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Kevin Ware cuts down the net after Louisville wins title

Kevin Ware nets

One of the nicest moments of the NCAA Tournament was when Kevin Ware cut down the nets following Louisville’s 82-76 win over Michigan in the national championship game Monday.

A plan was in place for Ware to partake in the tradition of cutting down the nets if his school won the title game. With a handful of strands remaining, the basket was lowered so Ware, on crutches following his gruesome broken leg injury, could cut down the net.

Ware became an inspirational figure during Louisville’s championship run after getting hurt in the regional finals against Duke. Despite having a bone sticking out of his leg, Ware told his teammates that day, “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be OK. Go win this thing.”

They not only own that game, but they took home the entire tournament.

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Montrezl Harrell dunk steals the tournament (GIF)

Montrezl Harrell dunkMontrezl Harris punctuated Louisville’s amazing comeback at the end of the first half of the national championship game Monday with a thunderous dunk. The freshman forward took a pass and hammered it down with crazy authority to give Louisville its first and only lead through the first 20 minutes. Glenn Robinson III made two free throws to give Michigan the lead back before the break, but Harrell’s jam had to be a confidence booster for the Cardinals.

GIF via @WorldofIsaac

Michigan-Syracuse ending marred by charging call

Michigan was on the verge of blowing a lead against Syracuse in the Final Four Saturday, but they benefited from controversial calls by the officials and held on to win 61-56.

The controversial call that stood out was a charging foul called on Brandon Triche with 19.2 seconds left in the game. Syracuse was down 58-56 at the time and Triche drove to the hole looking to tie the game. Just as Triche was elevating for a layup, Jordan Morgan appeared to shuffle into defensive position in front of him.

The referees called a charging foul on Triche, giving the ball to Michigan. Based on the NCAA’s charging vs. blocking rule, a blocking foul should have been called on Morgan.

Here is the applicable guideline from the NCAA Rules Committee:

Before the offensive player (with the ball) becomes airborne, the defender must have two feet on the floor, be facing the opponent and be stationary to draw a charge. Otherwise, it should be a blocking foul.

That wasn’t the only call to go in favor of Michigan in the final two minutes.

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Referees call controversial jump ball at end of Louisville-Wichita State game

Louisville Wichita State tie upFinal Four referees took away what could have been an even more exciting finish to the Louisville-Wichita State game by calling a controversial jump ball (technically a held ball) with 6.3 seconds left.

Luke Hancock was fouled in the open court with Louisville up 70-68 with 8.8 seconds left. He made the first of two free throws and missed his second off the iron. The Shockers’ Ron Baker fought for the rebound, but Hancock got his hands on the ball for a brief moment. The referees called a held ball and, because of the college rules, possession was determined by the arrow. Since Wichita State got possession on the double-foul a few minutes earlier, this time it went to the Cardinals.

Louisville inbounded the ball up 71-68 with 6.3 seconds left. Russ Smith was fouled, made one of his free throws, and Louisville won the game 72-68.

Was it the right call? Here’s the NCAA’s definition of a held ball (via the NCAA rule book PDF link)

Section 37. Held Ball

Art. 1. A held ball occurs when an opponent places his or her hand(s):
a. So firmly on the ball that control cannot be obtained without undue
roughness; or
b. On the ball to prevent an airborne player from throwing the ball or
attempting a try and both players return to the playing court with
both hands on the ball or (men) the airborne player returns to the
playing court never losing control of the ball.

The referees made the call way too early in my opinion. It should not have been called and the Shockers should have been given a chance to tie the game.

Full video of the play is below:

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Fresh faces of the Final Four: Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas, Ron Baker

Before the NCAA Tournament started two weeks ago, Dove, which is sponsoring this post, asked us to come up with some of the fresh faces of the tournament. The idea was to point out some star players participating in the tourney for the first time. Not one of the players remains in the tournament.

We have updates on how those players did in the tournament and what their futures hold. We also want to share with you Mitch McGarysome of the fresh faces of the Final Four to prep you for the remaining games.

Mitch McGary (pictured), F, Fr., Mich: McGary has absolutely exploded in the tournament. He had 21 and 14 against VCU and 25 and 14 in a comeback win over Kansas. The 25 and 14 marked season-high totals for the freshman. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim singled out McGary as a player who would be difficult to defend.

Nik Stauskas, G, Fr., Mich: Stauskas has been an excellent shooter all season. He shot 47.1 percent from the field during the season, including 44.9 percent on threes. He was absolutely unconscious against Florida in the Elite Eight, going 7-for-8 including 6-for-6 on threes to match his season-high with 22 points. If he remains hot, he will be crucial to busting Syracuse’s 2-3 zone.

Glenn Robinson, F, Fr., Mich: The Big Dog’s son also deserves mention here. Though he was quiet against Florida, Robinson played well in his first three tourney games, including a 22-point performance against South Dakota State.

Ron Baker, G, Fr., Wichita State: Many of Wichita State’s top players were a part of last year’s tournament team. One fresh face from the Shockers to watch for is Baker. After missing all five of his shots in a win over Pitt, Baker bounced back with a huge game in the upset win over Gonzaga. He had 16 points and went 4-of-6 on threes. He made 2-of-3 threes in the win over La Salle. Some of his best games of the season have come in the tourney. He’ll need to be hot to keep up with Louisville’s powerful attack.

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Jim Boeheim: Michigan is probably the toughest team for us to defend

Jim BoeheimJim Boeheim expressed some concern over Syracuse playing Michigan in the Final Four after watching what the Wolverines did to the Florida Gators in the South Region finals of the NCAA tournament Sunday.

Michigan was on fire in the first half against Florida and outscored the Gators 47-30. Boeheim and his point guard Michael Carter-Williams joined the CBS crew for an interview during halftime of the Michigan-Florida game, and that’s when the Syracuse coach expressed praised the Wolverines.

“What I’ve watched I haven’t liked at all,” Boeheim told Greg Gumbel in response to Michigan’s explosive first half. “They’re probably the toughest offensive team in the tournament as far as we go. Because they shoot the ball so well from the perimeter, they’ve got [Mitch] McGary playing inside at a high level which he wasn’t earlier in the year. Offensively, they’re probably the most difficult team in the tournament for us.”

Boeheim is right on about McGary. The freshman forward’s season-high marks during the regular season were 14 points and 11 rebounds. In the tournament, he’s taken his game to the next level. He put up 13 and nine in the team’s first game against South Dakota State, 21 and 14 against VCU, and he went off for 25 and 14 in an overtime win over Kansas.

Though Boeheim admitted that Michigan’s well-rounded offense presents a challenge, he wanted to make it clear that facing his team’s 2-3 zone defense is not so simple to beat.

“Our zone is not easy to play against because of a guy like Michael [Carter-Williams] out there at 6-foot-6. He can disrupt smaller guards — like Indiana’s guards — had a lot of trouble against Michael.”

Michigan has two things that could help them beat the zone — a point guard who can penetrate like Trey Burke, and good outside shooting. Nik Stauskas is a 42.9 percent 3-point shooter this season and went 6-of-6 on threes Sunday. The chances for Michigan to replicate its amazing performance against Florida seems small, but they certainly have the tools to beat Syracuse.

Elijah Johnson’s final game for Kansas was one to forget

Elijah Johnson may need a lot of time to get over this one.

Johnson played his final collegiate game Friday, and his mistakes in Kansas’ 87-85 overtime loss to Michigan will be remembered.
Elijah Johnson nut punch
Johnson committed three fouls in the first half against the Wolverines and saw limited minutes. He was even called for a flagrant foul after punching a Michigan player in the groin (pictured) in the first few minutes of the game. The mistakes continued from there.

Johnson missed the first free throw on a one-and-one with his team up 76-73 and 13 seconds left. The miss allowed Michigan’s Trey Burke to make an incredible tying 3-pointer that sent the game to overtime.

Then, in overtime, Kansas was down by two and Johnson drove to the basket in the final seconds. Inexplicably, he passed up a layup and kicked outside to Naadir Thorpe who missed a difficult three to end the game.

“I thought he could get to the rim,” coach Bill Self said of Johnson’s last possession. “We set a little fake ball screen … and he was able to get his shoulders past him, but for whatever reason he veered behind the backboard and didn’t give himself a shot. That’s when he threw the ball back to [Thorpe].”

Self said after the game that he was considering having his team take a three to win it, but they decided driving to the hoop would be the sounder move.

“To lose a game this way, I know our guys are just crushed,” said Self. “This is going to be a tough one to get over for a long time.”

Johnson’s final numbers don’t look too bad — 4-of-8 for 13 points — but his missed free throw could have iced the game, his five fouls were costly, and he had no assists and five turnovers. Unfortunately for Johnson, he will have to walk away from the collegiate game on this poor note.