Eight great moments on the road to Minneapolis
Purdue surviving Tennessee
Our Chip Scoggins was on press row in Louisville and called it “a dazzling display of offense by two teams that took turns trading haymakers. When everyone was allowed to exhale, Purdue had escaped with a 99-94 victory over Tennessee in overtime.” The Vols were down 18, roared back to force OT but fell to the Boilermakers and Ryan Cline’s shooting.
Duke surviving by thiiiiiis much
Central Florida’s Aubrey Dawkins just about took down the big favorites in Round 2. He finished with 32 points for the Knights, but his tip-in try just missed in the final seconds. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski “talks a lot about the basketball gods,” a happy Zion Williamson told reporters. “They had our backs today.”
This tournament is an all-timer for great names. We had a Zion, who beat a Tacko (Fall, Central Florida). The star of the first weekend was Ja (Morant, Murray State). An injury to Okeke (first name Chuma, Auburn) had dust in our eyes. Cassius (Winston, Michigan State) killed the Gophers, and Hachimura (first name Rui, Gonzaga) was just plain fun to say. All of these are so much easier than … Krzyzewski.
Who says they can’t shoot?
The Gophers were one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the nation, but they got hot to get the program only its second NCAA tournament victory in 22 seasons. The Gophers hit 11 three-pointers to take down Louisville, including five from freshman Gabe Kalscheur. Even Jordan Murphy hit two, after making only six threes all season. But Murphy’s back troubles kept him from playing much in Round 2, and Michigan State ended the Gophers’ season in Des Moines.
New face: Beard
We always discover new (or kind of new) coaches in March, and Chris Beard made his face more familiar for general hoops fans. His Texas Tech holding Michigan to 16 first-half points Thursday … wowsers. Tech basketball was in need of spice, our Jim Souhan wrote. And “Beard has become the Red Raiders’ Tabasco.”
Best one second of the tourney?
Virginia’s Mamadi Diakite, having just sent the South Regional final into OT, made eye contact with Purdue star Carsen Edwards just before the tip of the extra period. Edwards went from game face to cracking a smile. Diakite flashed one, too, and tapped his competitor on the chest. Beautiful moment.
Injury, then inspiration
Chuma Okeke was carrying Auburn against North Carolina when he crashed to the floor, tearing his ACL. The Tigers still managed to win, and in the locker room afterward a hobbled Okeke, with arms around his teammates, was the player chosen to put Auburn’s name on the next line of the bracket. He limped over, taped on the Auburn label, and had a smile left in him, too. Great moment. Just as great: An hour or so earlier, as Okeke fell to the floor, UNC players tried to comfort him in the aftermath of the injury. Sportsmanship, for the win.
Tre Jones goes off
Central Florida left Tre Jones open, daring the Duke point guard from Apple Valley to shoot. He did. And he missed — a lot, going 1-for-8 on threes. In the next round, Jones was a different player. “Duke needed more from Jones this time,” our Joe Christensen wrote from Washington. “Boy, did he deliver, scoring a season-high 22 points with eight assists and no turnovers.”