For the Tar Heels, this is their 19th Final Four appearance–extending their national record by one school
Forgive Roy Williams for his bad knees each time in kneels on the hardwood floors calling out a play, or when he bit his tongue and cut off a finger trying to hang on to the Werner ladder during the postgame net cutting ceremony.
Bottom line was after Notre Dame led by one point halfway through the second half when both teams were on an offensive shooting classic, the Tar Heels dominated the rest of the way in Philadelphia. By grabbing every rebound, North Carolina ran the Fighting Irish back to South Bend with a convincing 63-52 lead with 9:19 left in the contest. The final score was 88-74 as Brice Johnson led the way with 25 points while grabbing 12 rebounds–already extending his school record for double-doubles in a season notching his 23rd in the East Regional final.
For Notre Dame, Demetrius Jackson led all scorers with 26 points in his final college game while V.J. Beachem added 18. Even for Coach Mike Brey, he was walking wounded after suffering a calf injury after Friday night’s thrilling last second win over Wisconsin and was forced to wear a boot on his right leg. Sure hope both coaches heal properly and hopefully, those scissors won’t be attacking any of the players come next Monday night at NRG Stadium in Houston.
At the very least, both teams can take solace in the fact that they did put on quite an offensive display–North Carolina went 32 of 52 (61.5 percent), while the Fighting Irish finished at 27 for 49 for the game (a respectable 55.1 percent).
Some final thoughts on the Midwest Regional…
It was another case of a team not able to play a complete 40 minutes. Virginia basically had this game won, led by London Perrantes five huge shots from three point land. At times, it looked like his shots were from the edge of the Eisenhower Expressway that parallels Madison Street just outside the United Center on Chicago’s West Side.
But 13 turnovers led to 15 Syracuse points. That 2-3 zone was simply suffocating in the last nine minutes–converting a 54-39 deficit into 15 straight points as part of a 25-4 run to stun the top seed in the Midwest who was trying to reach their first Final Four since the Ralph Sampson days in 1984 by a stunning 68-62 final.
Malachi Richardson did his best Scottie Pippen impersonation as the freshman tallied 23 points (21 of them in the second half). His driving layup with 5:47 left to play gave the Orange a 58-57. Shortly after Perrantes missed a three point shot, it was Richardson who made it a six point turnaround and flashed a grin as wide as the state of Texas.
However, Virginia showed a lot of heart in the end before Devon Hall’s missed three led to three free throws converted by Tyler Lydon and DaJuan Coleman to ice the game.
AN UNPREDICTABLE SEASON WILL FINISH WITH AN UNPREDICTABLE FINAL FOUR
I am sure you are thinking of playing Foster the People’s hit song “Coming of Age” endlessly on your smartphones after the CBS Sports Network rattled off these impressive stats of the two coaches entering the second semifinal on Saturday night, April 2 in Houston:
Even with over 100 wins vacated due to the NCAA violations, Jim Boeheim of Syracuse during his 40 years on the bench has 877 career wins. Roy Williams, with taking both Kansas and North Carolina to Final Fours has 782 wins.
Roy Williams has Boeheim beat as far as all-time Tournament wins, 69 to 53 but both guys have been to many Final Fours–Boeheim with 5, Roy Williams with 8.
The most telling stat CBS mentioned on Sunday night was that Jim Boeheim is 2-1 against Roy Williams all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
Coming on Wednesday, please look for my extensive Final Four Preview.
I will give out some good reasons about the meteoric rise of one Buddy Hield, as he hopes to channel his inner Mookie Blaylock and Stacey King from 1988 in the hopes that “Boomer Sooner” will get back to the promised land. For the other three schools, it is another chance to add to their trophy cases: Villanova, where very few people had them going to the Final Four, let alone the Elite Eight and Syracuse, where most media members and bloggers (myself included) had the Orange not even in the field of 68 before becoming the first ever 10 seed to reach the Final Four–the lowest seed since the 11’s turned by LSU in 1986 under legendary former coach Dale Brown, the incredible run by George Mason in 2006 and Shaka Smart’s five game streak which started in Dayton and ended up as the Rams first Final Four appearance in 2011.
This much I do know:
TBS will have Oklahoma vs. Villanova in the first semifinal at 6:09 p.m. Eastern time.
The second semifinal will feature Syracuse vs. North Carolina, at around 8:49 p.m. or so–about 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.
NO VIRTUAL REST FOR YOURS TRULY ONLINE, FAR FROM IT
But unlike in years past, where the six day wait until Super Saturday was long and boring before Tim Brando filled up your YouTube screens at some posh outdoor locations on the Friday afternoon before the semifinals, I will get to fill up your inbox and blog spaces for the next three nights with yet more tournament games:
The Vegas 16 opens with their lid lifter as four games are on the docket come Monday starting at 3 p.m. Eastern time. Two semifinals will feature all four winners on Tuesday night, and the championship game takes place on Wednesday night. All games are at Mandalay Bay and will air live on the CBS Sports Network, along with each of the school’s campus radio feeds streaming the action online.
And of course, I am sure fans of one-time Chicago weather meteorologists Ginger Zee and Amy Freeze will be trading off fun barbs (while Ginger flies back from Los Angeles after her second appearance on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars) prior to Tuesday night’s semifinal in the NIT Tournament as the only 1 seed to reach New York in tiny Valparaiso will take on Kyle Collinsworth and BYU at 7 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN, while the nightcap around 9:30 will have Steve Fisher attempting to join Bob Knight as the only coaches to win both an NCAA title and an NIT crown as San Diego State will take on George Washington. The battle to determine who is Number 69 in the country will commence on Thursday night before my favorite highlight of Final Four week–the host city does a long-distance shootout and slam dunk competition featuring the best players that are not playing in the NCAA Tournament.
Hope to see you all with a brief, tidy recap of the first day at the Vegas 16 Tournament.
See you then.