Congratulations to Louisville, Michigan, Syracuse and Wichita State—and a giant get well soon to Kevin Ware.
After a topsy-turvy first few rounds, we've finally reached the Final Four.
Who played a huge role in helping his team advance beyond the Elite Eight? Which guys made sure their teams didn't have to play any games in Atlanta next weekend? And who the heck is that guy from the AT&T commercials that get played during 98 percent of media timeouts?
We've answered all of those questions and more in identifying the biggest winners, losers, heroes and goats from the Elite Eight.
Nik Stauskas had not been having a great stretch of games prior to Sunday. Over his last four games, Stauskas was averaging 7.8 points per game and shooting just 12.5 percent from three-point range.
Naturally, he went out and matched a career high of 22 points behind 6-of-6 shooting from behind the arc. Technically he missed one shot right before the half, but was bailed out by a silly foul by Michael Frazier II.
His 19 first-half points were instrumental in keeping Florida from ever getting back into the game after the Gators fell behind 13-0 just three minutes into the contest.
The Wolverines will need him to keep up that hot shooting next weekend against Syracuse if they're going to advance to the National Championship.
I’m not going to call it a shocker. I’m better than that. But Wichita State did pull off a fairly unexpected upset on Saturday night. Malcolm Armstead led the way with 14 points.
So why is he a loser in this here slide show? Because it took him 21 shot attempts to score those 14 points.
That’s 0.67 points per shot.
For sake of comparison, Grambling State—the team that went 0-28 with an average final score of 76.4-49.7—averaged 0.97 points per shot this season. Take Armstead out of the equation and combine every other player from Wichita State and Ohio State, and they averaged 1.23 points per shot on Saturday night.
Perhaps even worse, he was a complete ghost down the stretch. Over the final 13 minutes of the game, he missed all three of his shot attempts and committed three fouls while registering one assist, no points, no rebounds and no steals.
You can credit LaQuinton Ross and Deshaun Thomas for nearly pulling off the comeback, but the real reason Wichita State almost blew a 20-point lead is that its leading scorer to this point in the tournament decided to call it a night just 27 minutes into the game.
It was a great weekend for Syracuse, but it was a fantastic weekend for Michael Carter-Williams.
ESPN’s Chad Ford hasn’t updated his Big Board since Tuesday morning, but at that time he had Carter-Williams as the 13th-best draft prospect, writing:
“The chorus of skeptics about Carter-Williams continues to grow despite a few solid efforts for Syracuse over the past few weeks … A strong showing against Indiana could help propel Carter-Williams back into the Top 10.”
If you’ll recall, he had quite the showing against the Hoosiers. MCW followed up a career high in scoring against Indiana by simply stuffing the stat sheet against Marquette. In a game in which hardly anyone did anything offensively, he turned in 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists, five steals and one block in leading the Orange to the Final Four.
Not only is he carrying Syracuse about as well as anyone has since Carmelo Anthony, but chances are he’ll become the expected savior for an NBA lottery team this June.
For the second time in as many games, Evan Ravenel was unable to elude our disappointed eye.
With 30 seconds remaining in the game and the Buckeyes trailing by six, Aaron Craft grabbed a defensive rebound off a lay-up that Wichita State’s Ron Baker shouldn’t have even attempted. Suddenly, there was a realistic chance that they could come back and tie the game with a little bit of luck.
Craft got the ball up the court to LaQuinton Ross, who promptly missed a three-pointer.
That really hurt the Buckeyes’ chances of finishing off the comeback, but not as badly as the fact that Evan Ravenel grabbed the offensive rebound.
At that point, I swear I heard circus music in my head for six seconds.
Let’s at least give Ravenel a little credit—he had the wherewithal to realize that his team needed three-pointers. However, it apparently took him two dribbles toward the three-point line to remember that he was 0-1 in his four-year career from behind the arc.
He got about to the free-throw line before deciding that he should probably look to pass to someone else. Unfortunately, when he went to grab the ball, it was knocked out of his hands.
He corralled it back and abandoned the idea of a three-pointer, taking one dribble toward the basket before serving up a lame duck for Carl Hall to block with all the force of a Misty May-Treanor spike.
I was even rooting for Ohio State, but couldn’t help but laugh at how hopelessly inept Ravenel looked in those final moments of his collegiate career.
For the fifth time in the last eight tournaments, we have a Final Four representative from outside the “super six” conferences.
To help put that feat in context, the Big 12 has only sent two teams to the Final Four in the past nine years—Kansas in 2008 and again in 2012. Parity might be awful for your bracket, but it’s great for the game when teams come from out of seemingly nowhere to make a deep run.
It’s easily the most memorable part of each tournament. Think back to 2006, and you’ll fondly remember George Mason’s trip to the Final Four. Though it officially never happened—three cheers for John Calipari—Memphis’ trip to the championship game in 2008 was beyond memorable. And who can forget Butler’s back-to-back trips to the final game of the 2010 and 2011 tournaments?
Whether they win it all or not, we’ll look back on this year’s tournament and instantly be reminded of the Shockers’ surprising run to the Final Four, as well as Florida Gulf Coast’s unbelievable journey to the Sweet 16.
There are two statistics that get way too overblown in March: three-point shooting and defensive field-goal percentage.
I stupidly get sucked into the first one every year. "What's that? Montana shoots 38.5 percent from three-point range? And Montana's first game is against a team that plays a 2-3 zone? Heck yes I'll pick that upset!"
At the end of the day, the sample sizes on those percentages are just way too small. If 15 of Montana's made three-pointers had rimmed out, it would have finished the season in 85th place instead of 19th place. Fifteen three-pointers might sound like a lot, but it's just one every 84 minutes. I'd say we can at least chalk that much up to just the luck of the bounce.
Over the past two games, Michigan destroyed every theory about defensive field-goal percentages. Everyone talked about how Kansas led the nation defensively. Florida was also touted as a very strong defensive team.
Michigan shot a combined 47.8 percent in two games against those alleged juggernauts.
Weird things happen in March. I'm not saying you should completely disregard shooting percentages, but don't expect them to hold true as often as rebounding margins or things like steals and turnovers.
Believe it or not, this is actually Peyton Siva's senior season.
Every year, there are a few guys who just make you wonder how in the world they still have years of eligibility remaining. If you feel like Siva has been playing for Louisville for at least seven seasons, you're not alone.
After his performance in the second half against Duke, he might finally be able to graduate with a national championship.
Louisville led by just three points with 15 minutes remaining when Siva took over the game. In a span of four minutes, he made three baskets and assisted on two others. Suddenly, the Cardinals had a 13-point lead and the game was effectively finished.
Gorgui Dieng's box score was probably more impressive—14 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks—but, as has been the case for each of his "four" years in college, Siva was the emotional leader and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.
Erik Murphy had a pretty impressive senior year. He led the team in scoring at 12.6 points per game while also averaging 5.5 rebounds. Even at 6'10" he was the second-most accurate three-point shooter on the team, making 46 percent of his attempts.
He averaged 16.5 points per game over the first two rounds of the tournament, helping carry the team somewhat effortlessly into the Sweet 16.
Sunday was not Murphy's day.
Oh sure, he had eight rebounds, a pair of assists and another pair of blocks. Unfortunately, he shot 0-of-11 and put a great big doughnut on the score sheet.
Murphy also had a rough night on Friday against Florida Gulf Coast, scoring just four points. Prior to Friday, he had scored at least six points in every game this season.
The fact that you know exactly who I’m talking about could have made him a winner before now.
Similar to Verizon’s “Can you hear me now?” guy of yesteryear, our nameless advertiser of a cell phone provider has gained fame through repetition and comedy. The endless cycle of kids are what make us laugh, but his never-changing demeanor is the star of the show.
If you must know, his name is Beck Bennett, and the Chicago Tribune caught up with him two months ago.
AT&T recently debuted a new “It’s not complicated” commercial in which he’s sitting around a table with Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. If you watched all four games this weekend, that's hardly breaking news—those commercials aired during just about every timeout.
By having the composure to not burst into laughter when kids say the darndest things, he earned the honor of working with four of the most famous former NBA players. What a lucky guy.
It isn’t very often that there’s only one college basketball game going on for an entire two hour window. Unless you count the CIT game between East Carolina and Evansville, that was the case when Syracuse and Marquette stepped onto the court on Saturday afternoon.
They proceeded to play one of the ugliest college basketball games in the past two seasons, made only that much uglier by being the only game we could watch at the time.
I’m not saying games need to be played in the 80s to be fun to watch. Nor am I saying that Syracuse’s defense wasn’t incredible. It’s just difficult to watch hopelessly missed shot after hopelessly missed shot.
It’s one thing when Penn State and Illinois play a 38-33 game on a random Wednesday in the middle of February, but we can’t have these things happening on the big stage.
Reality check: People already dislike college basketball. There are too many teams. Possessions are too long. There are too many timeouts and fouls at the end of games. The block/charge call is a complete joke. I know the complaints, and I love the game regardless.
But there’s a small window each March in which virtually every male between the ages of 10 and 85 tunes in for some college hoops. In the ongoing war to expand that viewership to the rest of the season, Syracuse and Marquette submitted a big L for the NCAA.
Coming into action on Saturday, Carl Hall’s career high in blocks was four, which he recorded against Creighton in the MVC championship game.
On Saturday night, though, he blocked a shot 23 seconds into the game and added another two in the final 46 seconds en route to six blocks on the night.
As Avi Wolfman-Arent referenced on Saturday, Hall was also heroic for the charge he drew against Deshaun Thomas early in the second half. On one hand, it was Thomas’ third foul, forcing him to play more cautiously for the final 18:50 of the game. On the other hand, Hall took a pretty nasty looking elbow on the play and hit the back of his head on Ron Baker’s knee on the way down.
He missed less than a minute of game action before coming back to score the first points of the second half.
Hall wound up scoring just eight points in the game, but clearly played a huge role in the Shockers’ success.
Duke had little choice but to rely heavily upon Rasheed Sulaimon in this game.
Ryan Kelly entered the game having missed his previous 18 three-point attempts. Seth Curry was playing with a stress fracture in his leg on roughly 40 hours of rest since the previous game against Michigan State. Quinn Cook had scored less than four points per game in the first three games of the tournament.
Mason Plumlee was going to get his points and rebounds, but he was inevitably going to let Louisville's guards score even more points in the paint than he would.
It was pretty much Sulaimon or bust, and he simply didn't have it on Sunday. He shot just 1-of-10, scoring three points and committing two turnovers before fouling out with a few minutes remaining.