Northern Iowa. Stephen F. Austin. Ever to the threshold but never beyond Gonzaga. The usually preternaturally resolute Wisconsin Badgers, outscored 8 zip in the last :19 seconds, not even making it to OT.
They all melted in the dark.
The biggest surprise of all choke jobs: the Charlottesville Wahoos whose game like the cake of Richard Harris was left out in the rain?
Tony Bennett’s team has Ludvig Von play mastered, they’re classicists. When they hit all the scripted notes on the staff, it’s a thing of beauty, a veritable sonata. There is a beauteous resonance when they are in control.
Such as they were Sunday evening, fiddlin’ their way to the Final Four, up 14 with ten to play, doin’ their Beethoven thing, when, well, when Jim Boeheim got in touch with his inner rock & roller — Who knew? — and the Orange went all REO Speedwagon on UVa.
The Cavaliers did not ride the storm out.
Unable to ball, unable to break free from the strictures of Bennett’s system when pushed, when speeded up, they fell apart like Nicky Hopkins’ piano solo in the second half of Quicksilver Messenger Service’s “Edward the Mad Shirt Grinder.”
When Syracuse put on the press, when the game morphed Mozart in the Jungle, Virginia couldn’t keep up, couldn’t improvise.
Like the Badgers and those lessers mentioned at the top, UVa choked. To a 10th Seed, on probation, that finished ninth in their league, snuck into the tournament with the highest RPI ever, and lost five of their last six games before the Dance.
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People who read my U of L game stories constantly ask why I harp on FT %?
Here’s why. It’s how teams win championships.
Villanova kept Kansas at bay in the South Regional finale, by netting eight straight charity tosses in the final minute. Thanks to that stalwart marksmanship at the line, ‘Nova won, despite missing its last five FG attempts, and not scoring from the field in the last five minutes.
The Wildcats missed but one FT in the entire regional final. Which is the same number they failed to convert in the semi against Miami.
Jay Wright’s guys were 35/37 in their two tilts at the Yum!.
Listening to the coach at his press conference on Wednesday, and watching his team execute — they set picks that are solid and steady and don’t get whistled — and play lockdown D, I kept thinking about how Wright was Tom Jurich’s fall back choice, when Rick Pitino was hired, and how things might have differed for U of L had that played out.
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I don’t really have much problem with Coach K’s post game admonishment to Oregon’s Dillon Brooks.
Other than the fact that, for some reason, the imperious Duke mentor felt compelled to deny it, which was a lie.
What strikes me most was how Brooks took the advice graciously, and, in his statement, gaffed, “We’re both professionals.”
Hmmm. Phil Knight, is that true?
Oh yeah, I do feel compelled to mention that Coach K remains ofer the West Regional. As in, zero tourney Ws, when playing on Pacific Daylight Time.
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Notre Dame is always under the radar in hoops.
Yet, the team managed to overcome the spring practice controversy in South Bend over who is going to start at QB, and made it to its second Elite Eight in a row.
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I hate, hate, hate that all the courts look the same at the tournament sites.
I hate, hate, hate that Nike has given the same warmups to all its schools during the tourney.
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Final Four coach Lon Krueger has had it right all along, with his long resumé. So too, Tubby Smith. And Buzz Williams.
Don’t overstay your welcome.
So, Jamie Dixon adroitly got out of Steel City before his lawn was littered with For Sale signs, returning to his alma mammy, TCU. His successor Kevin Stallings did the same thing, leaving Vandy to coach the Panthers, though I’m not sure what Pitt’s thinking is on that hire.
Mick Cronin, similarly situated at Cincy, spurned the opportunity in Vegas to stay in the Queen City. Will be interesting to see how that plays out.
Rick Stansbury to WKU. I like that one. Any successful up and comer the Hilltoppers might have hired woulda been gone after the first sniff from a Power Five school.
Mike Dunleavy Sr. to Tulane. Uh, well, yawn.
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Texas Western’s “upset” of UK fifty years ago in the ’66 championship game, played in College Park, Maryland, is generally regarded as the “most important” college basketball game ever.
Though, it can be argued that Houston’s upset of UCLA in the Astrodome is easily as important. For entirely different reasons obviously.
The Miners’ W is heralded because their all Black lineup upended Kentucky’s all White team, and the sea change of attitude that victory engendered. The Cougars W came in the first nationally televised college basketball game, generating interest where there had been none before, thereby increasing the size of the sport’s stage.
I was fortunate to have been in attendance that night when Texas Western won. Rooting, you may be surprised, for one of the few times in my life, for the Cats actually. I really liked Larry Conley and that bunch.
What I recall about the moment is limited. I do not remember any discussion of White vs. Black before the contest. I remember Bobby Joe Hill stripping Louie Dampier several times right beyond the timeline. I remember standing courtside post-game, listening to Adolph Rupp doing his radio show with Claude Sullivan, and generally accusing the victors of being felons, while also throwing his own team under the bus.
And I lifted the sign that read “Official Scorer” from the table on the sideline, which I had for years, and have lost.
All of which I mention, because ESPN is showing the entirety of the Texas Western vs. Kentucky game this Wednesday evening at 7:30.
— Seedy K