Instead of listening to Billy Packer drone on about guard play yesterday, we got to watch a couple carry their teams to the Final Four instead.
Scottie Reynolds earned himself a prominent place in NCAA Corporate Partners' product placement by driving through the Pittsburgh defense and swishing a leaner in the lane with a half-second left, giving Villanova a lead that survived Levance Fields' near-miracle backcourt heave at the buzzer.
Reggie Redding owes Scottie big time after his late miss left the Wildcats 22-for-23 at the foul line and his long incomplete bomb from the baseline led to Nova blowing a four-point lead in the final seconds. Still, let this be a lesson (listening, Memphis and Missouri?) on the importance of foul shooting in the postseason.
So, do we have our leader for Game of the Tournament so far? It's mine. I thank my alma mater for blowing out Ohio State in the first round up at Manchester (BU was the only one of hockey's four regional top seeds to survive its tournament opener) so I could watch most of this one.
Kemba Walker, meanwhile, set himself up for preseason Big East honors next year. The UConn freshman has been a valuable contributor throught the tournament yesterday, but exploded for 23 points yesterday and saved the Huskies on a day foul trouble and an injured hand slowed Hasheem Thabeet.
Walker and 10-for-10 UConn foul shooting down the stretch held off Missouri after the Tigers recovered from a 13-2 early hold and snatched the lead midway through the second half. Eventually, though, the shots that dropped Thursday night started clanging off the rim, and nobody stepped up. The Tigers bricked 6-for-12 at the line, an even lower percentage than Memphis did.
One was in control 98 percent of the time. The other had to find a way, be it 14 points down against American or in a fight to the finish against the top seed. But my Final Four's two-for-two, and the other half is alive (and favored) today.
Sure, hype North Carolina-Oklahoma as Tyler Hansbrough vs. Blake Griffin. But those supporting casts have come up pretty big, too. Hansbrough hasn't even really had to step up into the spotlight let.
The Tar Heels will be putting the lead foot to the floorboards, and the Sooners will keep up with them for a long time. Still, there's nothing like senior leadership and depth in this kind of game, and I wonder if Psycho-T has been sandbagging it a bit. Today's the day to show us all his game.
NORTH CAROLINA 95, OKLAHOMA 85.
There's a lot to be said about the tenacity of Michigan State. They're nails. They don't get a lot of respect. They just do what they have to do under the boards and on defense, and have just enough offense to do the job.
But they don't see anything in the Big 10 like Louisville. Where they're used to playing at 33, the Cardinals play a hard 78. Sparty will not absorb the 35-point beatdown it did from North Carolina earlier this season, but I don't see it keeping up.
LOUISVILLE 87, MICHIGAN STATE 67.