The central storyline for this weekend’s males’s Remaining 4 in new Orleans is apparent. So apparent that there’s not even a degree in addressing it right here.
As a substitute, let’s take a look at 4 different causes that you ought to be targeted on, fascinated about and excited concerning the last three video games of the 2021-22 males’s faculty basketball season.
1. The North Carolina fan emotional rollercoaster
To me, probably the most intriguing facet of Duke and North Carolina’s first NCAA match assembly occurring within the Remaining 4 isn’t Coach Ok and even how the gamers deal with the gravity of the second, it’s the North Carolina fan base.
Earlier than this week, Tar Heel followers had all of it from a rivalry perspective. Your complete sports activities world had a watch on Durham as UNC gave Coach Ok the last word retirement present: A 94-81 ass-kicking in Krzyzewski’s last recreation at Cameron Indoor Stadium. A clearly perturbed Ok having to talk to a big group of followers, household and former gamers in a pre-scheduled postgame ceremony nearly felt nearly too good to be true.
It’s the kind of rivalry second that you simply get eternally … until your rival goes on to beat you in a much bigger, much more hyped assembly one or 4 weeks later. UNC appeared to be clear after shedding to Virginia Tech within the ACC match semifinals, they usually even obtained the added bonus of watching the Hokies go on to blast Duke by 15 in within the title recreation 24 hours later.
Now, Carolina followers are taking part in rivalry roulette.
For those who win on Saturday evening, it’s the best factor ever. The eternally rivalry trump card. The one factor sweeter than sending Coach Ok out of Cameron Indoor for the final time as a loser can be sending Coach Ok out for the final time, interval, as a loser. To do it within the Remaining 4, within the first NCAA match assembly ever between faculty basketball’s most distinguished rivals, nicely, that’s a dream even probably the most anarchic of Carolina followers couldn’t have presumably conjured up.
However for those who lose …
It doesn’t fully wipe away the euphoria of March 5, however there’s no technique to faux it wouldn’t be a big blow. As a substitute of with the ability to deliver up the 94-81 win with zero hesitation in blended firm, UNC followers can be confronted with a brand new actuality the place any reference to Coach Ok’s last recreation at Cameron Indoor can be rebuked instantly with: “What occurred a month later?” Participating within the dialog additional would absolutely open the door for point out of the truth that Duke received the season collection and that, maybe, the Blue Devils finally despatched Krzyzewski out on high along with his sixth nationwide championship.
The stakes are terribly excessive for everybody concerned on this, however it isn’t tough to make the case that North Carolina followers — particularly those who actually get into the Tobacco Highway rivalry — have extra on the road than anybody.
2. Potential Kansas awkwardness
Kansas may not be the betting favourite to chop down the nets in New Orleans (that’s Duke), however the Jayhawks are the final No. 1 seed standing and it wouldn’t shock anybody if that they had two wins remaining of their 2021-22 season.
NCAA President Mark Emmert averted some potential awkwardness when the 2020 NCAA match — which was set to be headlined by Kansas because the No. 1 general seed — was canceled due to COVID. There received’t be anyplace to cover if KU will get the job finished contained in the Superdome on Saturday and Monday.
Kansas is dealing with 5 Degree I violations (probably the most extreme) stemming from the FBI’s probe into faculty basketball, a narrative which broke all the best way again in September of
1562 2017. Three of these Degree I violations are pointed straight at KU head coach Invoice Self.
Whereas coaches like Rick Pitino (Louisville), Mark Gottfried (NC State … and Cal State Northridge), Sean Miller (Arizona) and Will Wade (LSU) have all misplaced jobs at the very least partly as a result of corruption scandal, Self has not solely remained at Kansas, he’s thrived. The Jayhawks went to the Remaining 4 in 2018, had been a 4-seed in 2019, had been set to be the pre-tournament favorites in 2020, had been a 3-seed in 2021, and are actually right here in New Orleans for his or her fifteenth Remaining 4.
If the success alone wasn’t sufficient, there was additionally the “Late Evening on the Phog” season tip-off occasion that featured a efficiency from Snoop Dogg full with girls dancing on poles and the rapper capturing a cash gun into the gang. Self, who had been hit with allegations from the NCAA simply days prior, was additionally there rocking gold chains and an Adidas shirt.
Nobody is aware of precisely what to anticipate when the NCAA/IARP lastly declares Kansas’ punishment sooner or later between this summer season and the autumn of 2067, however it’s secure to imagine that Self shall be dealing with some kind of private ramifications. Don’t count on any of this to be addressed earlier than, throughout or after the tv protection of Saturday’s or (doubtlessly) Monday’s video games, however that doesn’t imply that persons are conscious.
Everybody likes seeing Mark Emmert — or anybody from the NCAA, actually — uncomfortable. The potential for that to occur this weekend in The Massive Simple is fairly excessive.
3. Duke’s late-game excellence
For Duke/Coach Ok haters, probably the most irritating factor about this run by the Blue Devils has been its validity. There have been no extraordinarily questionable calls at extraordinarily necessary instances, no insanely flukey breaks that “solely Duke would get”. The Blue Devils have merely performed as much as their potential and been higher than all 4 of their opponents to this point.
At no time has their prowess been on extra of a whole show than within the last minutes of their second spherical win over Michigan State and their Candy 16 overcome Texas Tech.
On the primary Sunday of the match, Michigan State led Duke, 70-65, and Coach Ok’s profession gave the impression to be on life assist. The Devils then discovered a technique to play maybe their 5 finest minutes of the season (as much as that time) within the season’s most vital spot. They ended the sport on a 20-6 run, which included an 8-0 run, and compelled the Spartans into lacking seven of their last 9 pictures.
With the competition hanging within the stability, it was sophomore guard Jeremy Roach — not Duke stars Paolo Banchero or Trevor Keels or Wendell Moore Jr. — who delivered the sport’s greatest shot.
“The final 5 minutes, I feel they made each shot,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo stated after the sport.
He wasn’t improper. Duke linked on all 5 of its area objective makes an attempt within the recreation’s last 5 minutes, solely misfiring on the free-throw line.
Issues appeared much more dire within the subsequent spherical towards third-seeded Texas Tech, which really entered the night as a 1-point favourite over the Dukies. After trailing the Pink Raiders by 4 at halftime and taking part in from behind for the primary 11 minutes of the second half, Coach Ok’s staff as soon as once more discovered a brand new gear.
Duke didn’t miss a shot within the recreation’s last 8 minutes and 25 seconds, connecting on their last eight area objective makes an attempt and scoring on 9 of their final 12 offensive possessions. When the ultimate horn sounded, Texas Tech had allowed an opponent over the 75-point mark for the primary time all season, because the Devils rolled into the Elite 8 with a 78-73 victory.
There’s little debate that Duke is probably the most naturally gifted of the 4 groups nonetheless standing. Banchero is likely to be the No. 1 decide on this June’s NBA draft. Griffin must be a high 10 decide, and Moore in addition to huge man Mark Williams might go within the first spherical as nicely. For those who’re seeking to see next-level expertise firing on all cylinders this weekend, pay the closest consideration to the ultimate minutes of a decent recreation involving the Blue Devils.
4. Villanova seeking to make historical past
Villanova isn’t simply the very best free-throw capturing staff within the nation, the Wildcats are at the moment the very best free-throw capturing staff within the historical past of school basketball. ‘Nova is capturing 83.0 % from the charity stripe this season. Except that drops considerably this weekend in New Orleans, the Wildcats will break the 1983-84 Harvard Crimson’s all-time document of 82.2 %.
At 75.0 %, injured second-leading scorer Justin Moore was really the worst free-throw shooter of Villanova’s core group of contributors, so his absence shouldn’t harm them of their quest for historical past. Collin Gillespie (90.5%), Brandon Slater (87.8%), Caleb Daniels (85.1%), Eric Dixon (82.5%) and Jermaine Samuels (77.5%), all shoot an absurdly excessive share from the stripe and have been lights out from the road in late-game conditions.
In 4 NCAA match video games up to now, Villanova is 53-of-59 from the charity stripe, good for 90.0 %. The Wildcats had been an ideal 15-of-15 from the road of their Elite 8 win over Houston.