Only three more games to go before CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz crowns a national champion as One Shining Moment brings the curtain down on another March Madness.
There were exciting, down-to-the-buzzer games. There were some skin-tight games. There were some that were over by halftime.
Florida Gulf Coast University, an upstart school in the Atlantic Sun Conference, prefers to be called FGCU. Everyone called them Cinderella. After two huge upsets over 2-seed Georgetown and 7-seed San Diego State, the clock struck midnight when Big Brother Florida plucked the Eagles’ wings.
In a tournament that promised to be wide open, Louisville became the only No. 1 seed to make it to Atlanta. There were two 4-seeds, Syracuse and Michigan, which survived and advanced. Either team could win it all. The long shot is 9-seed Wichita State. The Shockers earned their nickname by dumping Pittsburgh, LaSalle and 2-seed Ohio State.
Three of the four Elite Eight games were double digits. Few expected Michigan to wax 3-seed Florida by 20 points. The biggest surprise was Louisville ending 2-seed Duke’s season by an 85-63 score that was never in doubt.
And Wichita State bumped the Buckeyes, 70-66, the most competitive game of last weekend.
The Final Four field has a Naismith Hall of Fame coach in Syracuse veteran Jim Boeheim and a future Hall of Fame coach in UL’s Rick Pitino. Their teams could meet in the championship game and that would prompt national media to beat us over the head until our eyeballs bleed with the story that Rick Pitino and his wife Joanne introduced Boeheim to his current wife. It proves that love can blossom even on a basketball court.
Pitino is the only coach to take three different teams to the Final Four. As a young Providence head coach, his star player was one Billy Donovan and in 1987, Pitino made his first Final Four appearance.
He spent eight seasons at Kentucky, won a national championship there, and has now taken Louisville to the Final Four in consecutive seasons.
For Gregg Marshall, this is his Final Four maiden voyage. He was a much sought after coach while at Winthrop for nine years. He made it a mid-major power and turned down several opportunities to move up in stature.
Tennessee talked to Marshall at least once during those years. He took the Wichita State job in April 2007, but was still an unknown to many before this year’s run to the Final Four.
As a 9-seed, Wichita State is the classic underdog, just as it was against 2-seed Ohio State. Can lightning strike twice?
I see Louisville beating the Shockers in Saturday’s semifinal, then finding a way to beat the winner of the Michigan-Syracuse game on Monday night for the championship.
Louisville is riding an emotional wave after it saw guard Kevin Ware break his lower right leg in two places against Duke Sunday. Win for Ware is the Cards’ mantra as they move to Atlanta. It might be fate that Ware’s hometown is Atlanta, where he was a prep star at Rockdale County High School.
Ware originally signed with Tennessee, but when the Vols changed coaches, he changed his mind and requested a release from his scholarship. Tennessee agreed to release Ware and he ended up at Louisville two years ago.
Fate? In the Cards? Looks like it from here.
Sports Columnist Joe Biddle is a four-time sports writer of the year in Tennessee and a 2013 inductee to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. He can be reached at email@example.com.