If it was a perfect world, all four #1 seeds would make the 2014 NCAA Final Four, but since it is an almost imperfect world, only one #1 seed (Florida) was joined by 2-seed Wisconsin, 7-seed Connecticut and 8-seed Kentucky. They call it March Madness for exactly this reason.
Only once in tournament history has all four #1 seeds made it to the Final Four. In 2008, UCLA, North Carolina, Memphis and eventual champion Kansas did it.
During the march to determine the National Champion this year, there were 60 teams and 4 play-ins that did not make it, they fell victim to the madness and could make a case for being mad, at themselves, for failing to get it done.
Foremost among these would be the three #1 seeds that failed (Arizona, Virginia and Wichita State), and three #2 seeds that failed (Michigan, Villanova and Kansas), not to mention #4 Michigan State, #4 Louisville, #3 Iowa State, #3 Creighton and #4 San Diego State.
For those who missed, when all was said and done, more was said than done, as Lou Holtz would say.
So, here is what happened to the Elite 8: Wisconsin upset Arizona, Connecticut upset Michigan State, and Kentucky upset Michigan. Only Florida was on target, eliminating Dayton.
#1 Florida now faces #7 Connecticut, and #2 Wisconsin faces #8 Kentucky for all the marbles. The winners will play in the National Championship Game.
Here are some of the major highlights on the road to the Final 4:
In the only #1 versus #2 game, top-seed Arizona had 5 potentially productive players on the floor, and Wisconsin had Frank Kaminsky, Kaminsky, Kaminsky, Kaminsky and Kaminsky, and that was all the Badgers needed to upset #1 Arizona in overtime, 64-63.
Kaminsky, a 7-foot, junior forward (the Badgers play 3 guards and 2 forwards in a “swing” offense that relies on good passing, screening and cutting), scored from everywhere (rim jams to 3-pointers), racking up 28 points (6 in overtime), 11 rebounds (for a double-double), and the 28 included three 3-pointers.
Kaminsky’s supporting cast acted like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, going a combined 10-for-34 from the field (29%). Without Kaminsky, Wisconsin would have lost to Arizona. The victory was huge for 69-year-old Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, who won his 704th victory in 30 years of coaching (704-223 for a 76% NCAA winning percentage), because he earned his first Final 4 appearance. Wisconsin’s win in overtime was also the 7th overtime game in this year’s tournament, tying an NCAA record.
#1 Florida, the only #1 seed to make it to the Final 4 this year, put an abrupt stop to the #11 Dayton Flyers, winning by 10, 62-52. The Gators were led by senior guard Scottie Wilbekin’s career high 23 points and no turnovers, and the win was Florida’s 30th straight.
Dayton had used a relentless, 11-deep rotation in the tournament to score upset wins over Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford. Florida got done what the other 3 losers could not. It was not a good day for the Miller boys as Dayton coach Archie lost to Florida, and his brother Sean, the Arizona coach, lost to Wisconsin. That said, making it to the Elite 8 is a BIG deal.
The biggest loser among the Elite 8 was the #4 Michigan State Spartans, who looked like they could have contended for the national title. Instead, Tom Izzo’s crew was upset by the #7 Connecticut Huskies, who became the first #7 seed to reach the Final 4 since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, 29 years ago.
Michigan State had the Huskies on the run before losing, 60-54, in a game that was much closer than the score. Connecticut pulled out its not-so-secret weapon in the 2nd half, senior guard Shabazz Napier, the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
Napier scored 17 of his 25 points in the 2nd half, hitting three huge free throws with 30 seconds remaining. The undersized Huskies held the Spartans to just 6 offensive rebounds and only 6 points in the paint.
Michigan State’s two seniors, center Adreian Payne, who had 13 points and 9 rebounds, and guard Keith Appling, who fouled Napier in the critical last seconds when Napier canned all 3 free throws, had to be disappointed. They became the first 4-year players recruited by Tom Izzo to fail to make it to a Final 4 during Izzo’s 19 years at Michigan State. Izzo had led the Spartans to 6 Final 4 appearances, including a National Championship in 2000 and a National Runner-Up team in 2009.
# 8 seed Kentucky coach John Calipari fielded 5 freshmen and, against improbable odds, upset #2 Michigan, 75-72, to join Wisconsin, Arizona and Connecticut in the Final 4. The Wildcats became the first all-freshman team to reach the Final 4 since Michigan’s Fab Five in 1992. Michigan’s Wolverines were smarting after Kentucky’s freshman blitz; the Wolverines lost to Louisville in last year’s National Championship Game.
For the second consecutive game, Wlidcat Aaron Harrison drained a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left against incredible coverage by Caris LeVert that left Harrison unable to see the basket. He also made the key 3-pointer in Kentucky’s win over Louisville to move into the Elite 8. Aaron Harrison scored 12 points in the game, all were 3-pointers in the final 8 minutes.
“I’ve been around guys who make these kind of plays,” Calipari said. “I’ve always said: ‘You can’t be afraid to miss.’ Aaron Harrison was not afraid, and he did not miss; the shot absolutely broke the back of the Michigan to put the game away and left the Wolverines sucking Louisiana pond water after a valiant effort, especially by Nik Stauskas, who scored 24 points but missed a last, desperation shot that was far off the mark.
Here are some of the major highlights on the road to the Elite 8:
The biggest win belonged to #4 Michigan State as the Spartans took down #1 seed Virginia, 61-59, behind junior forward Branden Dawson, who scored 24 points, grabbed 10 rebounds (a double-double) and went 6-for-8 from the free-throw line.
Dawson’s performance was so significant because Michigan State won 18 of its first 19 games this season before a raft of injuries slowed down the Spartans, including a broken hand that benched Dawson for 9 games. The Spartans used 15 starting lineups because of the injuries and the starting 5 players had only been together for half of the games this season (18 of 36 games).
Senior Adreian Payne, Michigan State’s 6-foot-10 center, added 16 points. Payne’s 2 free throws with 33 seconds left put the Spartans ahead, 58-54. Payne was 4-for-4 from the line.
Adreian Payne set an NCAA record with 17 straight free throws against Delaware in a Sweet 16 qualifying game.
Kentucky Coach John Calipari and Louisville Coach Rick Pitino were at in again. Calipari’s 5 freshmen beat Pitino’s veterans (3 seniors, 1 junior and 1 sophomore), 74-69, on a 3-pointer by Wildcat Aaron Harrison with 39 seconds remaining.
Kentucky led for only 65 seconds in this 40-minute game—the last 65 seconds. Pitino, who has won national championships as the coach for both Kentucky and now Louisville, and was 11-0 in Sweet 16 games before the loss to Kentucky. The Wildcats outrebounded Louisville 37-29 and were 22-for-27 (81%) from the line while the Cardinals went 13-for-23 (56%).
Calipari said his guys finally came together as a team. Aaron Harrison scored 15, his twin brother Andrew Harrison scored 14, Dakari Johnson scored 15, and Julius Randle scored 15 and grabbed 12 rebounds. Randle is a 6-foot-9 forward, and a freshman like all the rest.
#1 Arizona, the only #1 seed besides Florida, started so slow against the San Diego State Aztecs, it is a wonder they finally made it into the Elite 8. Arizona’s top player, Nick Johnson, the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year, was held scoreless for 37 minutes, and then scored 15 points in the last 2 minutes and 45 seconds of the game, making all 10 of his free-throw attempts to go with a field goal and 3-pointer that finally got him going, and saved Arizona’s bacon.
Arizona coach Sean Miller joins his brother Archie in the Elite 8 when #11 Dayton upset #10 Stanford, 82-72, to advance. Archie’s Dayton Flyers used their bench depth to wear down and then kick out the Stanford Cardinals, who relied on a 6-man rotation. Dayton was relentless in moving players in and out as 11 Flyers scored points. Dayton made it to the Elite 8 for the first time in 30 years (since 1984).
#1 Florida stopped #4 UCLA’s run, 79-68, as Michael Frazier canned 5 three-pointers and finished with 19. Scottie Wilbekin had 13, Casey Prather 12, Dorian Finney-Smith 10, and Kasey Hill added 10 assists. The Gators have not lost since December 2 (115 days ago) and pushed their school winning streak to 29 straight.
The #6 Baylor Bears vaunted zone defense stopped Nebraska and Creighton dead in their tracks, but they did not faze the #2 Wisconsin Badgers, who shredded Baylor’s Zone Defense like limp confetti to send the Bears packing, 69-52.
Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin’s 7-foot center, scored 19 points and blocked 6 shots, allowing the Badgers to jump to a 14-point lead in the 1st half. In essence, Wisconsin decimated Baylor, wrecking its zone defense, taking away its 3-point shooting game, dominating the game’s tempo by slowing down the Bears, and even outrebounding Baylor 39-33. Baylor was so busted the Bears could not stand up straight.
#7 Connecticut took the wind out of the #3 Iowa State Cyclones, 81-76, behind the presence of DeAndre Daniels as the 6-foot-9 junior forward scored 19 of his 27 points in the 2nd half, hitting his first 6 shots to start the 2nd half. Daniels added 10 rebounds for a double-double. The Huskies also nailed 20 of 22 free throws (91%) as Iowa State was a lousy 6-for-15 (40%) from the line.
Without a defensive effort, the #2 Michigan Wolverines would not have beaten the #11 seed Tennessee Volunteers, 73-71. Michigan led by 15 with 11 minutes left, and led by exactly 1 point with less than 10 seconds left to play. For the Wolverines, the victory marked their 15th straight win of 10 or fewer points, and their 7th win of 5 or fewer points. That is cutting it too close too many times.
Here is a recap of the 2014 NCAA March Madness Tournament:
National Championship Game to Determine the 2014 NCAA Champion:
Yet to Play
National Semifinals to Determine the Final 4:
#2 Michigan is upset by #8 Kentucky 75-72
#1 Arizona was upset by #2 Wisconsin 64-63 in Overtime
#4 Michigan State is upset by #7 Connecticut 60-54
#1 Florida eliminated #11 Dayton 62-52
Regional Finals to Determine the Elite 8:
#2 Michigan eliminated #11 Tennessee 73-71
#4 Louisville was upset by #8 Kentucky 74-69
#1 Arizona eliminated #4 San Diego State 70-64
#2 Wisconsin eliminated #6 Baylor 69-52
#1 Virginia was upset by #4 Michigan State 61-59
#3 Iowa State was upset by #7 Connecticut 81-76
#1 Florida eliminated #4 UCLA 79-68
#10 Stanford was upset by #11 Dayton 82-72
2014 NCAA Tournament Regional Semifinals in Round 3 to Determine the Sweet 16:
#1 Wichita State was upset by #8 Kentucky 78-76
#2 Michigan eliminated #7 Texas 79-65
#4 Louisville eliminated #5 Saint Louis 66-51
#11 Tennessee eliminated #14 Mercer 83-63
#1 Arizona eliminated #8 Gonzaga 84-61
#2 Wisconsin eliminated #7 Oregon 85-77
#3 Creighton was upset by #6 Baylor 85-55
#4 San Diego State eliminated #12 North Dakota State 63-44
#1 Virginia eliminated #8 Memphis 78-60
#2 Villanova was upset by #7 Connecticut 77-65
#3 Iowa State eliminated #6 North Carolina 85-83
#4 Michigan State eliminated #12 Harvard 80-73
#1 Florida eliminated #9 Pittsburgh 61-45
#2 Kansas was upset by #10 Stanford 60-57
#3 Syracuse was upset by #11 Dayton 55-53
#4 UCLA eliminated #12 Stephen F. Austin 77-60
2014 NCAA Tournament Results for Round 2 to Determine the 32 Teams Advancing:
#1 Wichita State eliminated #18 Cal Poly 64-37
#2 Michigan eliminated #15 Wofford 57-40
#3 Duke was upset by #14 Mercer 78-71
#4 Louisville eliminated #13 Manhattan 71-64
#5 Saint Louis eliminated #12 North Carolina State 83-76 in Overtime
#6 Massachusetts was upset by #11Tennessee 86-67
#7 Texas eliminated #10 Arizona State 87-85
#8 Kentucky eliminated #9 Kansas State 56-49
#1 Arizona eliminated #16 Weber State 68-59
#2 Wisconsin eliminated #15 American 75-35
#3 Creighton eliminated #14 Louisiana-Lafayette 76-66
#4 San Diego State eliminated #13 New Mexico State 73-69 in Overtime
#5 Oklahoma was upset by #12 North Dakota State 80-75 in Overtime
#6 Baylor eliminated #11 Nebraska 74-60
#7 Oregon eliminated #10 Brigham Young 87-68
#8 Gonzaga eliminated #9 Oklahoma State 85-77
#1 Virginia eliminated #15 Coastal Carolina 70-59
#2 Villanova eliminated #15 Wisconsin-Milwaukee 73-53
#3 Iowa State eliminated #14 North Carolina Central 93-75
#4 Michigan State eliminated #13 Delaware 93-78
#5 Cincinnati was upset by #12 Harvard 61-57
#6 North Carolina eliminated #11 Providence 79-77
#7 Connecticut eliminated #10 Saint Joseph’s 89-81 in Overtime
#8 Memphis eliminated #9 George Washington 71-66
#1 Florida eliminated #16 Albany 67-55
#2 Kansas eliminated #15 Eastern Kentucky 80-69
#3 Syracuse eliminated #14 Western Michigan 77-53
#4 UCLA eliminated #13 Tulsa 76-59
#5 Virginia Commonwealth was upset by upset by #12 Stephen F. Austin 77-75 in Overtime
#6 Ohio State was upset by #11 Dayton 60-59
#7 New Mexico was upset by #10 Stanford 58-53
#8 Colorado was upset by #9 Pittsburgh 77-48
2014 NCAA Tournament Results for the Round 1 Winner Play-In Games to the Field of 64:
#11 Tennessee eliminated #11 Iowa 78-65
#12 North Carolina State eliminated #12 Xavier 74-59
#16 Cal Poly eliminated #16 Texas Southern 81-69
#16 Albany eliminated #16 Mount St. Mary’s 71-64