The madness of March has come to an end in early April. What a glorious three weeks it was. I took off part of Thursday and all of Friday from work to watch the first round games. I didn’t leave my house for 72+ hours, watched basketball every day from 12pm to 1am, drank several cases of beer, and ordered wings/pizza/chinese food in various combinations more than I care to admit. It. Was. Glorious.
The frenetic pace of Thursday and Friday’s Round 1 games gave way to a more leisurely schedule on Saturday and Sunday, but the basketball was still an constant IV drip into my thirsty veins. The first weekend had everything one would expect from an NCAA tourney, upsets, chalk Ws, buzzer beaters, blowouts, boneheaded mistakes, elite level basketball, and everything else in between.
Most importantly I got two wins from the shaky-down-the-stretch Terps. This years team was loaded with NBA prospects, and saddled with the preseason #1 ranking, which we promptly gave up a week into the season (as did everyone else throughout the season). The top overall ranking was an allergen all season that teams would acquire and promptly sneeze all over themselves in their next game or two. The expectations of our team were unfair to some degree, but it was undeniable that the blueprint for a championship was there.
That being said, I will say that overall this years team, though flawed, was a joy to watch most of the time. Making it to the second weekend is a huge plus for the Terps. First Sweet 16 appearance in 13 years. The second straight season of 27 or more wins. This sets a great foundation for next years team and for our recruiting efforts in the DMV and beyond.
Let’s fast forward to last night. The championship game. Villanova – Carolina. Blue bloods vs. Catholics. After some early nerves, turnovers, rushed shots in the first 90 seconds, these two teams settled in for the next 38 minutes, 30 seconds, and showed beyond a reasonable doubt they were the two teams that most deserved to be in the championship. Good god. Carolina went 7-9 from three in the first half, yet were only up 5 at the break. Villanova is one of the most intense defensive teams I have ever witnessed and that scrap paid off in the end. On the flip side, Carolina was down 10 late in the second half and used their hot shooting guards and impressive big men to melt away that deficit effortlessly.
And finally. The last 90 seconds. Unbelievable. Marcus Paige missed a driving layup, somehow got his own rebound and put it back in. That, in and of itself, was amazing. Then, his team down three, he hits the most ludicrous double pump three pointer that I have ever seen. With a man in his grill no less. TO TIE THE GAME. To me overtime was imminent. As we came out of the timeout I asked my roommate if Carolina would put a man on the ball. The age old question that’s been asked since Grant Hill hit Laettner with that Hail Mary in 1993. They didn’t put a man on the ball. Arcidiacino got ball in, raced up the court, dribbled to the three point line and casually flipped the ball back to the waiting hands of Kris Jenkins. Jenkins raised up. Let it go. Buzzer. Swish. ONIONS! Glory. Instant classic.
Not only was that one of the greatest plays of all time. That was one of the best games of basketball ball from tip to buzzer I have ever seen. I was happy that Villanova pulled it out, but UNC could not have played a better game. Sometimes the celestial dice don’t fall your way. I’m sure they’ll be fine.