Quality Road Wins Vital For NCAA Tournament Qualifying Going Forward

“Effective with the 2017-18 season, team sheets will place greater emphasis on where the games are played rather than the ranking of each opponent.”

Statement by the NCAA after the Men’s Basketball selection committee met in Chicago from July 11 to 13, 2017 regarding selection of teams and seeding guidelines

For far too long, the NCAA valued those schools who were hot in the last ten games they played and would be rewarded with top 5 seeds.  A road win in January and February did not carry much weight in-conference, as opposed to a mid-major powerhouse such as when Belmont went on the road a few years back and stunned North Carolina, in Chapel Hill of all places.  That did not ultimately help IPFW when they stunned Indiana last December, since that game took place in Fort Wayne.

Things are going to finally change, and hopefully for the mid-majors clamoring for years for fairness–this might be the dawning of a new era.

What the new table will look like going forward hopefully should be more cut and dry than what broadcasters have been trying to decipher for years.  At least, for the average fan–the RPI (Rating Percentage Index) may soon be going the same way as Kodak cameras, the Edsel automobile, Handy Andy, Builders Square, and Borders books–once great places to do business but no longer exist.

Effective in November, each school’s games will be divided into four columns.

CBSSports.com detailed it in this fashion in a July 14 online article, according to overall RPI rankings:

  1. Column 1: Home games against teams ranked 1-30, neutral site games vs. top-50 teams, road games against top-75 teams
  2. Column 2: Home games against teams ranked 31-75, neutral site games  vs. 51-100, road games vs. 76-135
  3. Column 3: Home games against teams ranked 76-160, neutral site games vs. 101-200, road games vs. 136-240
  4. Column 4: Home games against teams ranked 161-351, neutral site games vs. 201-351, road games vs. 241-351

What this means is that for example, if the 70th-ranked team wins on the road–that game will carry just as much weight as beating a top 25 team at home.  This could lead to a major boon for more at-large bids, and better seeds for smaller mid-major programs.

One NCAA source close to the meeting mentioned in the article about Monmouth when they barely missed out in 2015.  You might recall, they lost a few games with lesser teams ranked in the 200s on the road.  Even though they had some quality wins against Power 5 teams over Notre Dame and USC, it did not carry enough weight for them to merit an NCAA bid.  Those games will be penciled in red under the third column and not the fourth if those losses occur at home instead of on the road.

Expect also KenPom.com’s offensive and defensive efficiency rankings to be tweaked with their intricate software just in time for the new season.

Come 2018-2019, a new method of modern metrics could be introduced to possibly replace the RPI.  Created in 1981-82, it is one of the key metrics used to build data sheets for teams that have similar rankings and ultimately those numbers are crunched to make up the seeds for each of the four regions.  During the 2017 Tournament, teams like Kansas State and Wake Forest had enough of a strong schedule to be part of the last four teams selected in the 68 team field.  Schools like Illinois State and Syracuse were sent to the NIT since they did not have that one quality win on the road that the Selection Committee often covets.

Look for the NCAA to possibly run some type of a composite ranking system, plus the thinking is that they might establish an independent but separate and unique formula next season as a test run of sorts.  Their goal is to see how this type of composite metric can be better utilized and how the new individual ranking system performs vs. other established metrics before signing off on a total overhaul of the RPI as we know it.

It is best then to close out this interesting blog with two thoughts.

First, here is what Senior Vice President of NCAA Basketball Dan Gavitt mentioned right after the meeting concluded last month:

“The bottom line is we recognize the need to continue using more modern metrics and the need to make those more front and center in the sorting of data for the selection and seeding process.  However, it’s also critical to have a long-term solution that is tested in real time, so we can roll something out that we have complete confidence in, is mathematically sound and is acceptable in every stakeholder’s eyes.”

Finally, Note To Self:

Just in case if any eager fans wish to comment about any school “on the bubble” in either January or February, please forward a link to this blog to avoid any and all future confusion.

Maui Invitational To Feature Some Tantalyzing Matchups

Wichita State will probably be the favorite, but look out for either Notre Dame or Michigan to make some noise on the island of Maui

The matchups were announced by ESPN and the Maui Invitational Twitter page (@MauiInv) on July 18, a full twelve days before Wichita State star sophomore guard Landry Shamet underwent surgery for suffering a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal of his right foot.  The timetable for a full recovery, according to Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com, is 12 to 16 weeks.  He will be spending the next two weeks on a hard split, then transition eventually to crutches for the next 6 to 8 weeks.

This means he would more than likely begin play on or around Monday, November 20 when the first round of the Maui Invitational begins.

All times listed are in Eastern Standard Time:

First Round
2:30 p.m. Marquette vs. VCU, ESPN2

5 p.m. Wichita State vs. California, ESPN2

9 p.m. Notre Dame vs. Chaminade, ESPNU

11:30 p.m. Michigan vs. LSU, ESPNU

Semifinal Round, Tuesday, November 21:

First 2 winners play at 1:30 p.m.,

the 2 winners on the bottom half of the bracket play at 10:30 p.m.

Both games to air on ESPN.

Championship Game:  Wednesday, November 22 at 10:30 p.m., ESPN2

Something to keep in mind:

Landry Shamet’s injury is different than when he was forced to redshirt two years ago after suffering a compound fracture in his left foot.

The reigning Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year averaged 11.4 points per game to go along with 3.3 assists and 2.8 rebounds for the Shockers last season.

With the Shockers getting ready to debut in the American Athletic Conference this fall, Gregg Marshall will have a steady supply of senior leadership to hopefully bring the Shockers back for another potential run at the Final Four.

Three year starters in Conner Frankamp, Shaquille Morris, Rashard Kelly, and Zach Brown should bring lots of excitement in Wichita, Kansas and elsewhere.  Most experts and bracketologists are projecting the Shockers as a preseason Top 5 team once the season starts shortly after Halloween.

Will Wade left VCU in the spring to be the new head coach at LSU.  If the alphabet soup game turns out right, it will be very interesting watching.

Final early storyline from me features Mike Brey having Notre Dame once again being loaded with talent.  Year in and year out, they play to their full potential and get spirited efforts from the starters to the bench and the Irish will be another team to look out for.  Thanks in large part since the announcement of Bonzie Colson deciding not to enter the NBA Draft, he will be sticking around for one more year.  The Fighting Irish are coming off a 26-win season, as they are hoping to get past their 2017 NCAA Tournament hangover after starting the second round game in Buffalo so slowly against the familiar press from West Virginia.  Notre Dame also is fortunate to have the steady hands of senior point guard Matt Farrell leading the charge.

I hope to do a short blog and podcast once that weekend rolls around, so I can give fans a primer on what to expect during those last three hectic days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday.  And yes, there will be more holiday tournaments to feast your eyes and ears on (and add your hungry mouths as well) during that long four-day holiday weekend.  Yes, my online fans–the plate will be full even before the cranberry sauce is added right next to your turkey and my favorite dish, the stuffing.

Bottom line is this:  These games will play a larger role in how the Selection Committee will choose the 2018 bracket.  I will have the key details in my next blog soon.

Pleasant dreams, everyone and I hope the West Coast is trying their best to stay cool during their record heat wave.

Louisville Sanctions from Sex Scandals Handed Down by NCAA

Four year probation period includes games played with ineligible players from November 2010 through July 2014

ESPN and other media outlets and websites reported what is the first wave of sanctions against Rick Pitino and the Louisville men’s basketball program.

On Thursday morning, the laundry list of sanctions includes but is not limited to the following:

  • A four year probation period starting in November 2017 and continuing into the 2020-2021 school year
  • Head Coach Rick Pitino will be suspended from coaching the first five ACC games in January 2018
  • Former assistant Andre McGee was given a ten year show of cause penalty.  This means McGee cannot apply for any NCAA type job until June 2027 at the earliest.

What was not mentioned at all was which specific games ineligible players played between November 2010 and March 2014.  In an Outside the Lines report on ESPN, some recruits who attended the parties where Katrina Powell led her sexual encounters inside some of the Louisville dorms were under the age of 18.

Remember, this ruling from the NCAA is not without precedent.  Syracuse, Kentucky, and separately years ago with SMU football in the 1980’s have had similar or harsher penalties.

As expected, Louisville proceeded with fighting the charges and they have 45 days to file a formal dispute.

What ESPN college basketball analyst Seth Greenberg mentioned on Thursday afternoon is what other shoes might drop in reference to the pending academic cheating scandal at North Carolina:

“Will this be enough to take down the banner?  North Carolina is simply waiting for something to happen.”

The Louisville Cardinals 2013 national championship could be subject to more questioning in the days and weeks going forward.

Thinking big picture here for a moment…

If any CEO of any organization feels inside his/her mind that they are running a clear ship free of any problems large or small and out of nowhere–without their knowledge they are handed a memo or worse, shown a video clip on their smartphone of a CMO or similar high ranking position doing things against the company rules with a secretary outside of business hours, the blame clearly falls with the CEO for failing to comply.

Rick Pitino is one of a handful of great coaches in basketball, I don’t care if you are talking college or in the NBA.  What we don’t know is how much he was in on what Andre McGree did in arranging for the strippers to visit with the recruits.

Through it all, Pitino continues to take the high road in standing firm that he did not see anything out of the ordinary happen behind closed doors.  It is such a shame we live in a society where mostly strange things happening are suddenly the norm and honesty for the most part is given the cold shoulder.

And if the NCAA acted even for a brief moment like most respectable organizations, the penalties would have been way harsher than this.   Will possible ineligibility to play in the 2018 ACC and NCAA Tournaments not be too far behind?

In the court of public opinion, myself and other fans who answer that proverbial questions would tend to do the same things that Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Friends do most of the time on America’s Got Talent–say a resounding “Yes.”

This story is not over.  It will be interesting to see what happens next at the school as a whole and especially with the working of the men’s basketball program, normally one of the nation’s top 40 programs in the country year in and year out.


Chris Holtmann leaves Butler to become new coach at Ohio State

Nationwide search lasted only four days

The news came rather swiftly on Friday afternoon.

According to media outlets ranging from ESPN, CBSSports.com, and the Associated Press, the 45 year old Holtmann leaves Butler after three very impressive years in which the Bulldogs reached the NCAA Tournament each time.

Something for the diehards in Columbus to hang their hat on is the fact that Butler reached the Sweet 16 this past March.

The contract is good for 8 years at a robust $24 million.

For Butler, the clock is ticking towards the July evaluation period and we will see if former longtime Marquette and Indiana coach Tom Crean will be heading north on desolate Indiana Highway 37 to reach the legendary Hinkle Fieldhouse.  According to Garry Parrish from CBSSports.com, he mentioned that Crean’s name is one huge name that the Bulldogs are hoping to covet.

We will see if and when anything transpires sometime next week.  In the meantime, it is back to Square One for the Buckeyes men’s basketball program.

It Is Official–Valparaiso Joins the Missouri Valley Conference

What a great opportunity this will present for the small private Northwest Indiana school (2016-2017 student enrollment was around 4,520) that produced ABC News meteorologist/taker of most things involving nature in Ginger Zee.

As I clearly posted in one of my last blogs, this will be a nice fit both in terms of fielding competitive basketball teams and also for fans and alumni traveling to places like Indiana State, Evansville, Bradley, Loyola of Chicago, Southern Illinois, and Illinois State.  Instead of traveling to Green Bay, Detroit, and Milwaukee, their longest in-conference road trips going forward will include stops at Drake, Northern Iowa, and Missouri State.  I expect many of the ESPN channels will feature Valpo on a lot more than in years past.

The Crusaders should blend in very nicely also in Arch Madness during the first weekend every March, as the Missouri Valley determines its’ automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.  With every MVC Tournament game being televised (CSN Chicago and Fox Sports Midwest still cover the first two rounds, while CBS Sports Network covers the two semifinals on Saturday and CBS continues their tradition of airing the final game less than 12 hours after most of America switches their clocks out of Standard Time into Daylight Savings Time), I expect coverage of Valparaiso basketball to hit a fever pitch 100 times more than in Bryce Drew’s senior year prior to them shocking the world in reaching their first Sweet 16 berth way back in 1998.

For second year coach Matt Lottich, they will be without Alec Peters and two other graduating seniors–but with a pair of transfers in the names of Joe Burton (by way of Oklahoma State) and Bakari Evelyn (Nebraska), the future indeed looks bright.

The school that left the Missouri Valley in Wichita State will have the AAC grab the final spotlight before the 2018 draw is released

With the Big Ten holding their annual postseason tournament a week early in Madison Square Garden in New York next March, CBS and the American Athletic Conference agreed on Tuesday that the final three games will air on CBS the weekend of March 10 and 11, 2018.

The semifinals will begin at 1 and approximately 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday, then the title game will begin at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday as they get the final honor of playing the final group of games before Selection Sunday.

The Big Ten will return with the final game honor when the tournament returns to the Midwest in 2019.

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 CBSSports.com 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.


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.