Basketball: Jack Salt becomes NZ's first NCAA college champion

Jack Salt has become the first New Zealander to capture an NCAA college basketball title, after his Virginia team's nail-biting win over Texas Tech in the final of the national championship on Tuesday (NZ time).

In a contest that swung back and forth down the stretch, the Cavaliers ultimately prevailed 85-77 in overtime to claim their maiden Final Four title in front of a sold-out crowd at Minneapolis' U.S Bank Stadium and a TV audience of 20 million-plus.

Tall Blacks centre Salt scarcely featured in the final, registering just four minutes of game time for a solitary rebound.

But the 23-year-old went one better than NZ great Kirk Penney, who helped the University of Wisconsin to the 2000 'Final Four' in his freshman year, while former Tall Fern Jillian Harmon helped Stanford University to the women's final in 2008.

Salt has served has a team co-captain, and his physical style of play has established him as a fan favourite.

De'Andre Hunter was the star for Virginia, his 27 points and nine rebounds spearheading a startling offensive explosion for a side whose success in the tournament had been built on their lockdown defense. 

Kyle Guy also chipped in with a 24-point haul, which included four three-pointers.

The victory for the Tony Bennett-coached team comes as sweet redemption after their shock early elimination by underdogs Maryland from the 2018 tournament, which they entered as one of the favourites.

This season is Salt's fifth and final with the Cavaliers, and he'll now turns his attention to securing a professional contract. 

Last year, he won the prestigious T. Rodney Crowley Jr Memorial Scholarship, awarded to the Virginia student that demonstrates "leadership, sportsmanship, character and integrity".