“Eternal”, by Depeche Mode
Released March 17, 2017 via Columbia Records
South Regional definitely had true Southern cooking
Joel Berry II scored 26 points for the North Carolina Tar Heels in a 92-80 victory over gamed Butler. There was one moment where Berry nearly turned his left ankle making a hard cut around the three-point line, but somehow he stayed upright and he finished the game.
Facing North Carolina Sunday afternoon at 5:05 p.m. Eastern time on CBS will be the second seed of Kentucky, who displayed a lot of leather in Coach John Calipari’s return to the place where he used to lead Memphis to a (now vacated) 2008 National Runner-up appearance. Kentucky got revenge after losing their last two meetings to UCLA in a final score of 86-75.
It was a highly entertaining game, with both teams nearly matching shot for shot and point for point. Even though the coach’s son Bryce Alford did all that he could to keep the Bruins close, in the end it was Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox who were both simply too much for UCLA to overcome.
Fox set an all-time, single-game freshman scoring record for any NCAA Tournament game with 39 points. 13 of those points came from the charity stripe in 15 attempts.
And UCLA will have to go forward without freshman sensation Lonzo Ball, as he has declared for the NBA Draft–this according to Jeff Goodman of ESPN and other credible media members. Ball finished his last college game with 10 points and 8 assists.
Even bigger news came from Head Coach Steve Alford:
“I am 100 percent, not going to Indiana.”
In postgame remarks to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman inquiring about the Indiana coach opening
T.J. Leaf and Isaac Hamilton each had 17 points, since it was one of the few times all season that UCLA was held under 90 points. They shot better, but Kentucky made the flashier plays and made the key defensive stops in the second half. At times, it looked like UK was resembling Press ‘N Seal with its’ extended arms and UCLA basically standing around, waiting for something big to happen. Whatever tactics the Bruins used to upset Kentucky in Rupp Arena this past December failed to materialize this time around.
And what a donnybrook we are in for on Sunday–two true bluebloods of the sport, as Roy Williams is in his 8th Elite Eight as a coach with North Carolina and John Calipari is in his 7th Elite Eight in nine years as Kentucky coach.
It will be all SEC showdown in the middle of Manhattan
Two semifinals in the Big Apple provided a lot of quality action. In the end, South Carolina stunned Baylor 70-50 and Wisconsin fell on a last second three at the overtime buzzer to Florida.
Florida had their game in control for most of the second half before the Badgers rallied to tie things up and force the extra period. In overtime, Wisconsin led 78-73 with 1:40 to play before Canyon Barry made a reverse layup. Ethan Happ split his two free throw attempts with 1:09 remaining and 20 seconds later, KeVaughn Allen (who finished with a game high 35 points) made a driving layup to cut Wisconsin’s lead to 80-77.
Chris Chiozza made a jump shot to tie the game at 81 with 24 seconds left to play and MSG was going nuts. Nigel Hayes of Wisconsin was later fouled with 4 seconds showing on the Madison Square Garden clock and nailed his two free throws.
Florida made one short pass and Chiozza did the rest. Sprinting as fast and as hard as he could, he breezed past two Wisconsin defenders, briefly stopped behind the three-point line and got the shot off with half a second to go.
Swish–nothing but nylon. Game over. Florida upends Wisconsin 84-83. Although Chiozza only finished with 8 points on the night/early Saturday morning, his last two shots add another chapter to the NCAA Tournament legend.
Nigel Hayes led five Badgers in double figures with 22, while Ethan Happ was close behind with 11 and Bronson Koenig chipped in with 13 as the Badgers limp home to Madison as tough luck losers again.
In my initial reaction, this game was not as thoroughly dramatic as a quarter century ago when Duke survived Kentucky in Christian Laettner’s perfect 10 for 10 night for the East Regional Championship inside the old Philadelphia Spectrum, but this 2017 East Regional semifinal game will certainly be remembered for years to come.
And that is what will lead off on Sunday afternoon with a 2:20 p.m. Eastern time tip. Florida and South Carolina met twice during the regular season, with both the Gators and Gamecocks each winning on their home court on January 18 and February 21, respectively.
For the 4 seed of Florida, this will be their fifth Elite Eight appearance since 2011 and this will be uncharted territory for the 7 seed of South Carolina. This means simply that new blood has entered in the penultimate showdown before the final weekend of play. And yes, my online friends–Super Saturday 2017 is just around the corner.
Please try to get some rest, and we will see you after the games on TBS.
The fun begins at 6:09 Eastern time from San Jose, as Gonzaga looks to earn their first ever trip to the Final Four after so many near misses against the only double digit still alive in Xavier. Then, at 8:49 p.m., it is off to Kansas City and a mostly pro-Kansas crowd hoping that Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk. will put most of their off-court shenanigans aside and try to take care of Oregon, looking for their first Final Four appearance since the very first time such an occasion took place inside the old Patten Gymnasium on the Northwestern University campus in Evanston, Illinois way back in 1939.