March Madness 2017 Pt4
Originally published on nicholasboon.com.
DAY 9 | FINAL FOUR | 04.01.17
And thus, the Final Four was brung. (And yes, I know it’s actually “brought”).
- Zaga/South Carolina was admittedly a little underwhelming. The entire Gamecocks team looked sluggish (where did that Sweet Sixteen defense go???) but it was really Thornwell that mattered. That team was ride-or-die by Thornwell, and we all knew it. But so did the Zags. Thornwell was all but neutralized (still finishing with 15 points). Meanwhile the Bulldogs should 49% from the floor (shout-out to Nigel Williams-Goss with a 23–6–5 line on 56% shooting). I was most impressed with Zach Collins though. 14 points, 13 rebounds, mobility AND tenacity AND range as a 7-footer. This guy is a real prospect.
- WHOA BABY. Oregon/UNC was a real Final Four game. Full disclosure, I was outright cheering for Oregon to win. Partly because of the Canadiana connection (Brooks, Ennis, and Boucher (RIP)), but mostly not a fan of that Tarheel baby blue. And you know, Oregon really did look like the better team for the bulk of this game. Which sounds crazy considering Brooks (2/11) and Doresy (3/11) simply couldn’t get buckets. Obviously big credit to Kennedy Meeks who had a career night with 25 points, 14 boards, 3 stocks (credit: Bill Simmons) and shot 11/13 from the field! Would have been a great way to finish a career… And though I WOULD like to give big credit to Jordan Bell too (13 points, 16 boards, 5 stocks) those last two box-outs just… didn’t… happen…
UNC/Zaga for the ship. Storied success vs. up-start mid-major. Pretty good premise.
DAY 10 | CHAMPIONSHIP | 04.03.17
- You know, I remember last year saying “You know, I really wish these refs would get more involved. What’s a national championship game without a flurry of tweets, hand signals, and replay reviews?!”. And boy oh boy, did the NCAA ever deliver! (SARCASM). Because if you liked refs, you would have LOVED this game. But if you were like the rest of us, THIS GAME WAS ABSOLUTELY BRUTAL. Gonzaga was DEFINITELY the better team. But basketball is a game of rhythm. And for whatever reason, the refs refused to let the Bulldogs find theirs. Their three main bigs (Karnowski, Collins, and Williams) were all in foul trouble before the end of the first half. And yes, Collins was the only one to foul out. But the change in play style from Karnowski and Williams, doing everything they could NOT to foul out, was the deciding factor. And despite all this, Gonzaga was STILL up 2 points with under 2:00 to play. But UNC strung together a couple of baskets (the Pinson feed to Justin Jackson underneath was admittedly gorgeous) and the Bulldogs couldn’t answer back in time. Again, I’m not exactly a UNC fan (the baby blue is only part of that) but this ‘ship has to come with a big, black-and-white striped asterisk.
And with that, it’s a wrap. Sour taste from the final game aside, this was an all around good tournament. Maybe not enough buzzer beaters (definitely not enough). And maybe not enough overtimes (again, definitely not enough). But still a ton of good games, some new faces, a couple crazy highlights, and over 100 hours of basketball.
Hard to complain.
Finally, before I forget (I would never forget) a quick recap of the bracket. Ended up picking 41/63 (65%) which is at least respectable. Notable moral victories include going 11/16 in the first two days, and picking the Gonzaga finals run (obviously). Didn’t win any of my pools though (goddamn refs giving the win to UNC made sure of that). And let’s ignore that my cousin, literally zero basketball insight, picked 40/63 (63%) AND had a Gonzaga/UNC finals. But she went with Gonzaga over UNC cause “she liked the name”. Talk about amateur-hour.