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The Morning Dish – Sunday, April 2, 2017

April 2, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

North Carolina will get a chance to finish what it started last year. Gonzaga gets a shot at finishing what it started nearly 20 years ago.

You can also go with East vs. West, blueblood vs. new(er) power, behemoth public research institution vs. small Catholic school, or any other number of themes. There will be no shortage of storylines, but a matchup with two No. 1 seeds in the national championship game should provide us a thrilling conclusion to the 2017 NCAA Tournament, especially if Saturday’s Final Four semifinals are any indication.

The two games were decided by a combined five points after Gonzaga outlasted stubborn South Carolina 77-73 and North Carolina held off Oregon 77-76. The final game on Monday will give us a one-loss Bulldogs team against the Tar Heels from the vaunted, massively hyped Atlantic Coast Conference.

One often finds stories on the eve of the championship game about that matchup being the one that “everyone wanted to see” or matching “the two best teams all season.” It’s some ultimate revisionist history in a sport with 350+ teams and where often any of at least two dozen of them are realistic candidates to win a national championship if they get hot and/or the bracket breaks right.

Yet in this case, at least the latter just might be true. Maybe. North Carolina and Villanova appeared to be the two best teams in the nation entering this year’s tourney, at least from this estimation. The defending champion Wildcats were knocked out early but the runners up from a year ago Tar Heels are still alive, and while not perfect, have alternated between dominant and merely a very, very tough out all season.

The latter is precisely what Carolina was Saturday night. It did not play a perfect game, falling behind by eight points late in the first half and then letting a 10-point lead dwindle late. It wasn’t always pretty, and it took some tenacious offensive rebounding off the Heels’ own missed free throws in the final seconds to close it out, but that latter attention to detail is exactly why UNC is a hard team to finish off.

Gonzaga wasn’t considered a serious contender for the national title by many even entering this tourney, but that’s solely based on 1) its conference affiliation, 2) the fact that some felt like they just couldn’t get a real read on the Bulldogs even as they dominated the West Coast Conference, or 3) just pure prejudice against teams like them for some. Yet when a one-loss team gets this far, all questions have been answered.

The Zags had to withstand a gritty effort by South Carolina, which rallied from 14 points down in the second half to take the lead. The Gamecocks played with as much heart as Frank Martin coaches with, and their contribution to this year’s tournament will be remembered for a long time.

Gonzaga responded down the stretch, though, fighting back on both ends after all momentum favored South Carolina. Twin towers Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins were both superb, and the Bulldogs were just that little bit better than the Gamecocks in what was overall an excellent game.

The Zags have earned their way to this stage, regardless of the silly internet hot takes whining about their supposed easy path to the championship game, attempts at being thought-provoking that really are nothing more than tired, uneducated, and barely dignify a response. This is a team on a run that started back in 1997-98 with a Top of the World Classic title, gained notoriety with an Elite Eight appearance the next year and since has seen the blossoming of a mid-pack WCC program into what is nothing less than one of the very best programs in the country. That description also fits North Carolina, of course, and that combination has us set up for what should be an outstanding final chapter of the 2016-17 season.

Side Dishes:

  • Phil Kasiecki and Ted Sarandis got together for their latest Talking Hoops podcast after the national semifinals, which you can listen to here. Both will also team up Sunday night for College Hoops Tonight, with guests and commentary in advance of tomorrow night’s championship game.

Today’s Menu:

  • The only basketball on the menu is the NCAA Division I women’s national championship game, and while an all-SEC matchup between Mississippi State and South Carolina may sound like a bad thing for national interest, it’s a great, great thing for the sport. One of these two schools will win its first national title, a very welcome development for a sport that once used to be the definition of parity (with schools like Immaculata, Wayland Baptist and Cheyney dominating in its early years and Louisiana Tech and Old Dominion after them) yet has been anything but of late.
  • Other than that, it’s a good day to relax. Maybe pop in the ESPN 30 for 30 about Jim Valvano and N.C. State’s miracle run through the 1983 NCAA tourney, always a worthwhile watch at this time of year.

Have a terrific Sunday.

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Hoopville Archives

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.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

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Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

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Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

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