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The Morning Dish – Monday, March 27, 2017

March 27, 2017 The Morning Dish 1 Comment

Four teams are all that remain. There is something unexpected, and yet at the same time expected, about the teams that remain. In particular, Sunday’s regional finals provide a big study in contrasts, yet both also provide great stories.

The first game was held at the World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden. The SEC was guaranteed to have a team in the Final Four, and Florida and South Carolina split their two meetings during the season. Florida looked good for a lot of the half and into the second half, before South Carolina started to wear down the Gators. The Gators, you will recall, won an overtime thriller on Friday night in the second game, which didn’t tip until after 10 p.m. Eastern and didn’t end until after 1 a.m. That had to play some role later on, even though no player or coach will ever say it.

South Carolina has played like a team of destiny, and they took over in the final minutes to seal the game. The Gamecocks join Gonzaga as teams in the Final Four for the first time, and Frank Martin has done more than just rebuild the program. He has brought them to new heights. He and his staff raised the talent level and then coached them up, and now a team that had a tough enough time being relevant is a Final Four team, and should be more than that going forward.

It’s really quite a story. South Carolina is an SEC team smack in the middle of ACC country. Martin has had doubters at every turn in his coaching career, but he has now won in Columbia and found a home there. The Gamecocks have the SEC Player of the Year, but he’s still far from a household name. Chances are, few casual fans had ever heard of Sindarius Thornwell before the NCAA Tournament, and his stellar play here hasn’t changed that much. It doesn’t change the results, though, and it’s a neat story.

The second game was a heavyweight bout between two old powerhouse programs, not to mention the top two seeds in their region. The South Region was the only one this year to match up the top two seeds for the final, though the Midwest did get a No. 1 vs. a No. 3. It was the second straight rematch of a regular season meeting for Kentucky, but this time the Wildcats were hoping for a repeat of the regular season result instead of a different outcome as the No. 2 Wildcats took on No. 1 North Carolina.

The game was everything we could want. It was close, it had lead changes and ties, with the last tie coming late. Kentucky was fighting back, getting a couple of turnovers, then they got a big three-pointer from Malik Monk to tie the game at 73 with seconds left. North Carolina didn’t call timeout and ran the ball up the floor. They worked the ball with seconds running down not to Justin Jackson, the ACC Player of the Year. Not to Joel Berry II, one of the most important players in the country, not just for this Tar Heel team. Not to Kennedy Meeks, the big senior post player who’s seen a Tar Heel team that was tough to figure out and a team that lost a heart-breaking national championship game in his career in Chapel Hill. Not to Theo Pinson, who has missed a lot of time but was healthy for this one and made key plays.

The ball went to Luke Maye, a sophomore forward from Huntersville, just north of Charlotte. As the season has gone along, he has steadily grown in his role as a key reserve, and in the NCAA Tournament he has been terrific. He had 16 points in Friday’s win over Butler, going 6-10 from the field and grabbing 12 rebounds. He had played well on Sunday, too.

Maye caught the ball on the left wing, put up a jumper, and surpassed Friday night’s point total as it swished home with 0.3 seconds left to give him the most important of his 17 points, and North Carolina held on for a 75-73 win and a return to the Final Four, their record 19th appearance.

While the Tar Heels stand out very much from the other Final Four teams in terms of how many times they have been there, there is also an interesting note about the coaches. Three of the four are making their first trip; only Roy Williams has been there before, and he is going for the ninth time.

Ted Sarandis and I talk about all of this and more on College Basketball Tonight, joined by a pair of special guests in Mount St. Mary’s head coach Jamion Christian and our Ray Floriani.

 

Side Dishes

Before the Tar Heels’ victory, there was a scary moment when they were en route to the FedEx Forum. A Memphis police officer leading their bus through the downtown section crashed in an intersection. The officer did not suffer serious injuries, but the team got off the bus to check on what happened and Roy Williams checked on the officer.

Not long after the Tar Heels’ win, the tip times for the national semifinals were announced by Turner Sports and CBS Sports. Gonzaga will take on South Carolina at 6:09 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, April 1, with Oregon-North Carolina to tip about 40 minutes after the conclusion of that one.

 

Tonight’s Menu

The CBI begins its best-of-three championship series tonight, with Wyoming visiting Coastal Carolina at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Joe Almeida says:

    Good stuff Phil!…. dumb question but- where do I LISTEN to “College Basketball Tonight”??? Thx

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College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

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March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

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