4 Good Games

Sorry for the bland title for a rather exciting slate of Elite 8 games that just concluded about one hour ago.  I can’t say my memory is perfect but I’m not sure the last time all 4 Regional Finals were that competitive.  Action got started with the slipper still fitting for the Butler Bulldogs and they took down Kansas St in a game that closely mirrored their Thursday night win over Syracuse.  Get out to the lead, see the Wildcats make a run late in the 2nd half only to make all the plays in the final 90 seconds of the game to seal the win.  Of course, this team doesn’t compare to, say, George Mason in terms of being a true cinderella.  #5 seeds don’t make the Final Four every year but its certainly not beyond the pale, and this team was highly ranked all season with a couple quality wins.

The Saturday nightcap saw West Virginia overcome Kentucky despite not making a single solitary 2 point goal in the first half.  8 3s and then a few foul shots had them leading at halftime and they slowly pulled away in the 2nd half as the Wildcats were increasingly frustrated by the Mountaineer defense.  Also, Jay Bilas was 1000% right late in that game when Mazzoulo was on the bench with 4 fouls, then eventually out with 5; why wasn’t Kentucky in a full court press?  They were down roughly 10 points the last 6 minutes of the game but with no point guard on the floor WVU may’ve been quite vulnerable to turnovers on a pressure defense.  Was certainly worth it to find out.  The Mountaineers being able to advance without their starting point guard, in honor of Dick Enberg’s last NCAA Tourney game, is certainly worthy of an Oh my!

Sunday was started by a compelling game between Michigan St and Tennessee that was tight throughout.  The Spartans got the shooting foul call at the end that Ohio St didn’t get Friday night and made the free throw for the winning point.  Given that Tennessee had a timeout left I thought they should have inbounded the ball to midcourt with the 1.6 seconds left and called another timeout immediately to set up a catch and shoot play that would’ve been more reasonable than a halfcourt heave.  But give the Spartans credit for figuring it out (again) how to win without their best player.  A lot of coaches would pay good money to figure out how Tom Izzo does this every March.

As a brief aside Verne and Raf revisited the end of the Ohio St game Friday night and continued to pretend that it was a good no call on the final play.  I’m sorry even if Prince did get a clean block he knocked Turner to the ground and you are not allowed to do that.  But I guess CBS is protecting the NCAA here, and, perhaps more to the point, they have a large contract with the SEC in football so they are always kind to the teams in that conference.  Its usually Gary Danielson that does the shameful shilling during football season but Verne Lundquist knows how to do it too.

In the final game we finally had a #1 seed advance to Indianapolis as Duke won its first loseable game in the tournament by beating Baylor essentially on the strength of superior offensive rebounding.  Also Scheyer is damned lucky he didn’t connect with that elbow after he called timeout late in the game.  A Baylor player coming in late and shoving a Duke player ended up (correctly) getting the only technical on the play and that pretty much finished sealing the deal, but things could’ve been very different if Scheyer connected with the elbow that got Acy upset.

Again as a brief aside I liked how CBS again covered for the NCAA in their pregame tease by making it sound like Duke had the harder road to the Regional Final because they played the higher possible seed in all 3 games whereas Baylor played 3 double digit seeds.  That’s a nice factoid but California and Purdue were no threat to the Blue Devils; Old Dominion and perhaps St. Mary’s were really better than, or at least comparable to both of those teams (in the case of Purdue I speak strictly of the post-Hummel product that was on the floor).  Its a fact the Committee gave Duke a relatively easy road to Indy; whether by accident or by design I’ll let others debate.

Anyhow we are now down to the Final Four.  Butler v Michigan St and West Virginia v Duke.  I have not seen officially but I assume the 5 seeds game will be first at around 6:06p with the Duke game the nightcap at roughly 8:40pm.  Also, the Bulldogs and Spartans are on the same seed line my figuring is the Spartans will get to wear the home uniforms.  On the theoretical S-curve they were in the region of the #1 overall so that would make them the “best” #5.  Whoever wins the WVU v Duke game will be the clear favorite in the final but nothing would shock me at this point.

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