Louisville, Wichita State, Syracuse and Michigan will play for the NCAA title this weekend in Atlanta. Let's take a look at the matchups and how each team got to this point.
Now that everyone's brackets have gone bust, let’s take a look at March Madness as we head to the Final 4.
The Louisville Duke game Sunday night was perhaps the most exciting. The Midwest is the only region that resulted in the predicted 1-2 seeds in the elite 8, and the top seeded Cardinals prevailed 83-65 to remain the only 1 seed still alive. The first half was a fierce back and forth battle that ended with Louisville up 35-32. However, with 6 minutes before the half, Cardinal guard Kevin Ware snapped his leg almost in half trying to block a 3 resulting in tears from both coach Rick Pitino and multiple players. After a long delay he was rushed to a local hospital where he had surgery and he was finally released late yesterday, and is expected to recover. Ware is from Atlanta, so the message at all Cardinal time outs became “Get Kevin home”. They certainly did that. Duke came out hot in the second half, with Seth Curry scoring 8 quick points and the score was tied at 42 about 5 minutes in, but before the Blue devils knew it they were down by double digits and the game was out of reach. The final margin was 22. Russ Smith of Louisville was the game’s high scorer with 23 and Duke senior Mason Plumlee ended his collegiate career with a team high 17. Coach K remains one shy of John Wooden’s record of 12 final four appearances.
Moving to the West region, after knocking off Gonzaga a week ago, Wichita State picked up 2 more wins to reach the final 4 for the first time in nearly 50 years. In the elite 8 they matched up against 2 seed Ohio State and came away with the unlikely 70-66 win. The shockers, who have shocked all college basketball fans over the past 2 weekends, controlled the came from the start, capitalizing on a weak Buckeye first half to take a 20 point lead with 11 minutes left. Ohio State made a furious comeback and got within 3 heading into the final minute, but couldn’t get any closer and Wichita State got to cut down the nets.
The other Saturday game was a defensive battle that allowed Syracuse to punch their ticket by beating Marquette 55-39 in the last matchup between teams from the Big East as we know it. 47 had been the fewest points Marquette scored all season, and 39 is a record low for a NCAA regional game since the shot clock was implemented almost 30 years ago. Syracuse’s smothering zone resulted in 10 steals, 7 blocked shots, and the Golden Eagles shooting only 27% from the floor. ‘Cuse senior James Sutherland led the team with 16 points and Michael Carter-Williams was named the regional’s top player. This is Syracuse’s first final 4 appearance since Carmelo Anthony led them to an NCAA championship in 2003, and they will take on fellow 4 seed Michigan on Sunday. The wolverines dominated Florida from the start, eventually winning 79-59. Michigan’s young lineup had no problem handling the gators; freshman Nik Stauskas led the way with 22 points and was 6 for 6 from 3. Sophomore Trey Burke was named the South region’s most outstanding player and he is a candidate for the Player of the Year award. Burke lead’s this year’s tournament most points scored or assisted on with 134 over the 4 games.
On Monday night we will have our National Champion. I wouldn’t trust my predictions after last week, but I think the only remaining number one seed will survive. Louisville will beat Michigan in the finals to take home the title. The only question will be after the game whether they take Kevin home to Louisville or leave him in Atlanta. Tune in next week when I will probably explain how one of the other teams won the title.
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