The tournament's number one overall seed coasted to the Final Four. Dispatching of North Carolina A&T and Colorado State with ease in the first weekend of play, and beating upstart Oregon to set up a showdown with Duke in the Elite Eight.
Sunday's game against the Blue Devils took an ugly turn late in the first half when sophomore guard Kevin Ware took a gruesome fall, breaking his leg after jumping trying to make a routine play on defense. The injury had a chilling effect as players and coaches were left weeping on the court while Ware lay near the Louisville bench.
Ware, who has really come on late for the Cardinals, giving Rick Pitino a reliable go-to to compliment the Peyton Siva-Russ Smith combo, scored a career-high 11 points in the Sweet 16 against Oregon.
Everyone watching the game had to be rooting for Louisville after that gruesome injury. The Cardinals went on a 22-6 in the second half to grab a Final Four berth, beating Duke 85-63.
The surgery on his right leg reportedly went well. #prayforware
Turning attention away from the Ware injury, Louisville is certainly looking like the overall number one seed. Smith has scored more than 20 points in each of Louisville's tournament games, leading the `Cards to Atlanta.
You won't read any Shockers puns here. It's just too easy.
So I'll just say this. The ninth-seeded Wichita State Shockers has surprised everyone in making it out of the West region, knocking off the one seed Gonzaga and second seed Ohio State to earn a trip to Atlanta. While all eyes were adorned with Florida Gulf Coast and its cinderella run, the pride of the Missouri Valley Conference is the tournament's true underdog tale. They held off a late rally from the Buckeyes to earn a 70-66 win over the heavy favorites Saturday night.
This team comes out and brings it. Cleanthony Early, Carl Hall, Malcolm Armstead, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton give you all they have. Head coach Gregg Marshall keeps telling them they belong here, and they are proving it. This team will not be satisfied with just making the Final Four and seem keen on making the most of this run. Something tells me the Wichita State team watched the 30 for 30
Survive and Advance
documentary before starting this magical run.
Trey Burke gave us the moment of the tournament late Friday night when he hit a big-time three to force overtime against the one-seeded Kansas Jayhawks. The Wolverines eventually beat Kansas 87-85 behind Burke's 23 points (all in the second half and overtime) and freshman center Mitch McGary, 25 points and 14 rebounds, who has really come on for Michigan in the tournament.
The Wolverines dominated the Gators Sunday getting a beast-mode performance from freshman Nik Stauskas. The Ontario native shot 6-for-6 from three-point range leading Michigan to a 79-59 Final Four-clinching win. The school's first Final Four appearance since the days of Chris Webber and the Fab Five.
Michigan is talented at every position, though doesn't have much of a bench, which could prove to be this team's Achilles heal in Atlanta.
Syracuse suffocated its opponents in reaching the Final Four. Some games, the Orange looked like the tournament's best team (Indiana, Montana) while others they've looked pedestrian (California, Marquette). Despite the up-and-down play, Syracuse made it to Atlanta behind its vaunted 2-3 zone and red-hot point guard Michael Carter-Williams. MCW finally looks focused and unstoppable this tournament, using his 6-foot-6 frame and talented skill set to dominate the point guard position.
Syracuse has the athletes to win the championship, but whether or not they show up is yet to be seen. Regardless of what transpires in Atlanta, coach Jim Boeheim has done a fabulous job with this team, putting aside the NCAA investigation distraction and getting his players to peak at the right time.