For the past few years, members of Villanova's 2016 and 2018 national title teams have bickered about a hypothetical matchup: Who would win if the two teams faced each other on the hardwood?
That still isn't clear. But bragging rights, for now, go to the 2016 squad after its 57-55 win over the 2018 team in a simulated video-game matchup on Monday.
Through the event, which was broadcast on Twitch and YouTube, players from both teams raised nearly $22,000 for charity as they faced off in a simulated version of NBA2K in their collective effort to help Philadelphia-based charity Philabundance, a hunger relief organization that aims to feed children who are missing meals now that schools are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 2016 squad, which recorded a 35-5 season punctuated by Kris Jenkins' miracle buzzer-beater to defeat North Carolina in the national title game, controlled the virtual matchup against the 2018 squad, which finished 36-4 and beat every team it faced in that year's NCAA tournament by double digits.
The event was streamed as part of the World Showdown of Esports.
Jalen Brunson was the biggest star of the show. Both the 2016 version -- he was a freshman on that team -- and the 2018 version -- he won the Wooden Award as a junior -- played key roles in the matchup. The 2018 Brunson scored 21 points and hit big shots to help his team bounce back from a late deficit, and the 2016 Brunson made the game-sealing free throw in the final seconds of the virtual matchup.
"It's Jalen Brunson time regardless," he said during the broadcast.
"I'm probably going for, like, 25 points," he said.
"I don't need that many shots," he said. "I'm cool."
Villanova coach Jay Wright, who was interviewed at halftime by former player Darryl Reynolds, praised the efforts of health care workers, first responders and others who have made significant sacrifices throughout the pandemic.
Asked to name the best championship he coached, Wright refused to pick.
"I love it, man. I love it that they finally put a game to it or something," he said. "I don't know if we'll ever be able to do it live. I hate ever having to answer the question of who I think is better. It's amazing during this time, I've been able to get to watch both [on film]. They're two incredible teams and two teams I'm so proud of."
Players said the idea for the event, organized by 2016 player Kevin Rafferty, stemmed from the constant trash talk.
"We realized how big it could be with this debate being televised," said Reynolds, who made 63% of his shots inside the arc as a member of the 2016 team. "So then we said, 'All right, how do we make sure we can help people with this?'"
Added Jenkins: "They were talking trash. They were talking crazy. They said they would smash us."
Players from the 2018 championship squad assigned rankings to the 2016 championship squad players and vice versa, and then they created each player for the matchup.
The 2016 squad believes its peers on the 2018 squad would have struggled against them in a real game.
"My matchup would be Mikal Bridges," Hart said. "Mikal is a good defender, but I'm [messing] Mikal up mentally and physically [if the 2016 team played the 2018 team in a real game]. I'm going to score and talk s---. I'm definitely walking out with 20, 25 points."
Added Jenkins: "I like my matchups. I'd give them a lot. I'm at least at 20 points. That's at least."
While that debate will persist after Monday's virtual matchup, they all agree that raising money for charity was the goal.
The Twitch event began with a montage that featured a voiceover from former Villanova standout Randy Foye.
"Better days are ahead," he said. "But we can't forget the people that need us now more than ever."
As donations poured in, the players thanked everyone who participated.
Following his 2016 squad's virtual victory, Reynolds asked the 2018 team, "So does this finally end it?"
To which the entire 2018 squad yelled, "Hell, no!"