Until Next March...
What a run. Three weeks have come and gone, and once again March Madness and the NCAA Tournament did not disappoint.
We had the round of 64 where we saw a 16-seed beat a 1-seed for the first time in 132 tries. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) bombarded the top-overall seeded Virginia Cavaliers with 3-pointer after 3-pointer beating them by 20.
Then, in the Second round, 11-seed Syracuse, led by Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim, shocked Tom Izzo and all of us watching at home awaiting a Duke-Michigan State matchup. The Orange's zone defense left the Spartans (and us) dazed and confused, as they upset Michigan State in a game that both teams combined to shoot 32 for 108 (29.6%) from the field.
Oh yeah, and the darlings, Loyola-Chicago and Sweet Sister Jean. They danced through the night advancing past the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 before falling to Michigan in the Final Four.
Twenty days after the start of this great Tournament, on Monday night in San Antonio, the whole country sat down in front of their TV to watch as two were left standing to see who would win the prestigious award of the inaugural Just Press Play Bracket Challenge.
Alright, so maybe no one cared about the JPP Bracket Challenge anymore besides Jake the Snake and Cody Lewis. Most of us had all but forgotten about those stupid brackets (or at least tried to) and just wanted to see who would get their "One Shining Moment" between Villanova and Michigan. But, for those who did care, Villanova won, and so did Jake the Snake. Congratulation Jake! You will soon be the first <ahem> proud (we will assume) owner of an official Just Press Play T-Shirt.
Now, if you have put up with reading my thoughts on the tournament the past few weeks just to know how the scores were going in the challenge, I will pour a drink out for you. However, this week you now have the option to avert your attention elsewhere as there are no more updates to tell you. But, if for whatever reason you have enjoyed reading me ramble on about what caught my eye while watching the scam that is the NCAA make bucket loads of cash off these gifted "amateurs" play ball (sorry for the short rant); you're in luck! I will now attempt to put a bow on the final weekend of College Basketball for the 2017-18 season.
"We know drama." That is the slogan for Turner Broadcasting System's sister channel TNT. The channel that is known for classic movies, TV Shows and NBA games. However, the slogan can't be said for TBS. At least not this year. The Final Four on the Men's side lacked all weekend from a drama standpoint.
The weekend kicked off with Loyola and Michigan squaring off to begin the Final Four. The game was tight, with Loyola even holding ten-point lead with roughly 10 minutes left in the game. That is around the time that Moritz Wagner, otherwise known as Moe-Buckets, and the Wolverines realized that there was a reason the Tournament's Cinderella team was just that, an 11-seed. They begin feeding the ball to Moe Wagner, and the 6'11 245-pound power forward took the game over. Wagner scored 24 points and added 15 rebounds, making him just the third player in NCAA Tourney history to put up 20 points and 15 rebounds in a Final Four game. The other two you may have heard of: Hakeem Olajuwon and Larry Bird. Now I'm no historian, but that seems like pretty solid company to be in.
And it wasn't just Loyola's hopes and dreams that Moe-Buckets crushed on Saturday night. He also taught longtime announcer Bill Raftery why people have the connectable readers that will hang around their neck as he crushed Bill's lens' with his size 16 shoes going after a loose ball.
Loyola-Chicago simply didn't have the horses to finish the race. As the game progressed it was clear Michigan was the better team. With that, my hat goes off to all of the players on the Rambler squad. They gave us great memories: from game-winners by Dante Ingram, Clayton Custer, and Marques Townes, to Ben Richardson draining 6-out-of-7 threes in the Elite 8, to this year's 2018 Pitsnoggle Award Winner Cameron Krutwig, and of course the 98-year-old team Chaplain Sister Jean.
While that game ended up not being as close as we hoped (even Sister Jean left early), we still had the night-capper of two 1-seeds with the Kansas-Villanova matchup. That game had no choice but to be a classic, right? Well.....the Golden State Warriors came out dressed as the well-dressed Jay Wright's Villanova squad.
In just one half of play, Villanova tied the Final Four record for 3's in a game with 13, while attempting just seven 2-pointers before halftime. If you got up during the first half to make yourself a drink or go to the little boy's (or girl's) room, you may have returned to your seat wondering how the hell Kansas even got to the Final Four. I want to take this time to defend the Jayhawks because the fact that they were even still within 20 was impressive. I mean look at this:
At one point in the first half, Kansas was down 22-7 as Bill Self called for a timeout. Then, they found a way to score on five straight possessions which one would think would get them back in the game (or at least cut into the lead). Instead, after those five possessions, Kansas was down even more with the score 34-17. This because, as we all know, three is more than two. Not to be outdone by Kansas mini-run, 'Nova hit four threes on the end of that stretch. Everyone who has played a decent amount of hoops knows the feeling. At some point, you just have to throw your hands up and say:
While the Men's Final Four may have lacked drama if you found yourself like me with nothing to do on a Friday night, sitting at the house like a loser. I hope you also flipped on the Women's Final Four. And, if you did, then you, my friend, stumbled into the best night of basketball of 2018. And it wasn't even close.
In the first game Mississippi State needed a game-tying 3-pointer with 5 seconds left in regulation before winning the game in Overtime.
Then, in the nightcap, Notre Dame had the 36-0 UConn team on the ropes before the Huskies stole an in-bound pass with under 10 seconds and made a layup to force OT
No way Notre Dame can still win this after giving UConn a second chance. But, then the world was introduced to the cold-blooded killer that is Notre Dame’s junior guard Arike Ogunbowale:
For what it's worth the UConn's women's team has now lost twice in the last 150 games they have played, losing both of those games to game-winning buzzer beaters from the opposition. One from Mississippi State on March 31st, 2017 in the Final Four, and the other exactly a year later March 31st, 2018 in the Final Four. Sheeeeesh.
Oh yeah and this is how the beautiful Miss Ogunbowale followed up her heroics in the National Championship game:
That brings us to the Men's Championship game last night. The game was fairly close for the first ten minutes of action. As Moe Wagner looked like he was going to try and win it for the Wolverines single-handedly, and Villanova coming back to real life shooting the ball like normal humans. Queue up the 2018 Deceptively Athletic Player of the Year Dante DiVincenzo.
The score was 14-8 in favor of Michigan when DiVincenzo, otherwise known as the "Michael Jordan from Delaware," (no really, that is his nickname.) entered the game at 13-minute-mark. DiVincenzo went on to outscore Michigan 18 to 14 in the final 13 minutes of the first half as the Wildcats went into the locker room up by double-digits. Then, to cap off the amazing first half, he had a block at the rim that literally had me picking my jaw up off the floor.
And, for the Michigan fans who thought maybe the intermission could cool him off. They were sorely mistaken as the "MJ from Delaware" continued raining bombs in the second half. In fact, here is a live look at him walking out of the tunnel for the second half:
Villanova went on the win by 17 points as Dante DiVincenzo poured in 34, earning him the Most Outstanding Free Player Award (whoops, sorry NCAA I mean the "Most Outstanding Player").
In a Tournament such as this, you don't always have the "best" team win since one off night can send you home packing. But, this year Villanova proved they were clearly the best team. They became the first team to cover the spread in all six games as they won each by double digits. The Wildcats played great defense and were by far the most efficient team on the offensive end all year.
To all of those who played in the Bracket Challenge, thank you. You all are what makes this time of year even better. Also, if you care, I will update on how the self-proclaimed experts (I laughed just typing that) did that host the Just Press Play Podcast. I, Kevin, filled out two different brackets and neither one cracked the top 50, and I'll just leave it that. Pops, who also filled out two brackets finished 45th and 41st respectively. And, L.J., who watches the least hoops of us three finished the highest at 38th. So in simpler terms, of the five brackets filled out by yours truly, none of them cracked the top half of all the entries. Why do I love this stupid tournament again?
Anywho, thanks for playing, thanks for listening if you do, and if you are reading this, then you stuck with me through the entire article. And, for that; YOU ARE THE REAL MVP.