Only teams from Wisconsin, Kentucky, Connecticut, and Florida remain after another weekend of the NCAA college basketball tournament. “The thing about the NCAA tournament is it’s exhilarating when you win and equally as devastating when you lose,” said University of Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller after his team lost 64-63 to the University of Wisconsin. For the 12 schools headed home devastated after the Sweet 16, many showed character in defeat.
Rocky flop. No. 11 seed University of Tennessee erased a late 10-point deficit Friday. But when Jarnell Stokes went in for a potential game-winning basket with 6 seconds left, the referees called an offensive foul. The University of Michigan survived 73-71 to move on to Sunday’s Elite Eight. Stokes chose not to complain about the questionable call. “It was a great run. Nobody can take that away from us,” Stokes told The Tennessean. “… God didn’t give us a storybook ending, but He also didn’t give us a cruise through the regular season either. He made us battle-tested and prepared us for games like this. We just didn't come through.”
Brothers eliminated. Brothers Archie and Sean Miller left the NCAA tournament within hours of each other Saturday night. Sean Miller’s No. 1 seed Arizona came up a short against Wisconsin. The University of Dayton had become the darlings of the bracket, taking out Ohio State University in its first game. But Dayton couldn’t keep up with the University of Florida Gators on Saturday, when it lost 62-52. “It’s always hard to lose the last game of the season,” Archie Miller said. “But … I’m not sure a team in the nation captured more people’s hearts than these guys did, and they did it the right way."
Still fighting. The NCAA women’s basketball tournament starts its Elite Eight on Monday. The eight games in the Sweet 16 had an average margin of victory of 17.8 points. The only game within single digits the entire round was North Carolina’s seven-point win over South Carolina. Perennial title contenders Connecticut and Notre Dame won by comfortable margins. But teams like North Carolina are fighting for more. Coach Sylvia Hatchell was sidelined with leukemia for much of the season. But while visiting her players last week, protective mask and all, she told her players she would coach the Final Four if they can beat Stanford on Tuesday.
Fans get hot. Not everyone took the elimination of Sean Miller’s Wildcats in stride, though. With a chance to win the game, referees called an offensive foul on Arizona’s Nick Johnson with 3 seconds left. Arizona players stood in a kind of incredulous paralysis, unable to protest the controversial call as their season slipped away. Fans back in Tuscon, Ariz., though, poured onto the streets. Tuscon police said they arrested 15 people after fans hurled beer bottles and firecrackers at officers, who then used pepper spray to disperse the crowd. The students posted pictures of the altercation on social media, coining the term “riot selfie.” Meanwhile, officials at the university vowed to punish any students who participated in the fracas.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Perhaps no one showed more grace than University of Louisville senior Russ Smith. In one of the fiercest rivalries in college basketball, the University of Kentucky beat Louisville 74-69 on Saturday. “They show great love,” Smith said of Kentucky players. “You respect someone when you see a competitor out there the court. … From each class, from my sophomore year on, Kentucky’s guys have shown me the same love. And those are new waves of classes, not the same people. So I’ve gotten great respect for them and their program.”
Final Four set. No. 2 seed Wisconsin reached its first Final Four after 13 straight years in the tournament. Their opponent, No. 8 seed Kentucky won the national championship in 2012, but didn’t make the tournament last year. Florida is the tournament’s No. 1 seed and on a 30-game winning streak, but the University of Connecticut was the last team to beat them. Connecticut takes on Florida at 6 p.m. Saturday, followed by Wisconsin and Kentucky at about 9 p.m. The championship will be Monday, April 7.