Sunday was supposed to provide the last afternoon of the NCAA Elite Eight, the last Final Four teams of 2020 punching their tickets. Instead, early Sunday afternoon, CBS was showing the 1985 NCAA final.
The good news: At least CBS was showing the 1985 NCAA final, instead of some infomercial. As the network provided alternative programming by jumping into its vault, this game from April 1 of 35 years ago was a natural. Villanova taking on Georgetown … one of the great Cinderella upsets in NCAA history.
The last game before there was a shot clock, or a three-point line. No scoreboard on the screen.
Steve Lappas, a first-year Villanova assistant that year, now himself a CBS analyst, warned Sunday pregame that this would all look different. Sure enough, you forgot how as Villanova packed around Patrick Ewing, the defense basically gave Georgetown open 17-footers, which the Hoyas mostly declined to take. In many ways, Rollie Massimino's matchup zone was the star of the 66-64 shocker, along with the 22-of-28 'Nova shooting.
"Last thing Coach Mass told the team in the lockers was, ‘Don’t play not to lose! Play to win!’ " Lappas tweeted.
If you forgot how strong Ed Pinckney played at both ends, here was your reminder. How calm Villanova ballhandlers stayed against the relentless Hoyas. "Most teams would crack under this pressure" Billy Packer said on the telecast.
Maybe you forgot or weren't born yet to know how big that Harold Jensen late go-ahead jumper was to the whole enterprise.
Brent Musburger: “Jensen puts Villanova back ahead at the 2:35 mark.”
Packer: “Ice water in his veins. They gave him the shot and he took it.”
Musburger and Packer had the call for CBS, both in their primes, Musburger descriptive and on-point, Packer saying it like he saw it, including at the end of the first half, when Pinckney sat with two fouls.
“I think a critical mistake by John Thompson at the end of the half,” Packer said as the half ended. “You’ve got Pinckney on the bench, you’ve got to go after them.”
Other things you notice. Georgetown players on their bench when it was over instead of heading for the locker room.
As Villanova’s 2016 players had done when that game was shown last Sunday, Villanova ’85 players were tweeting in real time for this one.
Backup center Chuck Everson was noting how when Massimino sent him in for Pinckney, he was like, "[Ewing} just power dunked 3 in a row. He seems [ticked]."
Everson also noted that Jensen's shot was the biggest in Villanova history until Kris Jenkins came along. (Scottie Reynolds fans can argue that point, but if you watched this game, you saw how big it was.)
“My bad,” Jenkins tweeted back Sunday.
First time he could remember seeing all five guys in such a shooting zone, Everson had tweeted about his teammates. "They can't get fast break buckets if we don't miss!"
Other points he made: How Gary McLain could take a charge, “just like the current team.” How Reggie Williams rolling his ankle in the first half helped Villanova out after his hot start.
“The players look very thin back compared to today,” Everson also noted, mentioning the difference in strength and conditioning.
“We are all in the paint collapsing on Patrick begging them to shoot J,” Mark Plansky tweeted at one point.
“We got enough,” Massimino said at the end, Lappas tweeted.
Another big key ….
“Every time it looked like they would start turning us over, Gary [McLain] settled us down!” Lappas, later Villanova’s head coach, tweeted. “Again it really helped that our big guys were good ballhandlers!! Tough to press that kind of team.”
It was pointed out to Jensen once that Villanova had 17 turnovers, but he pointed out right back that most of those resulted in a stoppage of play, few to Hoyas fastbreaks.
McLain, Harold Pressley (11 points, 3 steals) and Dwayne McClain (17 points) played all 40 minutes. Pinckney (16 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) played the whole second half. Jensen (14 points, 5-of-5 shooting) played 34 minutes off the bench. It was all just enough, as Georgetown grabbed 10 offensive rebounds to 12 defensive boards for 'Nova.
“What Georgetown is not realizing, that baseline is not going to be available,” Packer mentioned during the second half, noting that Pinckney was getting there to cut it off.
What was evident by the end, for all the changes about to take place in basketball, this game holds up as a classic.
“No one thought they could do it, but I did, and so did they,” the late Villanova head coach said on the telecast right afterward.
“You can’t be intimidated, not in a game like this,” Pinckney said when they turned from Massimino to him.
"BEST April Fools Joke EVER!'' Everson tweeted Sunday after it was over and Villanova won again.