Two Shining Moments: How a wild ending to an incredible game salvaged a forgettable season


HOUSTON — “That was supposed to be our moment.”

Marcus Paige is right.

It was.

North Carolina had erased a 10-point second half deficit that no one in NRG Stadium thought that they would be able to erase. They had gotten the big stops and they had made the big shots and with 13 seconds left, the Tar Heels had the ball, three points away from tying this thing up. The play that was called was for Paige to come off of a Brice Johnson down-screen, and Villanova, as they had done all night long, switched the screen. Joel Berry II was able to get the ball to Paige, who skipped away from Daniel Ochefu and stepped into a 23-foot three from the right wing.

Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono ran at Paige, challenging the shot and forcing the lefty Paige to fling up a double-clutch prayer of a three that rattled home, tying the game and sending the Tar Heel faithful into hysterics. The game was going to go into overtime, and it was that miracle three from Paige that finished off the comeback, a shot that left Paige 4.7 seconds from being mentioned in the same sentence as Mario Chalmers and Keith Smart and Lorenzo Charles for all of eternity.

Then ‘Nova’ happened.

Then Kris Jenkins happened.

And Paige’s moment was suddenly a footnote in the greatest game the world’s best sporting event has ever seen, a 77-74 Villanova win.

“As soon as he got it off, all you can do is pray when the ball is in the air,” Paige told reporters after the game, as poised and as confident as he’s ever been, the only sign that he had just suffered the most heart-breaking loss he’ll ever experience the redness still evident in his eyes. “It felt like it was in the air forever, and just knocked it down and the fireworks go off right then and the moment that you have been clawing for, fighting every day for, hoping for, dreaming about, just goes away. That fast.”

“It’s going to be impossible not to see it,” Paige added. “That shot’s going to go down as one of the biggest shots in NCAA tournament history. A buzzer-beater in the title game. I’m going to see it, and it’s going to hurt every time. It’s going to remind me of how close we were.”

“That was supposed to be our moment.”


Jim Nantz, who has been the voice of college basketball’s national title game for 25 years, is known for his one-liners, his punny quips that come after the final buzzer in the national title game has sounded.

They’ve been as reliable as One Shining Moment … up until Monday night.

“I have no idea what I said at the end,” Nantz said with a smile after the game. “I completely lost my mind.”

Yes. He did. But there was a reason for that.

“It was epic,” Nantz said of the game. “It was Ali-Frazier.”

It was the greatest national title game of all time.

The ending will never be topped. It’s not possible. The shot that Paige hit was an all-timer, a hang-in-the-air, double-clutch three that will win him every game of HORSE that he plays the rest of his life. A game-tying three with 4.7 seconds left on the biggest stage in the sport. I mean, just look at this picture:

North Carolina guard Marcus Paige (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
North Carolina guard Marcus Paige (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

He made that!

And it was wiped away with the first true buzzer-beater in title game history. Lorenzo Charles’ dunk came with two seconds left on the clock. Keith Smart hit his with four seconds left. The most famous shot in North Carolina basketball history, a 15-footer that was buried by that guy in all the internet photos back in 1982, came with 15 seconds left.

On Monday night, the buzzer sounded in the two seconds that felt like two hours that Jenkins’ shot was in the air.

“I pretty much knew it was going in,” Roy Williams said. “It was helpless. It was not a good feeling.”

But far too often great finishes are the easiest way to make us forget just how terrible a game truly was. That was not the case here. North Carolina caught fire in the first half, hitting seven of nine threes and jumping out to what would have been a nine-point lead had Josh Hart’s block of a Justin Jackson layup attempt not led to a Phil Booth floater at the other end.

And it was that floater that launched Villanova’s run, as the Wildcats’ ruthless efficiency on both ends of the floor allowed them to open up a 67-57 lead with just 5:29 left. The game at that point felt like it was over, which was when the Second Half Marcus Paige that we hadn’t seen for two years showed up. He scored 15 points in the final nine minutes and eight points after Villanova opened up that 10-point lead, proving a lost cause to be anything-but.

“That was one of the great college basketball games,” Jay Wright said. “Before they determined that shot was good, Roy came right up to me and said, ‘I’m really disappointed for our guys, that was a great game, but I’m really happy for you.'”

It was the perfect way to cap the season.

Because if we’re being honest here, this college basketball season was a dud.

We can fluff it up and talk about Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine going punch-for-punch during their race for Player of the Year, the resurgence of Tar Heels with the red dot from the NCAA’s investigative arm trained squarely on their Carolina Blue chests, the rise of Brandon Ingram to becoming the favorite to be picked No. 1 in June’s draft.


This season just didn’t move the needle. At all.

That’s what happens when there are no great teams, like there were in 2015, and when there are no great players destined for NBA super-stardom. How many people are tuning in to see Ben Simmons, the kid hyped as the Future Of Modern Basketball, when he mailed it in two-thirds of the way through the season on an LSU team that was never truly considered an at-large hopeful after a handful of ugly November losses?

Not only were NCAA tournament television ratings down significantly across the board this year, but there were more empty seats in NRG Stadium than I’ve ever seen at a Final Four game. Two hours before tip-off, tickets on StubHub were as cheap as $35. You could find a lower-level seat for $62. For a national title game, that’s basically giving the tickets away for free.

It may hurt for college basketball fans to read this, but 2015-16 was by far the most irrelevant season since I started covering the sport.

And yet, the final seconds of the 2015-16 college basketball season will go down as one of the single greatest moments in the history of sports in this country. We’ll never forget what happened in Houston at 10:27 p.m. CT on April 4th. The highlight will be played during every single March Madness montage from now until forever.

A buzzer-beating 25-footer to win a national title? Arcidiacono-to-Jenkins may now have to supplant Hill-to-Laettner as ‘The Shot’.

And in the end, that is what people remember about this season.

Five years from now, ten years from now, no one is going to be talking about the lack of star power in the 2016 Final Four. They’re not going to care about the fact that tickets were cheap or that the ratings were down or that the teams participating in the event weren’t as good as we’ve come to expect.

They’ll be talking about how great the title game was, about how absolutely out-of-this-world the ending was. In the end, it’s not the seasons or the games or the NCAA violations that we remember.

It’s the moments that last forever.

Kris Jenkins stole Marcus Paige’s moment, capping a forgettable season with an image, a moment that we will always remember.

Providence hires Kim English as next head coach


PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Kim English is just 34 years old, but has already moved around a lot in his coaching career, serving as an assistant at three schools over six years before landing his first head coaching job at George Mason in 2021.

It was going to take a special opportunity for him to pack up and move again.

“Every place I’ve been, I’ve wanted to stay there forever. I really want to stay at a place for a long time,” English said Thursday. “I’m sick of moving,”

He believes he has found that place in Providence.

English was named the Friars’ new head coach, ending a fast search by first-year Providence athletic director Steve Napolillo that was created after Ed Cooley left to take the job at Big East rival Georgetown.

English becomes the 16th coach in school history. Cooley resigned on Monday following 12 seasons. He complied a 242-153 record with the Friars that included seven appearances, but just three March Madness victories.

English was 34-29 in two seasons at George Mason, leading the Patriots to a 20-13 record this past season. It was the first time the school reached the 20-win milestone since 2016-17.

George Mason president Gregory Washington said it would begin a national search to replace English.

In English, the Friars get a hungry, young coach who has built his reputation on recruiting. He said his secret sauce finding players is simple.

“You work at it. You do it every day. You’re relentless,” English said.

He played college basketball at Missouri and was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the second round in 2012. But his NBA tenure was short and he was waived in 2013. He had a brief stint with the Chicago Bulls in 2014 and also played two years professionally overseas.

English began his coaching career as an assistant under Frank Haith at Tulsa in 2015 and spent two seasons there before being hired by Tad Boyle in 2017 as an assistant coach at Colorado. In 2019, former Friars coach Rick Barnes brought English to Tennessee as an assistant coach and he stayed until being hired by George Mason

He feels as if he has found a kindred spirit in Napolillo, who sold him on the passion the administration and community have for the Friars’ basketball program.

The intel he got about Providence and Napolillo aligned with what he observed when he got the chance to meet him.

“His passion, his fire, his love for Providence basketball really speaks to me. It really spoke to me what he was looking for,” English said. “As a first-year athletic director to be in this situation and to go at it and not just do what other people may have been comfortable with. … That’s what you want in a partnership.”

English also said he’s impressed by facilities at Providence that he said are among the best he’s seen.

Napolillo said the reason he was able to move so quickly on the hire was because he heeded the advice of his mentors who told him to always be prepared to have to fill a coaching vacancy.

“You always need to have names in a drawer for any coaching situation. You never know what’s going to happen,” he said. ”This year, as noise kept growing and growing, I had a list in my drawer.”

That list also included a Sports Illustrated article he saved from last year that listed some rising coaches. He can’t recall why, but for some reason he highlighted English’s name in the story.

English has already started working and began recruiting not long after signing his contract on Wednesday night, he said.

He also confirmed that Dennis Felton, one of his assistants at George Mason, will join him at Providence. Felton served as a Friars assistant under Barnes from 1992 to 1994.

In a Big East that is stacked from top to bottom with coaching talent, English feels as if the pieces are in place to build something special.

“I’ve had no reason to take a bad job,” English said. “I was a 20-something-year-old assistant in the SEC. I didn’t have to rush. If I’m going to have interest in it, it’s going to be really good.”

For him, that translated into being in a position to bring the Friars a national championship.

“If you want to win the big trophy, you’ve got to be in the big dance,” English said. “At the mid-major level it’s getting increasing harder to get to the big dance. This gives us an opportunity. If we are competing for Big East championships, we’re going to be in the show.”

Report: Notre Dame closing deal with Penn State’s Micah Shrewsberry

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame is finalizing a deal to make Penn State’s Micah Shrewsberry its new men’s basketball coach, two people with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because contract details were still being completed and needed school approval.

Shrewsberry, in his second season at Penn State (23-14), led the Nittany Lions to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 and a tournament victory for the first time since 2001.

The Nittany Lions beat Texas A&M and were eliminated by Texas in the second round.

Notre Dame has been searching for a replacement for Mike Brey, who spent the last 23 season as coach of the Fighting Irish. He announced in January that this would be his last season with Notre Dame

The Irish finished 11-21.

Shrewsberry grew up in Indianapolis and went to school at Division III Hanover College in Indiana.

He was the head coach at Indiana University South Bend, an NAIA school located in the same city as Notre Dame, from 2005-07.

He later worked as an assistant coach at Butler and Purdue, with a stint as an assistant with the Boston Celtics in between.

ESPN first reported Notre Dame was close to a deal with Shrewsberry.

Armando Bacot says he’s returning for fifth season at North Carolina

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina forward Armando Bacot is returning to play a fifth season for the Tar Heels.

Bacot announced his decision Wednesday, giving North Carolina fans a bit of good news after the Tar Heels failed to reach the NCAA Tournament.

The 6-foot-11 Bacot is North Carolina’s career leader in rebounds, double-doubles and double-figure rebounding games.

Bacot led North Carolina to a runner-up finish in last year’s NCAA Tournament, and his decision to return was a major reason the Tar Heels were ranked No. 1 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25.

The Tar Heels didn’t come close to meeting those expectations. They went 20-13 and opted against playing in the NIT. Bacot earned Associated Press All-America third-team honors and averaged 15.9 points and 10.4 rebounds.

He averaged 16.3 points and 13.1 rebounds in 2021-22. He capped that season by becoming the first player ever to have six double-doubles in one NCAA Tournament.

Bacot participated in North Carolina’s Senior Night festivities this year. He has a fifth year of eligibility because of the waiver the NCAA granted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ed Cooley takes over at Georgetown with lofty aspirations

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

WASHINGTON – Ed Cooley’s task at Georgetown is to bring a once-storied program back to prominence in a competitive conference that has three teams still part of March Madness in the Sweet 16.

Cooley’s lofty aspirations go beyond lifting the Hoyas up from the bottom of the Big East Conference. After leaving Providence, which he took to the NCAA Tournament seven times in 12 years, he already is talking about trying to coach Georgetown to its first championship since 1984.

At his introductory news conference Wednesday that felt like a pep rally, Cooley said he wanted current and former players to envision cutting down nets and watching “One Shining Moment” with the nets hanging around their necks. He promised wins – many of them – and plotted a path forward that he knows will involve some tough times.

“It’s a process, and the process now, because you have a changing landscape in athletics, you’ll have an opportunity to probably move it quicker than you would have 10, 20 years ago,” Cooley said. “We’re going to lose some games. It’s OK. Losing’s part of growth. But over the course of time, it will pay off.”

Georgetown has lost a lot the past couple of years under Patrick Ewing, who was fired earlier this month after six seasons. The team went 7-25 this season after going 6-25 last season and lost 37 of 39 games in Big East play.

While Cooley at Providence was responsible for four of those defeats, the 53-year-old distanced himself from Georgetown’s recent run of losing.

“I don’t have anything to do what happened yesterday,” he said. “My job is to move us forward from today.”

Cooley’s mere presence is an acknowledgement that Georgetown needed a major change to become relevant again. After late Hall of Fame coach John Thompson’s 27-year-old run led to longtime assistant Craig Esherick succeeding him and then son John Thompson III and Ewing getting the head job, Cooley is the school’s first outsider in the position in a half-century.

His only connection to the Hilltop – beyond coaching in the Big East – is his daughter, Olivia, attending Georgetown. Cooley, a Providence native, said her desire to live in the Washington area played into his decision to leave for a conference rival.

It was certainly no accident that athletic director Lee Reed and school president John J. DeGioia used phrases like “new era” and “new chapter” when discussing Cooley. DeGioia said he believes Cooley will “uplift and restore this team” to compete at the highest levels of the sport.

“He has a proven record of success,” Reed said. “We knew we needed a leader, someone who understood our identity and could reimagine Georgetown basketball to fit today’s unique basketball landscape.”

That landscape, including players being able to profit off the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL) and more easily transfer schools, are the biggest changes Cooley has seen since landing his first head job at Fairfield in 2006. He expects to be aggressive, and given the high volume of Georgetown players coming and going via the transfer portal, could rebuild the roster in his image sooner rather than later.

“You have to find student-athletes that fit the way you want to play, your style of play, that fit you as a coach,” Cooley said. “We need to find players that can play for me that can attend Georgetown, not the other way around.”

Cooley acknowledged that some luck is needed but also stressed recruiting local talent to keep the best players in the region around. That’s just one building block to putting Georgetown back on the map, which Cooley wants the time and latitude to do.

“The word patience is always hard because everybody wants it and they want it right now,” he said. “Everybody wants it right now. Have a little bit of patience.”

Texas’ Arterio Morris plays amid misdemeanor domestic violence case

Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

AUSTIN, Texas — In a season when Texas fired coach Chris Beard after a felony domestic violence arrest, it has allowed a reserve guard to keep playing while he awaits trial on a misdemeanor charge of assaulting an ex-girlfriend.

Second-seed Texas has advanced under interim coach Rodney Terry to the program’s first Sweet 16 since 2008, and the Longhorns play No. 3 Xavier in Kansas City, Missouri.

Arterio Morris, a freshman who was one of the top recruits in the country last year, was initially scheduled to stand trial March 29, three days before Final Four weekend. Denton County prosecutors were granted a delay to an unspecified date.

Beard was fired Jan. 5, about three weeks after he was arrested on suspicion of a felony charge of choking his fiancée in a fight during which she also told police he bit, and hit her. She later recanted the choking allegation and the Travis County district attorney dismissed the case, saying prosecutors were following her wishes not to got to trial and that the charge could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Morris is charged with Class A misdemeanor assault causing bodily injury to a family member, which in Texas includes dating relationships. It stems from a June 2022 confrontation in the Dallas suburb of Frisco. The charge carries penalties ranging from probation and fines to up to a year in jail if convicted.

Morris’ attorney, Justin Moore, said the charges against Beard and the player are different.

“(Beard) was charged with a felony family assault,” Moore said. “That was far more serious as to what Arterio was alleged to have to committed. We maintain Arterio’s innocence.”

According to police, the ex-girlfriend said Morris grabbed her arm and pulled her off a bed, and later pulled the front of her sports bra, causing an injury to her neck and shoulder area. Police reported seeing a sizable bruise or scratch.

Texas officials declined comment. Beard said before the season that school officials he would not identify determined the freshman could play this season.

Moore defended Texas officials’ decision to not suspend Morris.

“I do believe Texas has taken this seriously. They’ve also allowed Arterio to enjoy his due process rights,” Moore said.

Morris has played in all 36 games this season, although his minutes and have been limited on a senior-dominated team. He averages nearly 12 minutes and 4.7 points per game. His biggest moment was a soaring alley-oop dunk against Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament championship game.

Attempts to reach Morris’ ex-girlfriend through family members were not successful. According to online records, prosecutors sought the trial delay to “procure witness availability.” Prosecutor Jamie Beck did not immediately return messages.