Apr 5, 2022 - Sports

Kansas beats UNC in historic comeback for national title

Kansas holding the trophy after winning the national championship.
Photo: Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Basketball is a game of runs. Monday's grand finale was a game of punches — and counterpunches.

ICYMI: Kansas erased a 15-point halftime deficit to beat UNC, 72-69, and claim its fourth national title and first since 2008.

  • It's the largest comeback in national championship game history and makes Bill Self the 16th D-I men's basketball coach with multiple titles.
  • UNC had been 46-0 in the NCAA tournament when leading by double digits at the half, the longest streak in history. They're now 46-1.

Game recap: Kansas had trailed at halftime just once in the tournament. And just like they did against Miami in the Elite Eight, the Jayhawks came out of halftime firing, outscoring the battered Tar Heels, 47-29.

Flashback: In 2020, the Kansas men and South Carolina women would have been No. 1 seeds and among the title favorites — but March Madness was canceled. Two years later, they're both champs. Take that, COVID.

Ochai Agbaji and Bill Self celebrate
Ochai Agbaji and Bill Self celebrate. Photo: Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

What they said: "Would you rather be down 15 with 20 left or down nine with two left?" Self asked his team at halftime, alluding to KU's comeback in the 2008 title game — and giving his players the belief that the night could still be theirs.

The other side: Tar Heel Nation just went through "an unprecedented emotional science experiment," writes Slate's Alex Kirschner:"No sports fan base has ever taken such a hard bit of whiplash in such a short time. It's like if Team USA had won the 'Miracle on Ice' and topped it off by losing to Finland."

Parting thoughts: In college basketball, March Madness is everything. Sure, we watch the big regular-season games and follow the AP poll movement. But more than perhaps any other sport, we're always looking ahead to the postseason.

  • March is when America really starts tuning in, our eyes glued to the screen for conference tournaments and opening weekend chaos, all the way through the ceremonial rendition of "One Shining Moment."
  • On paper, there's some risk in banking an entire sport's brand and success on the final month of the season fulfilling its potential and delivering on its promise. But here's the thing: it always does.

The bottom line: The last three weeks reminded us why we love sports. From Cinderella stories, to bitter rivalries, to thrilling comebacks, to the electricity of a jam-packed Superdome (we are so back!!!), it was everything everywhere all at once.

Watch: "One Shining Moment" (Twitter)

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