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Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hit a shot that will go down in sports history, winning the NCAA men’s basketball championship with a three-pointer at the buzzer. But based on the way the play was designed, Jenkins was actually not supposed to take the shot and was only a last resort.
On Tuesday, Jenkins was a guest on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” and explained that the winning play is one his team runs often in practice, and that Ryan “Arch” Arcidiacono usually takes the game-winning shot.
“Ryan [takes that shot most of that time] and that’s what is so crazy,” Jenkins said. “We put the ball in his hands because we know what type of player he is. We know how clutch he is. And we know he is going to make the right play at the end of the day.”
The winning shot was set up before the ball was ever inbounded. Jenkins was called on to inbounds the ball and had already told Arcidiacono that the other team would follow the ball, leaving Jenkins open.
I knew as an inbounder from previous games, just how teams play us, that they usually forget about the inbounder because they usually follow the ball in crunch time. Before we came out of the huddle, I told Arch, “I’m going to have a chance to be wide open because they are going to follow you, because they are used to you keeping the ball and making the big shots.”
Sure enough, after Jenkins gets the ball in to Arcidiacono, the defense keys on him and the other players already down the court, leaving Jenkins to run up the court without anybody near him.
As Arch crosses midcourt with less than three seconds to go, he moves to the right, and a second defender collapses in for the double-team.
At this point, Jenkins is trailing the play. He is at the midcourt stripe and is already calling for the ball.
Here is where we see the beauty of coach Jay Wright’s play design.
It is basically the quarterback option from football. Arcidiacono is free to keep the ball and take the shot if it is there, or he has the option to pitch it back. But instead of just pitching it back and getting out of the way, Arch gets in the way. That is, he continues to cross in front of Jenkins, screening off both defenders just enough that they cannot challenge the shot.
Jenkins is wide open.
“I was able to get in his vision. I was open, so I was screaming at him,” Jenkins said after the game.
Arcidiacono added that “all I heard was, ‘Arch, Arch, Arch.'”
While Jenkins was an option on the play, he certainly wasn’t the first option — in fact, he wasn’t even the second option. According to Wright, Jenkins was the final option.
Jenkins is “the last option because he’s the inbounder,” Wright said after the game. “If he can catch up with Arch and get ahead of him and get in his vision, that’s your last look … But the first look is Arch, then Josh Hart is screening for Phil Booth. [Jenkins is] last look.”
So, Arcidiacono was the first option, and at the bottom of the screen you can see the second option as Hart (No. 3) sets a screen for Booth (No. 5).
Arcidiacono may have been the first option and Jenkins may have been the last option, but it was up to Arch to pick the right option.
“The right play for last night was for him to just flip it back to me and it was just an unbelievable play,” Jenkins told ESPN Radio.