It all goes so quickly. After an exciting weekend, college basketball is just three games away from deciding its champion. The Final Four, in New Orleans, is set: Kentucky, the lone 1 seed, will play four seed Louisville, while two No. 2 seeds, Ohio State and Kansas, face off.
We’ve seen this before
Both Final Four games are rematches of contests from earlier in the season. Kansas beat Ohio State at home on Dec. 10, 78-67, but Buckeyes’ star Jared Sullinger did not play, meaning Saturday gives fans their first look at the highly-anticipated battle between All-American forwards Sullinger and Thomas Robinson. Kentucky beat Louisville at home 69-62 on New Year’s Eve. Louisville head coach Rick Pitino coached at Kentucky for eight seasons in the 90’s (winning a national title in 1996) before leaving to coach the Boston Celtics.
Rock Chalk Run
With 3:58 left in yesterday’s North Carolina-Kansas game, Harrison Barnes came out of the final media timeout and made one-of-two free throws to pull Carolina within one, 68-67. North Carolina wouldn’t score again, as the Jayhawks closed the game on a 12-0 run to punch their second ticket to the Final Four since 2008. Before Kansas’ final push, the biggest margin for either team was seven, and the first half—in which the teams combined to shoot 60 percent—ended with a tie at 47. But the Tar Heels were stymied by Bill Self’s triangle-and-two zone defense down the stretch. There is no telling what Carolina’s Tournament outcome would have been had point guard Kendall Marshall not gotten injured in the Sweet 16.
The Wildcats were favorites entering the Tournament, and their performance so far has certainly validated that. Down 10-5 early against a Baylor team that can match Kentucky’s athleticism and length, John Calipari called a timeout and Kentucky went on a 35-8 run and led 42-22 at half. The Cats won 82-70 in a game that wasn’t nearly that close. Kentucky is the highest-scoring team in the Tournament at 88 points per game.
Is Louisville the new UConn?
Looking at Louisville, it’s hard not to think of Connecticut’s season last year—both teams finished in the middle of the Big East, won the conference tournament, then stayed hot in the Big Dance. Like the Huskies, Louisville will face Kentucky in the Final Four. The Cardinals beat Florida to advance to New Orleans but perhaps their more impressive win was against 1 seed Michigan State on Thursday, in which they held the Spartans to 28 percent shooting. Michigan State had more turnovers (15) than made field goals (14) as Pitino improved to 10-0 in the Sweet 16.
No buzzer beaters
If this year’s Tournament isn’t remembered as one of the all-time greats, it will be because of the lack of thrilling finishes. We still haven’t witnessed a buzzer beater, though there were several more close calls this past weekend. On Thursday in the Sweet 16, Wisconsin misfired twice on its final possession as time expired and lost to Syracuse by one. The next night, 13 seed Ohio missed a shot from halfcourt at the end of regulation, eventually losing to North Carolina in the Tourney’s only overtime game. North Carolina State missed a three that would have tied it at the buzzer against Kansas.
Andrew Kahn is a contributor to CBS Local Digital Media who has written for ESPN the Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about college basketball and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.