[title_box title=”March Sadness: Sweet 16 and Elite Eight edition”]
So we are finally down to the Final Four. There are only three games left in this college basketball season, and it has been one for the record books. After a season full of sporadic AP Top-25 rankings and tournament littered with upsets, I am sure everyone saw North Carolina, Villanova, Oklahoma, and Syracuse in the Final Four. A single No. 1 seed, a pair of No. 2 seeds, and a No. 10 seed (the first of its kind, I might add) are the last ones standing.
So without further ado, I present to you the last edition of March Sadness for the year of 2016!
Saddest of the Sad: Sweet Sixteen
There really is not much to write here. I guess all the teams that lost are pretty sad, but there were zero upsets. The Sweet Sixteen this year was straight chalk. Gonzaga and Syracuse provided a pretty good game, but a terribly executed final possession for the Zags is how their season would end. I suppose I could also put myself in this category because I was really hoping to write about all the lower seeds making it to the Elite Eight, but half of the field was No. 1 seeds, and that is no fun*. Oh well.
*A Final Four with nothing but No. 1 seeds would have been incredibly fun to watch though.
Saddest of the Sad: Elite Eight
The first of the No. 1 seeds to fall this year were the Oregon Ducks. After Oregon toppled the might Duke Blue Devils, although he at first denied it, Coach K apparently had some strong words for the Ducks’ Dillon Brooks. Was Brooks rattled from this encounter with one of the greatest coaches in the sport ever? Maybe, because he only accounted for seven points against the Oklahoma Sooners, but we will never know for sure. Meanwhile, Buddy Hield was putting on an absolute clinic against the Ducks, going off for 37 points. He was 8-of-13 from three-point range and 13-of-20 from the field overall. However, this is the type of performance we have come to expect on a nightly basis from college basketball’s version of Steph Curry, so nobody was really surprised at this offensive explosion. After sending the Ducks quacking, the Oklahoma Sooners have become the first team to make it to the Final Four in men’s basketball as well as the College Football Playoff in the same year.
The Villanova Wildcats put on a clinic of their own against the overall No. 1 seed Kansas in their Elite Eight match-up. However, it was not the offensive masterpiece Hield had put together. Rather, it was a perfect example of how stifling defense can be just as effective. And you know what they say, “defense wins championships,” so watch out for Nova in Houston. In one of the best games the tournament has offered, the Wildcats forced 16 turnovers, including 11 steals, the most important of which came in the final seconds of the game when Ryan Archidiacono tipped the ball out of Kansas’ Frank Mason III’s hand. Rock chalk not chalk anymore.
One of the best stories of this tournament has been that of the Syracuse Orange. Before selection Sunday, many believed they would not be selected. Well, lo and behold, here they are in the Final Four! Like Villanova, Syracuse’s defense has been stifling. Allowing a mere 56 points per contest in the tournament, no one has found an answer thus far, not even the mighty Virginia Cavaliers. The Cavs led 54-39 with less than 10 minutes to go, but then the Orangemen went on a crazy 29-8 run to end the game, and are officially the first No. 10 seed to ever make it to the Final Four.
Not quite the champion just yet, but only one No. 1 seed remains in the Final Four. The North Carolina Tar Heels defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in possibly the closest 14- point win ever. The first half and much of the second half was very close, but the Tar Heels quickly pulled away. After crazy wins against Stephen F. Austin and Wisconsin, it looks like the luck of the Irish has finally run out.
So that will just about do it for the madness as well as the sadness this year. It has been a crazy tournament for sure, but what else did you expect? The Final Four looks to be one for the ages, so do not miss it. And if for some reason you do, you have my permission to take that Monday off and watch a champion be crowned, because after that, it will be a hot minute before basketball is back.
Featured image courtesy of Phil Roeder
Edited by David Bradford