NCAA announces Tournament sites through 2021-2022

Here is the list of future men’s basketball Tournament sites, with all First Four opening round games still to take place in Dayton, Ohio.

Some notable tidbits about certain venues from the website:

• First- and second-round men’s basketball games in 2020 slated for Greensboro, North Carolina, will be the first time they will stage tournament games since 2012.
• 2022 will mark a return of NCAA basketball to three cities that have not hosted the men’s tournament in decades. The West Regional will be played in San Francisco, which has not been a tournament site since 1960, and come 2022, Fort Worth, Texas, which hasn’t been a tournament site since 1970, will host first- and second-round games.  Cincinnati also will host first- and second-round action, marking the first time in 30 years the tournament will make its’ return to the Queen City.
• 2019 also will mark a return of games to sites that have not recently hosted. Columbia, South Carolina last hosted games in 1970, while Hartford, Connecticut, has not played any tournament games since 1998.
• Previous cities selected to host future Men’s Final Fours include San Antonio (2018), Minneapolis (2019), Atlanta (2020), Indianapolis (2021) and New Orleans (2022).

Date Championship Host(s) City State Venue
March 19-20, 2019 DI M Basketball First Four Dayton Dayton OH University of Dayton Arena
March 17-18, 2020 DI M Basketball First Four Dayton Dayton OH University of Dayton Arena
March 16-17, 2021 DI M Basketball First Four Dayton Dayton OH University of Dayton Arena
March 15-16, 2022 DI M Basketball First Four Dayton Dayton OH University of Dayton Arena
March 22 & 24, 2019 DI M Basketball First/Second Ohio State Columbus OH Nationwide Arena
March 21 & 23, 2019 DI M Basketball First/Second Jacksonville Jacksonville FL Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena
March 22 & 24, 2019 DI M Basketball First/Second South Carolina Columbia SC Colonial Life Arena
March 21 & 23, 2019 DI M Basketball First/Second Utah Salt Lake City UT Vivint Smart Home Arena
March 22 & 24, 2019 DI M Basketball First/Second Tulsa Tulsa OK BOK Center
March 21 & 23, 2019 DI M Basketball First/Second Drake Des Moines IA Wells Fargo Arena
March 22 & 24, 2019 DI M Basketball First/Second Washington Seattle WA KeyArena
March 21 & 23, 2019 DI M Basketball First/Second UConn Hartford CT XL Center
March 19 & 21, 2020 DI M Basketball First/Second Idaho Spokane WA Spokane Arena
March 19 & 21, 2020 DI M Basketball First/Second Missouri Valley Conference St. Louis MO Scottrade Center
March 19 & 21, 2020 DI M Basketball First/Second South Florida Tampa FL Amalie Arena
March 19 & 21, 2020 DI M Basketball First/Second MAAC Albany NY Times Union Center
March 20 & 22, 2020 DI M Basketball First/Second Sacramento State Sacramento CA Golden 1 Center
March 20 & 22, 2020 DI M Basketball First/Second Creighton Omaha NE CenturyLink Center Omaha
March 20 & 22, 2020 DI M Basketball First/Second Mid-American Conference/Cleveland State Cleveland OH Quicken Loans Arena
March 20 & 22, 2020 DI M Basketball First/Second ACC Greensboro NC Greensboro Coliseum
March 18 & 20, 2021 DI M Basketball First/Second Big 12 Dallas TX American Airlines Center
March 18 & 20, 2021 DI M Basketball First/Second Detroit Mercy/Oakland Detroit MI Little Caesars Arena
March 18 & 20, 2021 DI M Basketball First/Second Boise State Boise ID Taco Bell Arena
March 19 & 21, 2021 DI M Basketball First/Second Kentucky Lexington KY Rupp Arena
March 19 & 21, 2021 DI M Basketball First/Second Wichita State Wichita KS Intrust Bank Arena
March 19 & 21, 2021 DI M Basketball First/Second North Carolina State Raleigh NC PNC Arena
March 18 & 20, 2021 DI M Basketball First/Second Providence Providence RI Dunkin’ Donuts Center
March 19 & 21, 2021 DI M Basketball First/Second West Coast Conference San Jose CA SAP Center
March 18 & 20, 2022 DI M Basketball First/Second Furman & Southern Conference Greenville SC Bon Secours Wellness Arena
March 18 & 20, 2022 DI M Basketball First/Second Duquesne Pittsburgh PA PPG Paints Arena
March 18 & 20, 2022 DI M Basketball First/Second San Diego State San Diego CA Viejas Arena
March 17 & 19, 2022 DI M Basketball First/Second MAAC Buffalo NY KeyBank Center
March 17 & 19, 2022 DI M Basketball First/Second TCU Fort Worth TX Fort Worth Arena
March 18 & 20, 2022 DI M Basketball First/Second Marquette Milwaukee WI Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center
March 17 & 19, 2022 DI M Basketball First/Second Cincinnati Cincinnati OH U.S. Bank Arena
March 17 & 19, 2022 DI M Basketball First/Second Oregon State Portland OR Moda Center
March 29 & 31, 2019 DI M Basketball Regional Missouri Valley Conference Kansas City MO Sprint Center
March 28 & 30, 2019 DI M Basketball Regional Louisville Louisville KY KFC Yum! Center
March 28 & 30, 2019 DI M Basketball Regional Big West Anaheim CA Honda Center
March 29 & 31, 2019 DI M Basketball Regional Georgetown Washington DC Verizon Center
March 26 & 28, 2020 DI M Basketball Regional Pepperdine Los Angeles CA Staples Center
March 26 & 28, 2020 DI M Basketball Regional Horizon League andIndiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) Indianapolis IN Lucas Oil Stadium
March 27 & 29, 2020 DI M Basketball Regional Houston Houston TX Toyota Center
March 27 & 29, 2020 DI M Basketball Regional Big East and St. John’s (New York) New York NY Madison Square Garden
March 26 & 28, 2021 DI M Basketball Regional Atlantic 10 Brooklyn NY Barclays Center
March 26 & 28, 2021 DI M Basketball Regional Memphis Memphis TN FedExForum
March 25 & 27, 2021 DI M Basketball Regional Minnesota Minneapolis MN Target Center
March 25 & 27, 2021 DI M Basketball Regional Mountain West Denver CO Pepsi Center
March 25 & 27, 2022 DI M Basketball Regional Pennsylvania Philadelphia PA Wells Fargo Center
March 25 & 27, 2022 DI M Basketball Regional Northwestern Chicago IL United Center
March 24 & 26, 2022 DI M Basketball Regional University of Texas at San Antonio San Antonio TX AT&T Center
March 24 & 26, 2022 DI M Basketball Regional Pac-12 San Francisco CA Chase Center

Grayson Allen returns to Duke, Jaleb Brunson does the same for Villanova

If you managed to catch the first true off-season podcast from CBS Sports’ Eye on College Basketball this past Wednesday, writers Garry Parrish and Matt Norlander both discussed why Grayson Allen returning to Duke for his senior season “is a good thing for college basketball.”

In this society where our short-term memories are as small as a pea that you microwave from your freezer bags, Grayson Allen played a large role in Duke winning their last national title in 2015.  Nearly two years later, a series of tripping incidents have largely marred his college legacy.  He could make huge amends by playing the aggressive, but heady and smart style that make him the most polarizing target in college basketball since J.J. Redick in 2004.

Sure, his statistics were down during his junior year and the team suffered a lot in barely making it back to the NCAA Tournament.  With several blue chip recruits coming in to practice for Coach K this October, it will be interesting to see what type of team Duke will showcase come the Opening Tip-Off Classic in mid-November.

Key member of 2016 National champions returns to Villanova

Guard Jalen Brunson would have been a late first round/early second round draft choice had he decided to skip the rest of his college eligibility.   Instead, he announced on Thursday that he will return to Villanova.  He led the Wildcats with 4.1 assists per game and was second on the team in scoring only behind the graduating Josh Hart.

Nigel Williams-Goss follows Zach Collins to NBA Draft

A third blow for Gonzaga, as one of the true vocal leaders both on and off the court during the ‘Zags run to the national title game is forgoing his senior year and enter the NBA Draft.  Guard Nigel Williams-Goss joins backup freshman center Zach Collins and graduating senior Przemek Karnowski as positions Mark Few has to replace.

But that pales in comparison to Oregon, who will be losing many key cogs from the Ducks high powered offensive scheme–as the likes of Tyler Dorsey and others follow the money.

Speaking of the greenback, the NCAA shelled out a lot of it on Wednesday as they announced the key tournament venues up until the year 2022.

That blog post should appear shortly.  Thank you so much for reading and please continue to check my blog periodically for key off-season news affecting the often crazy world of men’s college basketball.

Steve Fisher to Retire

Famous for coaching the Fab Five and earning a rare distinction in 1989

The one-time Western Michigan assistant coach cut his teeth with the Michigan Wolverines for seven seasons.  That was until hours after Selection Sunday 1989.  In the days long before social media, let alone the Internet…once popular coach Bill Frieder shockingly resigned to become the coach at Arizona State.  This was before Michigan played in that year’s NCAA Tournament.

The Wolverines used that time as fuel and led by Glen Rice, won the 1989 National Championship.  The NCAA credits the regular season only to Frieder, but Steve Fisher is the only person to start his coaching career in the tournament and ended up winning an NCAA Championship.

During the Fab Five era in 1991-93, Michigan defied convention and shocked the world making it to two championship games before losing each time.  Even worse, thanks to the Ed Martin scandal later that decade, those Final Four appearances were later by vacated along with their 2007 NIT Championship.

Coach Fisher then spent his final 18 years at San Diego State, with the Aztecs reaching the NCAA’s nine times during his tenure.  The furthest they got in the NCAA Tournament was the Sweet 16 round twice, in 2011 and 2016 and also the Final Four of the NIT–in the years 2009 and 2016.

He announced his retirement on Monday afternoon, and a formal press conference took place at the school on Tuesday.  An interesting man with quite an eye for talent.  He will be missed on the college scene.

Zach Collins to skip final three years at Gonzaga, will enter NBA Draft

The backup center/forward for Gonzaga surprised a lot of people during the Final Four with his heady play and penchant for playing aggressively.  On Tuesday, he decided to enter the NBA Draft and hired an agent.  So much for the key cogs of the Bulldogs offense, with Przemek Karnowski graduating–Mark Few will be looking for a few good centers to fill a gaping void this coming November.

Recap from 2017 Wooden Awards Show

Better a bit late than never, right?

On Friday evening, April 7, the annual John R. Wooden Awards were presented by the Los Angeles Athletic Club in association with Wendy’s Hamburgers.

It was really cool to see the Basketball Hall of Famers share their thoughts with the ESPN College Gameday crew of Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Seth Greenberg, and Jay Williams (with the small exception of Bob Cousy, who shared his thoughts via viral video from his home).

Here are the winners from the 2016-2017 season, starting with the men’s side.

Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year

Malik Monk, Kentucky.  Monk was SEC Freshman of the Year and with good reason in being a key spark to a Elite Eight berth.

Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year

Johnathan Motley, Baylor junior.  Motley finished his time with the Bears as an Associated Press Second Team member, similar with Monk.  He declared for the NBA Draft on Monday.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year

Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga senior.  The product out of Poland improved his game dramatically after not being medically cleared to play inbetween his sophomore and junior years.  He was one of the huge reasons why Gonzaga was able to clear a major hurdle en route to the school’s first national championship game appearance.  And did you know, Karnowski won more games than any player all-time?  More than Larry Bird, Danny Manning, Jimmer Fredette, and Doug McDermott, that’s for sure.

Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year

Josh Hart, Villanova senior.  He pretty much did it all for the Wildcats, shooting, rebounding, and also distributing the ball when needed to his teammates.  He kept saying to Coach Jay Wright, it was always about team first–not individual goals.  At least, most of the Big East recognized him as the conference’s Player of the Year and was also named by the Associated Press as a First Team All-American.

Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year

Frank Mason III, Kansas senior.  Jay Williams said during the Awards Show that Mason was, “one of the toughest players in college basketball.”  The way he was so unselfish with and at times without the ball directing his teammates, his 20.9 ppg and 4 assists per game average really shined.  The Big 12’s choice as their Player of the Year, he shot 42.9 percent in helping Kansas reach the Sweet 16 before being run over by Oregon in the Sweet 16.

Women’s game featured new legend in the making

Kelsey Plum shot 53 percent during her senior year, 43 percent from three-point range.  The Washington senior also averaged 31.7 ppg, the highest average during her college career.  Along the way, she picked up many special awards:

  • espnW national player of the year
  • unanimous pick on the espnW All-America first team
  • unanimous pick on the AP All-America first team
  • USBWA All-America team
  • AP women’s basketball player of the year
  • winner of Dawn Staley Award
  • winner of Ann Meyers Drysdale Award as USBWA national player of the year
  • 2017 Naismith Trophy
  • 2017 Nancy Lieberman Award
  • 2017 WBCA NCAA Div. 1 All-America team
  • 2017 Wade Trophy award winner

And to top it all off, she was named as the 2017 John R. Wooden Award Winner as the Women’s Basketball Player of the Year.  Plum edged out a pair of UConn stars taking over in the footsteps of past winner Breanna Stewart (Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson), along with Kelsey Mitchell of Ohio State and budding General Hospital actor-in-training A’Ja Wilson of NCAA Champion South Carolina.

The men’s award capped the evening and although there was a pretty stellar group of candidates with the likes of Lonzo Ball of UCLA, Josh Hart of Villanova, Caleb Swanigan–the Big Ten Player of the Year for Purdue, and Nigel Williams-Goss from the National runners-up in Gonzaga.

But in the end, the 2017 John R. Wooden Award Winner on the men’s side went to Frank Mason III out of Kansas.  The Petersburg, Virginia native rewrote the college basketball record books as he surpassed past legends from Pistol “Pete” Maravich and Bill Walton in being the consensus National Player of the Year in addition to winning these special awards:

  • CBS Sports National Player of the Year
  • Player of the Year by USA Today, the Associated Press, The Sporting News, Naismith College, the NABC Player of the Year, and the winner of the Oscar Robertson Trophy.

Overall, it was a very good show–even with sideline reporter Molly McGrath teaming up with Josh Hart and A’Ja Wilson last Thursday to act out a tense scene on the set of General Hospital.  At least, they were all good sports and that is what college athletics are all about.

Well, what a way to wrap up an incredible and historic season.  Please continue to check my blog periodically for some key coaching news and any pertinent rule changes which might affect the flow of the game.

In the interim, I hope you can visit my other blog where it is nothing but blue skies and calm vibes as I share many album reviews of the best Brazilian jazz sambas and bossa novas this side of the Equator.  I usually try to post one or two reviews per week, even during the height of the college basketball season.

Please kindly tap or point your browsers to this URL:

Above all, thank you to my loyal online fans old and new–with a special virtual shout-out to my new group representing the first listening board with the podcasts housed on SoundCloud.  You guys and ladies are amazing!

For some of you, I will hope to see you again come the fall.  Thanks for sharing in this special season, one that I will certainly remember for a long time to come.


Wichita State joins American Athletic Conference

Unanimous vote of all AAC members is good for all sports, except football

One of the longest standing members of the Missouri Valley Conference (started play in 1945 shortly after the end of World War II) has decided to bolt for the expanding AAC.  Wichita State University of Kansas will be moving, as of July 1 and it simply means, that they will be one of the last teams playing on Selection Sunday just hours before the draw is released.

The move was made official on Friday, according to ESPN and other broadcast/online media outlets.  The Shockers will bring their excellent style of play in basketball and volleyball against schools like SMU, Tulsa, Cincinnati, Houston, UCF, Memphis, Temple, East Carolina, South Florida, Tulane, and always powerful UConn.  Gregg Marshall will have the services of ten players that were on the second round squad that pushed the likes of Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky to the wire in the Indianapolis pod before falling a few points short.

No question, the days of seeing the NCAA grant the MVC more than one bid is coming to an end.  But they had quite a track record when you consider:

The Valley sent three teams to the Big Dance in 2005, four in 2006, and two in 2007, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016.

In terms of the MVC going forward, look for schools like Northern Iowa, Indiana State, last year’s regular season champions from Illinois State, and (dare I say this) perhaps Loyola of Chicago could be a major player for the first time since 1985.

Initial reports Friday by Matt Norlander of indicated that possibly four other schools could take Wichita State’s place:

They include Saint Louis, Valparaiso, Murray State, and Belmont.

Each of those schools has great basketball track records and with a new gym on the horizon in Valparaiso, that could step up recruiting a notch.  Plus, it is a great fit geographically speaking.  Saint Louis at least would keep the natural geographic areas along with Bradley and Illinois State, while Murray State and Belmont might be considered long shots–but you never know what athletic officials are thinking.

Please stay tuned for any future news on any key moves by any affected school in the weeks and months to come.


NCAA Returns All Championship Events to North Carolina

Reversal of controversial HB2 law brings back NCAA Tournament

In addition to the NCAA Tournament returning in March 2018 to Charlotte, look for Greensboro to get back the ACC postseason tournament.

What a nice piece of news that was released on Tuesday afternoon, thanks to ESPN and other online/broadcast media outlets.  Hopefully, North Carolina’s victory in men’s basketball on Monday night can do more than mend the many virtual fences.  It is best to be respectful of one another and hope that all public places and schools have the proper signage (or symbols like you see in airports and train stations) to indicate which restroom is for ladies and which one is for the men.

At the very least, this decision by the NCAA Board of Directors will signal a new chapter or furthering the dialogue in the LGBTQ community and the proper education for those individuals and groups that might need more help and assistance.

Back to my regular blogs later in the week, pending any coaching news.

North Carolina edges out Gonzaga to win sixth National Championship



Allie X, “Old Habits Die Hard”

Song can be found on her SoundCloud page

Redemption could not be any sweeter for the Tar Heels and their fans

Going into the 2017 National Championship game, Gonzaga Head Coach Mark Few had a better winning percentage (.813) compared to North Carolina’s Roy Williams (.790).  Also, three of the last four titles won by North Carolina were against number 1 seeds:  1982 vs. Georgetown, 1993 vs. Michigan, and 2005 vs. Illinois.

The game started out in Glendale, Arizona with Gonzaga senior Przemek Karnowski making a bad pass and Theo Pinson converting with a dunk on the other end.  Fellow senior Kennedy Meeks a few seconds later made a jumper and UNC was off and running.

Gonzaga got their offense started with Johnathan Williams with a nice baby hook shot in the lane.  North Carolina still led 5-4 with 17:16 to go in the first half.

Karnowski still managed to show no effects of his eye problem from getting hit by Chris Silva of South Carolina.  However, the shots were simply not falling from very close range.  North Carolina basically double teamed him most of the time, so it wasn’t like they were out there pretending to gang up like a football team around the opposing team’s star running back.  Twice, Karnowski missed at the 16:28 and 16:09 marks and that opened the door for Josh Perkins to convert on two straight turnaround jumpers.  One was from two point range, the other on a deep three from Nigel Williams-Goss as Gonzaga led 7-5 at the first TV time out (15:54 left in the first half).

On the next Gonzaga possession, Jordan Matthews drilled a three and was fouled.  However, he missed the free throw and Gonzaga led 10-8 at the 15:17 mark.  Zach Collins made his presence felt before being saddled with foul trouble as his left handed dunk sparked a Bulldogs run.  After a Tar Heels missed shot from deep, Goss made a cool 10 foot jumper to give Gonzaga a 14-10 lead with 13:25 to go.

Justin Jackson then made a floating jumper 18 seconds later to trim the Gonzaga lead to 14-12.  By this point, both teams had shot 5 for 12 from the field, but the ‘Zags held the rebounding edge 10 to 6.  That was before seldom used bench player Nate Britt converted on a layup and the game was tied at 14 with 12:37 remaining in the first half.

The next time down on defense, Karnowski stuffed Elite 8 hero Luke Maye going up for a dunk at the 11:08 mark, then Williams made a short hook shot to give Gonzaga a 21-14 lead with 10:13 left.  North Carolina was going through a dry spell not scoring for a four minute stretch before Joel Berry II made the first of his four three-point shots at the 8:49 mark (which would turn out to be the only long distance shots UNC would make for the entire game), was fouled by Matthews and missed the free throw that went along with it.  Justin Jackson then converted a rebound for a quick bucket at the 8:21 mark to trim Gonzaga’s lead to 21-19.

Gonzaga then went through a similar pointless streak, not scoring for around 3 1/2 minutes before Zach Collins made a short jumper to push the lead up to 23-19 with 6:32 remaining on the first half clock.  Josh Perkins (who would finish the first half leading all scorers with 13 points) made a pair of free throws with 4:38 to go, would later miss a three-pointer and Josh Perkins missed a three for Gonzaga, Joel Berry II’s subsequent three point attempt clanked off the side of the rim.

Gonzaga continued to lead 28-21, which would be their largest lead of the game with 4:16 to go.  Silas Melson’s trey with 1:39 left and after UNC feasted again inside, Theo Pinson made two free throws for North Carolina.  The lead was down to the slimmest of margins at 33-32, still Gonzaga was in front.  Nigel Williams-Goss made a pair of free throws with six seconds to play and closed out a rather erratic first half with Gonzaga leading 35-32.

The halftime stats read like this:

Gonzaga was 12 of 30 overall from the floor, but 5 of 9 from three.

North Carolina in the first 20 minutes was 11 of 36 overall, but only 2 of 13 from three (15.4 percent).  Most of the Tar Heels three point attempts were rarely contested, they were simply wide open looks and the ball refused to go down.

The rebounding had a very slim edge in Gonzaga’s favor 25-23, but UNC had twice as many offensive rebounds (8 to 4).

Second half featured too many fouls and a nearly close finish

The final 20 minutes from Glendale, Arizona started with Joel Berry II hitting a jumper to trim Gonzaga’s lead to one at 35-34.  Justin Jackson then made a pair of free throws, this after Josh Perkins made an ill-advised pass.  35 seconds into the second half and North Carolina was back in the lead at 36-35.

A major concern for Gonzaga Head Coach Mark Few was the foul trouble his big men was getting mired into.  Johnathan Williams joined Zach Collins in having three personal fouls with 18:52 remaining.  On the next Tar Heels possession, Kennedy Meeks made a layup and Carolina went on a big run of their own.

Leading 38-35, Joel Berry II again converted on a jumper, this time from 18 feet out on the right wing.  With 17:39 to play, North Carolina lead by five at 40-35.  Gonzaga then decided to call time out and it sparked another Bulldogs rally.

First, Collins made a hook shot and was fouled by Meeks with 16:52 to go.  His made free throw cut the UNC lead to 40-38.  Jordan Mathews converted on a trey from the left corner to put Gonzaga back in the lead at 41-40 with 16:29 left.  The next time down, Zach Collins committed his fourth personal foul and had to sit on the bench with 15:53 to play.

Gonzaga bench player Killian Tillie helped save the next possession, then a nice give-and-go to Karnowski gave the Polish big man his first and only made basket of the day with 14:34 remaining.  Although Karnowski was 7 of 9 from the line, this charity attempt was missed and Gonzaga again led 42-41.

In the game’s first 26 minutes, North Carolina was an anemic 2 of 17 from three-point land.  However, the Tar Heels ability to shut down Gonzaga’s ability to score inside was one of the key reasons why North Carolina was able to lead for a longer period of time.

After Goss made a careless turnover, Theo Pinson scored on a layup and Isaiah Hicks would have a layup of his own and later get fouled.  His missed free throw left Gonzaga another chance to grab the lead once more, trailing this time 44-43 with 13:14 left.

Karnowski made a pair of free throws and then Joel Berry, slightly bad ankles and all converted on his third three-point shot of the night to give Carolina back the lead at 47-46.

By this juncture, 16 total fouls were committed in the first 7 minutes and 45 seconds of the second half.  No flow at all, it was definitely a very chippy game in nature by this point.

Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks, and Luke Maye each had three fouls a piece and even worse for the Tar Heels, they committed their tenth team foul with 10:13 remaining in the game.  This meant that Gonzaga would get two free throws each time a North Carolina player committed a foul.

Killian Tillie also made his presence felt off the bench with nine rebounds, but his only point came from splitting two free throw attempts.  The next time down, Meeks split his pair of free throws and would later commit his fourth personal foul with 9:42 to go, North Carolina still in front 48-47.

The first moment of near controversy saw Karnowski jump for the rebound, but would nearly strangle Berry’s head from not snapping back in an attempt to get the ball.  The result of the play was a Flagrant 1 foul, which meant that Karnowski on the initial foul made both of his attempts from the charity stripe, but Berry missed of his attempts.  The game was tied again at 52 with 8:02 left in regulation time.

Seldom used Tony Bradley then started the final key stretch scoring wise for Roy Williams, as his dunk at the 7:37 mark gave North Carolina a 54-52 lead.  After another Gonzaga misfire, Hicks made a 4 foot baseline jumper just as the shot clock was running out.  Replays showed that Hicks got the ball off it time and North Carolina had a short cushion, leading 56-52.

Then, Gonzaga made one last run.  First, Zach Collins made a jumper and traded baskets with Hicks.  Johnathan Williams made a huge three at the 5:23 mark to cut UNC’s lead to 58-57.  However, Zach Collins was the first (and would turn out to be the only) player to foul out with 9 points and 7 rebounds.

However, the opportunities for Gonzaga were simply coming too far and not in a shorter amount of time.  And yes, even Joel Berry nearly got hurt again.  This guy has amazing intestinal fortitude and true sportsmanship to go along with it.

Tony Bradley then would split on another pair of free throws as Gonzaga committed their ninth team foul.  North Carolina still led 59-57 with 5:03 to play.  Johnathan Williams then airballed a shot from three-point land, but North Carolina touched the ball on the baseline.  Goss then hit another three a few seconds later to give Gonzaga a 60-59 lead and the crowd in Spokane, Washington was going nuts with 4:36 to go.

However, North Carolina had Berry hit his fourth and final try with 4:17 left and the Tar Heels led 62-60.  Isaiah Hicks would commit his fourth foul, further adding to the intrigue as he fouled Goss with 3:08 left to play.

After the final TV time out of the season, Goss split on a pair of free throws and Pinson missed a three on the other end.  Goss then hit a jumper to give Gonzaga a short-lived 63-61 lead.  Justin Jackson would later get fouled and hit both of his free throws to tie the game again at 63 with 2:09 to play.  A Goss jumper gave Gonzaga a 65-63 lead with 1:53 to go, then Jackson made a driving layup and was fouled by Goss.  His made free throw gave UNC a 66-65 lead with 1:40 left to play.

What followed was simply players making plays, similar to Freddie Brown of Georgetown threw his inadvertent pass to James Worthy way back when in the closing seconds of the 1982 National championship game.

The second moment of controversy involved Kennedy Meeks in a small rugby scrum trying to get a loose ball.  His right hand was out of bounds, but the referees did not see it.  Instead, the tie-up situation led to a jump ball and the alternating possession (IMHO, the dumbest rule in sports) gave the ball back to the Tar Heels.

Isaiah Hicks converted on a banker jump shot to give UNC a 68-65 lead with 25 seconds left.  After Gonzaga used their final time out with 21.9 seconds to play, Kennedy Meeks made the championship saving block and a simple run-out pass by Berry, which led to a dunk by Justin Jackson.  Another turnover by Karnowski and Carolina sealed it at the free throw line with 7.3 seconds left as Berry won the 2017 Most Outstanding Player award with 22 points.  His back-to-back 20 point efforts in the last two championship games was last accomplished by Bill Walton of UCLA way back in 1972-73.  Gail Goodrich also did it in 1964-65 during the early days of the UCLA dynasty.

Roy Williams has more national titles while as Head Coach of North Carolina than his predecessor in Dean Smith.  By winning his third title in a hard-fought 71-65 effort in a game that featured 45 total fouls, North Carolina simply dominated inside the paint 40 to 18.  The only other five coaches to win at least three titles:  Adolph Rupp, John Wooden, Bobby Knight, Mike Kryzezewski, and Jim Calhoun.

Although North Carolina was not effective from long distance, shooting only 4 of 27 on the night–they held Gonzaga to only 33.9 percent shooting (20 of 59).  North Carolina overall was not much better, shooting 26 of 73 for 35.6 percent.  Gonzaga was held to shooting 8 out of 29 in the second half, but it was the first and only time this season that the Tar Heels were outrebounded (49 to 46).

Two major differences in this game that tilted the game in North Carolina’s favor:  the Tar Heels had a 15-9 edge on the offensive glass and they only committed four turnovers.  Gonzaga made 14 turnovers.

For Gonzaga, what a season finishing up as the national runners-up at 37-2.  They were trying to become the first team since the 2002 Maryland Terrapins to win in their first attempt in reaching the Final Four.  The Bulldogs also nearly joined the 1990 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels and the 1984 Georgetown Hoyas when they won their respective championships by not playing any games against any opponent who was in the Top 10, according to the Associated Press.

Gonzaga is the fourth team since 1985 (fifth if you count Memphis, when their 2008 runner-up appearance would be later vacated) to have at least one loss during the season and come up short in the championship game:

The others:  Duke in 1999, Illinois in 2005, and Kentucky in 2011.

Fighting back tears at the post-game press conference, Nigel Williams-Goss led the ‘Zags with 15 points and nine rebounds.  Karnowski finished his college career not knowing if he was healthy enough to play prior to his junior year with the back flaring up on a near constant basis.  He had matching totals of 9 points and 9 rebounds, but was mostly ineffective in shooting the ball.  Josh Perkins was the only other Gonzaga player to finish in double figures with 13 points.

Besides Berry’s 22, Justin Jackson had 16 points and Isaiah Hicks chipped in when his team needed some scoring the most with 13 crucial points and nine huge rebounds.  Kennedy Meeks led everyone with 10 rebounds.

North Carolina became the first team since Kentucky in 1998 and the fourth school overall to win the championship after losing the title game in the year prior.

Some final closing thoughts for the season…almost

Before truTV ends their rather stupid reality shows of The Impractical Jokers and Hack My Life next March, I will have one final blog this coming Friday night as I will briefly chronicle the annual Player of the Year Awards from the Downtown Los Angeles Athletic Club and sponsored by Wendy’s Hamburgers.

I hope my 14th and final podcast of the season will hopefully resonate well with my true and honest online fans and friends.  You know who you all are.

If I start naming names again, I may have to fight back some tears.  However, they are all going to be happy tears this time around.

But I am very thrilled to say that not only did I have North Carolina beating Gonzaga in my initial brackets, but I did not cry during the late, great Luther Vandross’ version of One Shining Moment.  It was very nice to see some of the players working out in the locker rooms in addition to viewing most of the key plays of this tournament firmly in the rear view mirror, as that always sappy, corny song joins the other 30 annual versions going back to Indiana’s last triumph in 1987 for all fans to savor.

Next year, TBS will bring back the Team Stream and for the third time (1998 and 2004 to be precise), the Final Four returns to the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.  Finally, we might be able to see the benches at court level.

The final ratings were simply impressive for CBS, up 21% from the Turner outlets in 2016.  And others who caught up with the March Madness Live app downloaded the action 4.4 million times, a 49 percent streaming increase from the 2016 Tournament.

Please have a good night everyone, and I hope you can stay tuned to this blog during the off season–which I affectionately refer to as the Electric Iron and Steel League as there are still four major coaches openings waiting to be filled at Washington, California at Berkeley, New Mexico, and Oklahoma State.

I will have one final blog to post sometime on Friday night after ESPN2 airs the Player of the Year Awards.  It will air for 90 minutes instead of an hour, starting at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

As for when I hope to start my fifth season of blogging, I plan to start with the 2017-2018 Season Preview sometime during the week of October 23 or November 6.

Please have a fun spring and summer everyone, and thank you again for all of your online support.