MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Sporting fate has an uncanny way of coming full circle, of balancing scales, of granting good fortune to those it had previously cuffed around.
And so, a year after being the victim in the national championship game, North Carolina had its own Villanova Moment on Sunday. Its own epic last-second play. Its own sudden hero. Its own dramatic victory after losing every bit of a seemingly secure lead.
The parallels were everywhere.
Malik Monk was Marcus Paige: Heroically making shots in the final seconds, including a heavily contested 3-pointer with 7.2 seconds left to tie the game when all hope had appeared lost for Kentucky.
Theo Pinson was Ryan Arcidiacono: The dribbler, the decision maker, the delivery man of the underhanded pass.
Luke Maye was Kris Jenkins: Mr. Big Shot, swishing his way into NCAA tournament lore.
And just to make this full-circle story that much more karmically complete, there was Jenkins himself sitting behind the North Carolina bench. Tar Heels guard Nate Britt is his brother, and the Villanova junior was here to cheer him on.
Watching Britt and his teammates cut the nets, I had to ask Jenkins: how eerily similar is this to the ending in Houston last year? Just flipped upside down for the Heels?
“It’s crazy,” Jenkins agreed. “Really crazy.”
Carolina’s helpless feeling of last year, watching the other guys make the final play, has been replaced by a sweet sequel.
“I’m glad we came out on the winning side this time,” Pinson said.
“I know how Kentucky feels,” UNC guard Joel Berry said. “Not to have that feeling is nice.”
Kentucky feels the way Kentucky felt 25 years ago. Which is to say, awful.
A quarter century after the first time it happened, another player from Tobacco Road wearing No. 32 shoved a last-second dagger in the heart of Big Blue…