Who shone most in the fourth round of March Madness? Let's dive into a special edition of winners and losers.
We all think chalk sucks. I crawl on the idea of writing with chalk, which is probably why I choose 14-over-3 upsets in almost every fitting I fill. But Elite Eight in this year's NCAA tournament proved that sometimes, even the worst instrument can make beautiful art.
The first two rounds of the NCAA tournament were almost as boring as any of the latest memory. There were no buzzer beaters, no top-3 seeds lost, and every 32-round game was won by the bet's favorite. Tourney seemed like a dud: There were no shining moments, and Cinderella had never finished cleaning her ugly standing sister's rooms.
This weekend we got the payoff. With only extraordinary teams left, all four Elite Eight games were classics. In the south, Virginia drank a miraculous scramble to force overtime against Purdue, and ultimately beat Boilermakers despite a record-breaking 3-point performance by Purdues Carsen Edwards.
In the Midwest, Auburn and Kentucky also went to overtime, with the tigers new victorious and earning their first ever trip to the last four despite an injury to their best draft, chuma okeke. In the east, Michigan State struck away with a one-point victory over top-seeded Duke and the best player in the sport, Zion Williamson. The most boring weekend game was a dynamic back and forth battle that ended with the best defense in college basketball, Texas Tech, topping the best offense in college basketball, Gonzaga.
In January, I wrote about how the NFL postseason favors its best teams, giving them byes and home-field benefits, a format that often results in boring playoffs and exciting Super Bowls. (This season went different ̵
College basketball tends to do the opposite. The NCAA tournament races randomly. We adore upsets and game winners and flukes. Therefore, we ask for a 68-team tournament held exclusively in neutral places and all the chaos that comes with it. It is good for a few rounds, but it often does not make for the best games in late tournament. Usually, Elite Eight games are just as likely to be blowouts as thrillers. In the last seven tournaments, there were 13 Elite Eight games that were decided with two digits and 15 determined with fewer than 10 points.
This year, the early rounds of the tournament began to be historically predictable. But after an eleven eight buzzer beaters, overtime thrillers and falling giants, I think it might have been worth it.
Loser: Crunch-Time RJ Barrett
Williamson scored to give Duke a 66-63 lead with 1:41 back in their match against Michigan State. It was probably the last shot of his Duke career.
At Duke's next possession, with Blue Devils up one, RJ Barrett missed a shot in paint. On the Duke's next possession, with the blue devils followed by two, Williamson passed to Barrett, who instantly shot and missed a 3 who went beyond the borders of Michigan State. At the Duke's next – and as it turned out – the final possession coach Mike Krzyzewski drafted a game for Barrett who drove and was pampered. If he had made both shots, Duke would have tied the game, but he missed the first. Duke lost, 68-67.
Duke went 29-3 with Zion Williamson this year. In the first game they lost, a 89-87 loss for Gonzaga, Barrett missed five shots at the last minute. In an overtime loss to Syracuse, Barrett missed Duke's last two shots. (Both desperate 3-point attempts, but still.) And on Sunday he got the ball on each of the duke's last three possessions, with two misses and an unanswered free throw resulted in a total point. In all, Barrett's 0-to-9 went from the field in the last minutes of these three losses, while the rest of the Duke's roster took three total shots. (Williamson had only one.)
Barrett is a great player. He will almost certainly be a top 5 pick in the NBA draft, and in fact Williamson scored this season of a Smidge Barrett on average 22.63 points per day. Games for Williamsons 22.60. He is a spectacular athlete and a gifted playmaker. Earlier in the tournament he rescued Duke, rebounding a Zion Williamson missed free throw and finishing a putback to give Blue Devils a victory over the UCF. On Sunday, he held Duke in the game with 21 points and a team-high six helper. It makes sense that Krzyzewski continued to give Barrett the ball in late scenarios, even though that choice became disastrous in the Duke's loss.
But Barrett is only a great player. Williamson is an all-hour. Barrett missed these shots, but it feels like the bigger miss didn't give the best player in the country a chance to become college college legend.
Winner: Showtime Michigan State
Michigan State did not just beat Duke. They dunked on them, a role reversed after Zion Williamson put about 352 college basketball teams on posters. Here is Xavier Tillman dunking through Javin DeLaurier:
Here is Matt McQuaid dunking over DeLaurier:
Hypothetically, if this game had gone forever, DeLaurier would have been dunked in every conceivable way – he would have been Weis & # 39; d, Mozgov & d; Lists & d; d.
But most of all, this McQuaid layup was beaten without looking at the rim while flying backwards through the air:
Michigan State has eliminated the Blue Devils from the tournament, thus completing the canvas career of Zion Williamson, college basketball prominent highlight machine. They can't replicate Williamson's dunks and blocks, but they take their slack with their own brand of ridiculous games.
Loser: Television Directors
Last week, the CEO of Turner Sports admittedly admitted he was running for Duke to make title games . It makes sense: They were the biggest name in the field, had the best player in the field and were the most captivating drawing. TV ratings for Duke games were massive all season long, especially during the tournament. A Duke title game would have thanked CBS and so many other NCAA Corporate Champions, especially if the blue devils faced another big-name team like Kentucky, or – and that's when TV People began to foam in the mouth North Carolina.
Unfortunately, it was not. Duke lost. Kentucky lost. North Carolina lost. The last four have Michigan State, Texas Tech, Auburn and Virginia. None of these schools even have the largest fan base in their own state. I'm sure CBS would rather have a Final Four of Michigan, Texas, Alabama and Virginia Tech.
Here is the good news: We are not TV leaders. We are fans and this is a great group team. I love to see Auburn's run-and-stun style, jacking up 3s and swatting shots and forcing revenue. Texas Tech's defense is an exciting watch. Michigan State is apparently a dunk party. And Virginia … anyway, continues. This Final Four can hurt CBS pockets, but it shouldn't be less fun, where are you going? PLEASE KEEP OUR WEBSITE EVEN IF TEXAS TECH IS IN THE FINAL FOUR!
Winner: An Unusual Toilet Paper Bloom
There is a rare botanical phenomenon that takes place on the plains of East Alabama. Japan has its cherry blossoms that bloom every March; The Netherlands has its tulips that bloom every May. And on weekend nights from September to November in Auburn, Alabama, the spokes blossom thousands of rolls of toilet paper. It is an arboreal miracle tree that blooms in the fall when days get shorter? But when Auburn Tiger sows the country with football victories, strange things happen.
Spring is not typically a time for toilet paper flowers. Auburn's basketball team is historically bad. They made the NCAA tournament zero times before Charles Barkley arrived on campus in the 1980s. They made the tournament five consecutive years with players like Barkley and Chuck Person, and then made the tournament only three times in the 25 years between 1989 and Bruce Pearl's employment in 2014.
But Pearl has made Auburn a play. He made the tigers in a team that shoots a ton of the 3 & apos; s (they are eighth in college hoops over 3-pointers for total field goals), forcing a large number of trades (they lead the nation in stealing speed) and block one ton shot (they are fifth in the nation in block percent). And now he has them in Final Four for the first time in school history.
And maybe for the first time ever, the ears break in Auburn with their beautiful white leaves in March:
Loser: The Legend of Carsen Edwards
Carsen Edwards scored 42 points in Purdue's dominant second round win over Villanova and that was not even his biggest show in the tournament. Against Virginia in Elite Eight, Edwards hit 10 3s and ended with 42 points:
Unfortunately, that wasn't enough. But Edwards, who just had his spectacular night ruined by a miracle, somehow managed to share a smile with Virginia's Mamadi Diakite, who hit the UVA shot to send the game to overtime:
Despite the loss Edwards Tournament is still an all-time event. He set the record for 3-pointers made in a tournament with the 28-year-old high (27) set by Glen Rice in 1989 and his Michigan team won the national championship while Edwards did not even make the Final Four. Edwards was the first player with four 25 point games in a tournament since Steph Curry in 2008 and the first player with two 40 point games in a tournament since Bo Kimble in 1990.
Edwards was on fire for two straight weeks, but he will not be remembered as rice, curry and kimble. He didn't hit any summer beaters, and he wasn't on a famous underdog team – the only "rebellion" was the third-party boilers pulled over second-seeded Tennessee. And while Edwards had been given the Final Four, Virginia's ridiculous game ended its season. Unfortunately, the tournament legend must be on the right side of March magic.
Winner: Virginia Basketball Excitation
Virginia-Purdue had far below the national average of possessions – and Virginia-Purdue went to overtime . The game had five extra minutes and still had less basketball in it than your average 40 minute game. It's Virginia. They suck out of life and life out of conflicting teams. They win methodically and effectively. They do not "delight."
But Saturday they created one of the most incredible March Madness moments I can remember. I've already posted the video up there, but let's look at this again:
Your average summer beater is a guy who makes a fantastic shot. This game has about four perfect plays:
- For Jerome pops the free throw out of the rim's front. Jerome says he was trying to hit the shot, but I have chosen not to believe in him. Virginia should have tried to miss this shot down two points with less than six seconds left, and the type of miss he got was perfect popping right off the front of the rim and floating a pair meters in front of the rim, over the head of the rebounders closest to the basket.
- Diakite drops the ball down – and while he just whacking on the ball, he bucks the perfect amount. Anyone closer and it runs the risk of being snagged by a Purdue player; anyone longer and there is no way the cavalry can perform the game in time.
- Kihei Clark grabs the ball, looks up and recognizes almost immediately that Diakite is open. All he has to do is sling a single-handed pass of 40 feet with enough speed to give Diakite enough time to get the shot off. Clark's pass could actually be more impressive than the shot.
- BUT THERE ARE THE SHOT. Diakite catches the ball for less than a second and then sets and releases in one second. And swear it.
Miss: perfect. Roosters: perfect . Passport: PERFECT . And the shot, it was good too.
Virginia has become a power plant. They finished in the top 10 of Ken Pomeroy's ratings in four of the last five years and were a gloomy 12th the second time. And yet this is their first trip to the last four. They have always been trapped by someone, sometimes in hilarious or historical way.
This Virginia team played 30 regular-season games and lost only two, both against the same team: Duke. Now they are in the last four, and the Duke is not. In fact, Virginia did something exciting in their incredible round of close success. Now it is time for them to actually succeed.