Notre Dame, Syracuse pull victory out of the jaws of defeat

SONG SELECTION:

“Fools Paradise” by Soda Shop

Released September 4, 2015 via Velvet Blue Music

It will be an All ACC Easter Sunday in Midwest and East Regional Finals

The clock finally struck midnight on all Cinderellas.

In other words, any mid-major team will have to wait at least another year to earn another shot at winning a national championship in Glendale, Arizona.

MIDWEST REGIONAL at United Center, Chicago

Even though Georges Niang lit up Virginia for 30 points, 8 rebounds and four assists in his final game for the Cyclones inside “The House That Michael Jordan Built”, no Windy City Miracle was in store on Friday night.

Case in point:  Virginia was leading 49-35 early in the second half before the Cyclones made a 9-2 run to get back in the game.  However, Mike Tobey’s layup with 9:10 to play turned out to be the back breaker and Virginia coasted to an 84-71 win.  Even one poor Iowa State cheerleader late in the contest got hit in the face by a deflected ball and had to leave for medical attention with 2:12 left to play.  Sure hope and pray that she is o.k.

Anthony Gill led the top seeded Cavailers with 23 points while Tobey had 18 off the bench.  Both teams shot very well, Iowa State finishing the game at 52 percent (27 of 52), while Virginia ended up at 56 percent (32 of 57 attempts).  Twelve Iowa State turnovers proved to be their ultimate undoing.  This will be Virginia’s first trip to the Elite Eight since 1995.

As for the second semifinal, a controversial out-of-bounds call went briefly for Gonzaga but Michael Gbinije had the last laugh.  Grabbing a rebound off his own missed shot, his layup with 22 seconds brought the Orange back to a 61-60 with 22 seconds to go.  The next time down for the Bulldogs, freshman Tyler Lydon blocked a potential game winning attempt by Josh Perkins for Gonzaga.  Gbinije made two free throws as Syracuse scored 15 of the final 18 points of the game.

Gonzaga was held without a field goal in the last 6:24 of the contest.  Kyle Wiltjer had 23 points in his final game, including one three-point shot from beyond NBA court range.  Domantas Sabonis had 19 points to go along with 17 rebounds and five blocks.  The key state of this game was that Gonzaga held Syracuse to 36 percent shooting, but the Bulldogs committed 17 turnovers.  That won’t win you very many ballgames, and that was the case in Comcast Country.

EAST REGIONAL at Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA

The weather may have been wet and dicey outside the “City of Brotherly Love”, but it was raining three pointers that proved to be the difference in the game involving two classic rivals.

First up, Wisconsin appeared to have victory well in hand leading 56-53 with 23 seconds to go.  But Demetrius Jackson had other ideas.  His steal and layup put the Fighting Irish up 57-56 with 14 seconds left.  A subsequent steal against Bronson Koenig led to a foul as Notre Dame advanced to their second straight Elite Eight appearance hitting their free throws 61-56.

The other game saw Indiana give up the most points ever in an NCAA Tournament game, both in a single half (52) and a single game in a 101-86 beatdown by longtime rival and top seeded North Carolina.  Yogi Ferrell in his final game for the Hoosiers led all scorers with 25 points, but it was the balanced scoring attack of Marcus Paige (21), Brice Johnson (20), Kennedy Meeks (15), while Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson each had 14 points that were simply too much for Tom Crean to overcome.

24 three point shots were made, ironically 13 of them were converted by the Hoosiers mostly in garbage time.  The Tar Heels also got sweet revenge 32 years in the making thanks to having 20 assists and getting five blocked shots.

All four Number 1 seeds are still alive entering Elite Eight

Saturday’s matchups were what I thought they would be all along when the brackets came out.  I am really pulling for Oklahoma and Kansas to meet once more in Houston.  For Sunday night, I had both top seeds in my bracket–but I had both two seeds of Michigan State and Xavier instead of the 6 seed of destined Notre Dame and one of the last teams to make the field, the 10 seed of rejuvenated Syracuse.

Speaking of Syracuse, they are the eighth such seed to reach the Elite Eight and the first since Stephen Curry led tiny Davidson on their meteoric rise to Detroit in 2008 before finally succumbing to that year’s national champion in Kansas.  The Orange is the third school from a power conference to be a 10 seed to reach the Elite Eight, the first two to do it was LSU in 1987 and Texas in 1990.

Please keep in mind the start times for the Regional Finals are the same as the Final Four:  6:09 and 8:49 p.m. Eastern time.  CBS has both Saturday games and TBS will have the final five games of the Big Dance, starting on Sunday night and ending up with the first ever title game on cable in history at 9 p.m. Eastern time on Monday, April 4.

As I end the final late night blog posting for a while, I think Oregon followed by Virginia are the most vulnerable Number 1 seeds remaining in the 2016 Tournament.  We will see how the games play out this weekend.  Pleasant dreams, everybody and we I will see you again on Saturday night.

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