And then there were four

on March 2016 | in Sports | by Dario Passarelli | @PapaDart | with No Comments

Hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend even if it may be a holiday you don’t celebrate. The NCAA Final Four has engulfed the continent for the second of three weekends and this one surely did not disappoint. So if you had to spend your time hiding eggs or finding them or maybe even laying them, don’t you worry, fredi has you covered. How, you may ask? Simple, it is because I find creative ways to integrate basketball into religious teachings for my children. Here’s an example.


So what kind of stats did the Madness bring us this time? How about all four #1 seeds making it from the Sweet Sixteen to the Elite Eight only to have one.. JUST ONE, make it to next weekend’s Final Four. This is the first time that a 10 seed has made it this far and only the fourth time that a double-digit team has. Half of the teams in the Elite Eight, North Carolina, Virginia, Notre Dame and Syracuse, came out of the same conference. The ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) also had Duke and Miami make it to the Sweet 16. Sadly, we also saw the tournament end for fellow Canucks Kyle Wiltjer, Chris Boucher and Dillon Brooks.

West

No surprises came out of the West as the top 4 teams made it to the Sweet Sixteen. This trend continued as No.1 Oregon and No.2 Oklahoma advanced with fairly easy victories defeating Duke and Texas A&M respectively. But that is where any semblance of normalcy ended.

Oregon was never in the game as the Sooners jumped to an 18 point halftime lead. They cruised to victory behind guard Buddy Hield’s 37 point performance. You want to hear how impressive that was? He is the first person in the first four games to have 100 points and 15 3pts made since Steph Curry did it in 2008. Hield is also the first player with at least 30 points against a No.1 seed this late in a tournament since Carmelo Anthony in 2003. That’s some pretty darn good company to be keeping.

The West wasn’t without it’s controversy though as some untoward comments were made to Oregon’s Dillon Brooks by legendary Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski. I know names can be tough so let me give you a hand. Coach Krzyzewski is pronounced Coach “K” (trust me, everyone will understand). The incident happened at the end of Duke’s 82-68 loss when Brooks made a 3pt shot at the end of the game. Some people feel that it is unsportsmanlike to attempt to score when you have a big lead. However, in Brooks defence, the shot clock was expiring and he was forced to shoot. Coach K told the Canadian, “You are too good of a player to be doing that.” When the media asked about that statement, Coach K denied making it. That was, until video of the conversation surfaced and also revealed the player reply with, “Sorry coach.”

The following day the US Olympic team coach did issue an apology to Oregon and Brooks stating he was in error when he said he didn’t make those comments. As odd as it all unfolded, I say give the coach a break. He is well respected and maybe he flew off the handle as he was embarrassed losing in front of his friend and Olympic gold medalist, Kobe Bryant who was in attendance.

South

This is the second conference where both the 1 and 2 seeds advanced to the Elite Eight. Both Kansas and Villanova pulled away in the second half to win by double digits over Maryland and Miami respectively. Senior’s led the way as Perry Ellis had 27 for Kansas and Ryan Arcidiacono (you are on your own this time for pronunciation) had 21 for Villanova.

For the second straight time this week, a top seed was knocked off by a two as Villanova advances to the Final Four with a 64-59 victory. The key to this game was Villanova’s zone defence which only allowed 3 points in 14 possessions. It didn’t help that Kansas turned the ball over 16 times in the game either.

So the first semi-final matchup on Saturday will see Oklahoma(2) vs Villanova(2). The Sooners have made it to the championship game only twice before, losing both times. The Wildcats have also been there twice but did beat Georgetown in 1985 to become National Champions.

Midwest

When you have a team that many felt “shouldn’t be in the tournament and very lucky to be seeded 10th,” you get the impression that they should be tagged as a Cinderella team. Don’t be fooled though as the Syracuse Orangemen have proven to everyone that they are not just lucky, but just plain good. Following up on the Cinderella theme, I know it is no glass slipper, but when Tyler Lydon loses a shoe and still makes a 3pt shot… you know some fairy godmother is watching over them.

They first played Gonzaga and it was a back and forth battle with the Bulldogs leading 59-54 with 2:57 left. It was then that the second winningest coach in NCAA history, Joe Boeheim (pronounced Bay-hime) called for his Orangemen to do a full-court press and Gonzaga couldn’t handle it. The Orange got a steal and forced another turnover with a 10-second violation. Syracuse went on a 9-1 run to close that stretch and pull out the victory 63-60.

Top seed Virginia had an easier time of it as they were rarely threatened by Iowa State and won by double digits despite Georges Niang having an incredible night with 30 points, 8 Rebounds, and 4 assists. But the Cavaliers would next face a Syracuse team that was hell bent on history. As both teams went into halftime, most people, including yours truly, thought the game was over as the Orange couldn’t make any shots and Virginia cruised to a 14 point lead.

With less than 10 minutes remaining in the game and losing by 15 points you almost get the sense that Boeheim thought what the heck, let’s try pressing now rather than wait till later. Cue a 29-8 run to end the game and before you knew it, Virginia was on the outside looking in and the Orange Crush were heading to their sixth Final Four appearance. Easily the best and most exciting game of the weekend.

Funny Story – Virginia is coached by Tony Bennett. Not the singer, not THAT Tony Bennett. But there was confusion earlier this month when Coach Bennett injured his leg after a fall. The singer was bombarded by his fans concerned over his health and somewhat forced him into this classy move.

East

A quick recap for those that haven’t been keeping track but so far none of the number one seeds have advanced to play next weekend and there is only one left to discuss, North Carolina. They faced a tough Indiana team first but their offence was unstoppable from the paint and the perimeter. They led early and wound up winning by 15.

The other match saw 6th seed Notre Dame face-off against 7th seed Wisconsin. After scoring only 19 points in the first half, the Fighting Irish managed to score 17 points in the last 4 minutes to pull off a 61-56 improbable victory. Yes, your math is correct. Notre Dame turned their 19 point first half performance into a 42 point second half. I would love to know what the players did during that intermission.

Fast forward to this regional final and Notre Dame is losing by five at half-time. Sure enough, the Irish go on a 12-0 run to take a 1 point lead with just over 10 minutes left. Fortunately for the Tar Heels, they knew about that magic half-time potion so they too went on a 12-0 run of their own and quietly became the only number one seed left in the tournament. They’ll face Syracuse in the second semi-final match.

So it is off to Houston on Saturday for the semi-finals and Monday night for the Championship game. Since my bracket was busted a long time ago I will choose Oklahoma to defeat North Carolina on another strong performance by Buddy Hield. But in terms of who to cheer for, how can you not pick Syracuse.

What can I say, I am sucker for the underdog.

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