Wow, what a tournament it has been. Upsets galore, bracket busting of epic proportions and we had the chance to watch all of it, in its entirety. A big thumbs up for the new television deal which brought in the Turner family of networks in early rounds enabling every March Madness game to be shown in its entirety, available to everyone (with cable). How improbable are the Final Four teams meeting Saturday night at Houston’s Reliant Stadium? ESPN’s bracket contest with nearly six million entries had only two that called the National Semi Finals dead on. If you are trying to make up for tournament losses, Kentucky is the favorite in Las Vegas at 8-5; VCU is the long shot at 7-1.
The underdogs tip it off first, with #11 Virginia Commonwealth and #8 Butler scheduled for a 609pm (EST). Butler making an improbable return to the Final Four, especially after losing its best player, Gordon Hayward, early to the NBA. Butler looked like anything BUT a repeat candidate early on, with a 6-5 record in the Horizon Conference. The Bulldogs will rely on the inside/outside game of Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack and stubborn defense. VCU was a “bubble team”, which was targeted by the Alabama’s, Colorado’s and Virginia Tech’s of the world as being undeserving. The Rams appeared to be fading after a solid season, losing their last four conference games. VCU is led by big time forward Jamie Skeen who transferred to Richmond from Wake Forest and exciting point guard Joey Rodriguez.
#4 Kentucky and #3 Connecticut will tip immediately following, scheduled for 849pm. The Wildcats represent the old “blue blood” tradition with their 14th appearance in the National Semifinals. Connecticut looks to save face for the Big East conference which sent a record shattering eleven teams to the March Madness field. UConn also features the most exciting player left standing, Kemba Walker, who has led the Huskies to nine wins in 19 days beginning with the Big East tournament. While considered the “old guard” of the Final Four, the Wildcats are anything but that. UK lost five players to the NBA draft from last season. “New” freshman lead Kentucky, guard Brandon Knight and forward Terrence Jones, both strong candidates to be “one and done”.
Not to be outdone, the Connecticut Lady Huskies are also in the Final Four. The ladies semifinals and finals taking place in Indianapolis, one day behind the men. While the men’s tournament saw all #1 and #2 seeds go down, the ladies saw the elite survive. Sunday at 7pm its #2 Texas A&M taking on #1 Stanford, followed by #1 UConn and #2 Notre Dame with the winners meeting Tuesday night for the championship.
I would like to gladly pass along that Wichita State won the NIT championship last night, beating Alabama 66-57 at Madison Square Garden. Shocker guard Graham Hatch was awarded tourney MVP. Any time I can bring bad news from the campus of our arch rival Crimson Tide, I cherish the moment.
A champion has been crowned in the CIT post season tournament as Santa Clara defeated Iona in the championship game on Wednesday night. Tonight, it’s the third and deciding game in the CBI tournament. Creighton at Oregon are tied at a game apiece in their unique “best of” format.
Finally, we save the best for last. Last night the annual NCAA slam dunk and three point challenges were held as part of the Final Four festivities in Houston, Texas. Andrew Goudelock from College of Charleston defeated Chris Warren of Ole Miss to win the long range shooting competition. Goudelock converting 60 shots in the three rounds for the victory. The big news came from the slam dunk competition, where a 5’10 white kid with a 50”vertical took home the prize! Here’s a look at Jacob Tucker from Illinois College.
Enjoy you weekend with the Final Four, then the National Championship game on Monday night!