Final Four takes shape as Michigan, Syracuse, Louisville and Wichita State advance
Louisville books trip to Final Four with emotional win
The No. 1-seeded Lousville Cardinals are exactly where they should be: headed to the Final Four. The top team out of the Midwest booked their ticket with a win Sunday, but the win did not shape out the way they likely expected.
The story of the game was Kevin Ware‘s injury. Ware went up to block a three-pointer, and when he landed, well, his leg just plain broke. The gruesome injury had everyone talking, praying and offering well wishes. But his teammates did the only thing they could given the situation: win.
The Cardinals went on to beat Duke for the Midwest Regional Trophy in a decisive manner, an 85-63 final fueled by the loss of their teammate. Ware underwent leg surgery Saturday night, and it seems as though he’ll be able to return to Louisville Tuesday and eventually join his team on the sidelines as they play in the Final Four.
“I’m real proud of the team. I dont think any of us with what we had to witness could have overcome it if it wasn’t for Kevin Ware 12 times saying to the guys, ‘I’ll be fine. Win the game,’ and he kept saying it over and over,” head coach Rick Pitino said.
If Louisville wasn’t your favorite as the No. 1-seed, they probably are now. The reactions of Ware’s teammates reverberated through the sports world, and the Cardinals will definitely have a lot more support after the poise they showed in defeating Duke after witnessing their teammate go down in such a gruesome manner.
Wichita State shocks Buckeyes
The No. 9 Wichita State Shockers upset No. 2 Ohio State, 70-66, by holding off a late Ohio State comeback in the final three minutes of the game. Wichita State, who at one point in the game enjoyed a 20-point lead, saw the Buckeyes march back to tighten Wichita State’s lead to 62-59 with just 2:49 remaining, benefited from key baskets from Tekele Cotton and Ron Baker in order to hold on for the win.
“It’s crazy. I still can’t believe we’re here,” said Wichita player Cleanthony Early. “You try to expect it, but you expect a lot of things that don’t happen. This really happened.”
Shocker Malcolm Armstead scored 14 points, and teammate Fred Van Vleet scored 12 points and made an important basket with one minute left in the game. With the win, Wichita State earned its first trip to the Final Four since 1965.
The Shockers victory over the number 2 seeded Buckeyes was a follow-up to last week’s win over top-ranked Gonzaga. Meanwhile, the loss ended an 11-game winning streak for the Buckeyes and prevented them from reaching their second straight Final Four.
Wichita State still has a lot of work ahead of them. Their team is just the fifth team seeded ninth or higher to reach the Final Four since seeding began in 1979.
“Last year we were watching all this on television,” said Early, who scored 12 points before spraining his ankle in the second half. “Now I’m looking at a hat that says `Final Four Atlanta’ with my team on it. … It feels good, and it feels even better that I could experience it with these guys who had to struggle so hard to get here.
The Wichita State Shockers will play Louisville on Saturday, April 6.
Michigan tops Gators to reach Final Four for first time since 1990s
Freshman Nik Stauskas was the hero of the game for Michigan, scoring 22 points, and helping the team beat the Florida Gators, 79-59.
After scoring the first 13 points of the game, the Wolverines managed to hold the lead by double digits for the entirety of the game.
Sophomore Trey Burke, the Big Ten player of the year, added 15 points for Michigan. Mitch McGary, another freshman, had 11 points and nine rebounds. He scored eight of the first 13 points.
Michigan hasn’t made it to the Final Four since consecutive national championship game appearances in 1992 and 1993. Many may recall this team, nicknamed “The Fab Five”, which was comprised of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King.
While the Wolverines are seeing improvement, the Gators continue to struggle in the later games of March Madness. Despite being the only team to make regional finals each of the last three seasons, the Gators haven’t been to the Final Four since winning consecutive national titles in 2006 and 2007.
Syracuse earns Final Four berth with win over Marquette
Syracuse took down Marquette for a spot in the Final Four in a 55-39 victory Saturday night. Marquette hadn’t been held to fewer than 47 points all season, but the Orange defense had something to say about that as they were key to the win, smothering shots and eliminating good angles from their opponents.
Marquette’s 39 points were a record low for a team in an NCAA tournament regional final since the introduction of the shot clock back in 1986.
“[It was] a tremendous, tremendous defensive effort,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said via ESPN.
Thanks to the win, Boeheim earned his fourth trip to the Final Four. Offensively, the Orange saw strong performances from senior James Southerland (16 points) and Michael Carter-Williams, who took home the award for the region’s top player with 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists, five steals and just a single turnover against Marquette.
Next, the Michigan Wolverines will take on the Syracuse Orange on Saturday April 6 at 11 a.m. on CBS.
Jill Saftel contributed to this post.