GLENDALE, Ariz. — For a whole year, the North Carolina Tar Heels wondered if they’d get another chance.

For a whole year, the Tar Heels thought about what might have been.

When Monday night’s slugfest with Gonzaga came to a merciful end, the Heels had all their answers. The national title was theirs. The nets were hanging around their necks. The redemption tour was a success.

Their 71-65 win will not be mistaken for a work of art. But for anyone who bleeds Carolina Blue, it was a thing of beauty.

“This is what we worked for,” junior guard Joel Berry II said. “And the ups and downs we’ve had? It’s all worth it.”

The story starts with the downs. When Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hit his 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Carolina in the 2016 final, Coach Roy Williams buckled over like he had been punched in the gut, put both hands on his knees and tried to figure out how to explain it.

“The feeling of inadequacy in the locker room last year is the worst feeling I’ve ever had,” Williams said.

What ensued was a year of working harder, doing more, making sure that didn’t happen again.

With 1:40 left in the final, Justin Jackson took a laser of a pass from Theo Pinson and laid it in while being fouled. He made the free throw, and that gave the Tar Heels a 66-65 lead.

Gonzaga didn’t score again, though in a game that left fans from both sides booing over-officious officiating, the game couldn’t be settled without a controversial call in the last minute.

Leading by 1, and in a scrum under the Carolina basket, Tar Heels forward Kennedy Meeks went to the floor to try to wrestle the ball away from Silas Melson. Refs called a jump ball, and with the possession arrow favoring North Carolina, the Tar Heels converted on an Isaiah Hicks runner to push the lead to 3. Replays and pictures, reposted thousands of times on social media, showed Meeks’ right hand touching out of bounds.

But there was no protest, no review.

“Probably on me,” said Gonzaga Coach Mark Few, whose first knowledge of the call came in the postgame press conference. “From my angle, it didn’t look like an out-of-bounds situation or I would have called a review.”

Through an NCAA spokesman national coordinator of basketball officials JD Collins said the play was not reviewable.

Neither Few nor Williams threw much blame toward the officials, but the refs made this game virtually unwatchable, stifling any bit of flow in the game and turning it into a review-driven free-throw contest.

“It’s a very difficult game to call,” said Williams, who has led Carolina to three of its six titles. “I’m sitting over there, I’m not thinking the officials are doing a terrible job. … I’m thinking our offense stinks.”