blowout to a barn burner.
UNC 57-57 Kansas, 8:05, second half
Puffy ties it up with a three! Plus, Kansas gets called for an ill-timed turnover.
UNC 54-57 Kansas, 8:49, second half
McCormack gets to the line and makes one of two free throws making it a three-point game. It feels like this could end up going down to the wire.
UNC 54-56 Kansas, 10:08, second half
Breakdowns come and breakdowns go. What are you going to do about it? That’s what I want to know. North Carolina’s answer? Get the ball to Davis for two quick baskets to cut the Kansas lead to two points.
UNC 50-56 Kansas, 10:08, second half
Remy Martin hits a three-pointer to give the Jayhawks the lead. Then Harris steals the ball and gets it to Wilson to extend the lead. Also, he was fouled by Bacot. He hits another free throw and it’s a six-point lead. A complete and total collapse by North Carolina here.
UNC 50-50 Kansas, 10:53, second half
Agbaji hits a layup, gets fouled and hits the most important free throw of his season to tie up the championship game.
UNC 50-47 Kansas, 11:01, second half
Kansas has the ball and a chance to take the lead. They almost do, in fact, on an Agbaji three that spins out of the basket. On the other end, Puff “Daddy” Johnson dunks to give North Carolina some breathing room.
UNC 48-47 Kansas, 11:36, second half
North Carolina comes out of the timeout with a badly-needed bucket from Caleb Love. In the first half, this would start another Tar Heels run. In this half, Braun just immediately answers with a layup.
We take a TV timeout and the broadcasters are audibly excited that they’re not covering a blowout. I mean, I get it.
I guess, UNC and Kansas traded gameplans at the half? Did they not know that April Fools was three days ago?
UNC 46-45 Kansas, 12:41, second half
Amazing Manek block here, although it’s a bit risky considering his three fouls. McCormack, however, hits a jumper here and improbably this is a one-possession game.
Oh wow, a Harris steal and a Braun layup makes this a one-point game. It’s a virtual tie in New Orleans and the place is going wild!
UNC 46-41 Kansas, 13:41, second half
Bacot gets fouled and goes to the line where he makes one of two free throws. Almost immediately afterward, Black picks up his fourth foul. Agbaji is on the line again and his shots are just not falling: he misses both free throws.
UNC 45-41 Kansas, 14:12, second half
Harris hits a jumper. North Carolina are officially getting into trouble here.
UNC 45-39 Kansas, 14:28, second half
Leaky Black fouls Agbaji from beyond the three-point line. He only makes one of three, but it cuts the UNC lead to six. The Tar Heels need to get back into an offensive rhythm here or they are going to get into trouble.
UNC 45-38 Kansas, 14:50, second half
Manek was called for a foul on that Wilson layup, his third, so Wilson is at the line where he makes his free throw to cut the North Carolina lead to seven. Whatever Self said in halftime seems to have been effective, Kansas is playing at a different level.
UNC 45-37 Kansas, 15:40, second half
Love hits a jumper for UNC, Braun responds with a layup. Jalen Wilson then gets in on the action for Kansas and it’s now just an eight-point Tar Heels lead. This is a game once more! Time for another TV timeout.
UNC 43-31 Kansas, 16:28, second half
A goaltending call gives two points to Kansas, and now the lead is just ten points.
UNC 43-31 Kansas, 17:23, second half
And another Braun layup! They have a chance to cut this into single-digits… until they don’t after a Love three-pointer.
UNC 40-29 Kansas, 18:14, second half
McCormack picks up his third foul, which could be significant as the game goes on. Braun makes a layup to start cutting into the Tar Heel lead.
UNC 40-27 Kansas, 18:37, second half
McCormack with a dunk to start the second half scoring. Kansas very much needed that.
Second half begins
UNC 40-25 Kansas, 19:32, second half
North Carolina has the ball to start the second half. Kansas manages to keep them from scoring on the opening possession, which is a start.
Given the context, this is an all-time sporting event sign.
Okay here’s a question that I cannot answer as someone whose expertise is in the pro game: would this be the greatest season in North Carolina men’s basketball history? I feel like it would be if this score holds up.
For the record, this is going to take the biggest comeback in championship game history for Kansas to foil UNC’s plans.
The halftime guys are emphasizing the physicality of North Carolina. They’re basically bullying Kansas while also winning the battle of free throw attempts (16 over Kansas’s four). That’s a recipe to win games.
Meanwhile, even on one and a half feet, Bacot has still managed a double-double in the first half and leads all scorers with 12 points. Imagine if he were fully healthy.
So, let’s look at Kansas. They say everybody has a plan before they get hit in the mouth, and Kansas has been in the mouth over and over and over again.
So, what can the Jayhawks do in the second half to get back into this game? You know what: that’s Bill Self’s job and entirely above my pay grade. I suggest starting with, scoring more often and then coming up with stops, but without putting North Carolina on the line.
Basically: they just have to be better at literally every part of the game to have a shot at mounting a comeback here.
It appears that this is my fault. Davis calls out those of us who thought that North Carolina would be satisfied with beating Duke.
He points out that it’s utterly absurd to think that his team would not be eager to win a championship. I’ll admit, given the domination we just witnessed, it does sound a little silly.
UNC 40-25 Kansas, end of the first half
Davis takes out some of his starters at the end of the half to avoid them picking up meaningless fouls. Kansas does finally get a field goal, an Agbaji jumper, but Puff Johnson answers for North Carolina, who take a 15 point lead into halftime.
UNC 38-23 Kansas, :59, first half
It’s now been over four minutes since the Jayhawks have hit a field goal. This is astounding. They at least play a solid defensive clinic in forcing a hopeless UNC three-point attempt, but it doesn’t really matter since they once again can’t put the ball in the basket. North Carolina takes a timeout.
UNC 38-23 Kansas, 2:11, first half
Hey, Kansas scores! It’s just a single Agbaji free throw, but it’s a start.
UNC 38-22 Kansas, 2:23, first half
Another Kansas turnover. It takes all of Kansas’s defensive energy to keep the Tar Heels from scoring and still it just ends with two more Bacot free throws after another foul call goes against the Jayhawks.
UNC 34-22 Kansas, 2:40, first half
We return to action and immediately get a “Manek Monday” pun from the booth. That’s bad even by my standards (and I adore bad puns).
North Carolina continues to have their way with the Kansas defense. Bacot and Davis make layups to make it a 14-0 Tar Heels run. Kansas calls another timeout.
UNC 32-22 Kansas, 3:46, first half
More North Carolina free throws. Kansas is just completely undisciplined right now, surprisingly. Davis was fouled beyond the arc by McCormack and he makes all three. Another TV timeout. So much for my theory that the Tar Heels wouldn’t have anything in the tank.
UNC 29-22 Kansas, 4:17, first half
Kansas pick up another foul, it’s the third on Lightfoot. Bacot goes to the line, missing the first free throw but getting a fortunate bounce on the second.
He’s a persuasive coach and he clearly has a team that listens to him.
UNC 28-22 Kansas, 5:05, first half
Kansas gets a huge fast break where Wilson rebounds a Dajuan Harris Jr miss and tips it in. No matter, Manek simply hits back-to-back three pointers to force Kansas to take a timeout to regroup. What a dramatic first half turnaround.