The NCAA men’s basketball Final Four in Minneapolis was enough of a whirlwind to feel like a blur. Teams and fans from distant states descended upon Minnesota for a few days, and just as quickly by Tuesday they had mostly vanished.
Lest we lose track of some of the moments we won’t want to forget, let’s round them up here. These are 10 things from the Final Four worth remembering:
• Kyle Guy’s free throws: Monday’s title game might have had the most back-and-forth drama of any of the three games, but I still say the defining moment of the tournament was Guy getting fouled on a three-point attempt with 0.6 seconds left with his team trailing Auburn by 2. On the TV interview afterward, Guy admitted he was terrified of the situation. But at the line, he projected the picture of calm in nailing all three foul shots for a 63-62 victory.
• Texas Tech fans: Fan bases from Virginia, Auburn and Michigan State all traveled well, but Texas Tech fans seemed to be the most dedicated of them all. Tons of them made the 1,000-plus mile drive from Lubbock to support their team in its first Final Four appearance ever. Their rowdy student section brought energy. And they nearly brought home a championship.
• Virginia’s comebacks: The moment of the tournament was Guy’s free throws. The story of the tournament? That was the Cavaliers’ tight rope. In their region final win over Purdue and in both Final Four victories, they trailed in the closing seconds of regulation. In each case, they pulled it out in the clutch — including De’Andre Hunter’s huge game-tying three-pointer Monday.
• A muted and exhausted celebration: Virginia fans hugged and high-fived in the streets after their team claimed the program’s first NCAA men’s basketball title Monday. But a lot more of them seemed like a mix of bewildered and tired — happy, for sure, but spent. As one said on the train a couple hours after the game ended: “I’m glad the season is over. I couldn’t take any more.”
• The agony of defeat: The equal and opposite reaction came from Auburn fans — many of whom thought the Tigers had won and didn’t realize a foul had been called until after they were done celebrating. Viral videos captured the before and after. Losing is never easy, but Saturday’s semifinal loss was particularly painful.
• Celebrity appeal: I covered the celebrity basketball game Sunday afternoon at the University of St. Thomas, and I won’t soon forget the sight of Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph — who has some serious game, by the way, and was named MVP — high-fiving two young kids and having them react like they had just been told they got to spend a year at Disney World.
• Who’s selling: Scalpers outside U.S. Bank Stadium went to work immediately after Saturday’s semifinal session ended. They were working hard on Michigan State fans in particular to sell their tickets to Monday’s final, hoping that Spartans fans made the drive and were disappointed enough to bail after the loss to Texas Tech.
• An impediment, but: The Ferris wheel at the corner of 10th and Nicollet was stunning. I’d be fine if they just left it there permanently. We could work around it.
• Not the Super Bowl, in a good way: If the Super Bowl was awesome in its own buttoned up, controlled and corporate way, the Final Four felt far more free-flowing. It had a little something for everyone, but you could avoid it if you wanted nothing to do with it.
• Defying expectations: If the concern was that a lack of star power or familiar teams would hurt the Final Four, it seems like the opposite happened. Hungry fan bases traveled well and brought tons of energy. And if the concern was the title game would be a dull affair between two defensive-minded teams, that also proved false. Let’s do this again sometime (in several years, after we get some sleep).