South Carolina coach Frank Martin, the guy with the flashy suits and tough love leadership, led his potent pack of underdogs into the Final Four for the first time in school history. Senior Sindarius Thornwell, determined to extend his final season, stole the thunder Florida guard Chris Chiozza garnered on Friday with 26 points and a seal the deal steal with 40 seconds on the clock. They may be the dark horse in this race, but their victories over “better” teams have been far from a photo finish.
Mark Few’s Gonzaga gang finally made it to the Final Four after years of carrying the Cinderella moniker, and now after eight Sweet 16 appearances, it’s time for the bridesmaid never a bride Bulldogs to put a proverbial ring on their fingers. With their offensive arsenal, 12 of 26 from downtown, and stifling defense in their 83-59 dismantling of Xavier, this may be the best team Spokane has brought to the dance.
After narrowly escaping a couple of nail biters Oregon ousted number one seeded Kansas 74-60 en route to their first national semi-finals championship in nearly 80 years. The Jayhawks never really jived after freshman standout Josh Jackson fell into early foul trouble, which was just a footnote to the offensive barrage of Ennis, Dorsey and Brooks. The magnificent three were a collective 11 from behind the arc – Dorsey leading the charge with 27 points, Brooks banking 13 on the boards. For everyone who counted the Ducks down and out after two close calls, brackets beware – because even without Boucher, they are getting better with age.
The top two NCAA powerhouses closed the Elite Eight show with a performance indicative of the madness of March. In the final seconds, Malik Monk tied the game with defenders in his face, and before Kentucky could savor the moment, Luke Maye went Christian Laettner with the game winning jump shot heard around the world. Maye, who was brilliant off the bench against Butler, has quickly become the best obscure sixth man in college basketball. This weapon will serve North Carolina well in their duel in the desert against Oregon, but the outcome will be determined by who’s hotter from downtown, and right now, it’s the Ducks.