1. The play that put Villanova in the Final Four should be known as the Dual Homage. The inbounds pass to Dante Cunningham was in the same style of the bomb Valparaiso threw to Bill Jenkins -- to set up Bryce Drew -- in 1998, in that both teams entered the ball to a leaping big man rather than the shooter. And the three-quarter-court race that Scottie Reynolds went on after receiving the ball from Cunningham was reminiscent of the mad dash UCLA's Tyus Edney used to beat Missouri in 1995, in that both point guards weaved through traffic and sunk a short floater in the face of the final defender, who stood with his hands up in the lane. Even the time was nearly the same: There were 5.5 seconds left on the clock for Reynolds' rush, and 4.8 for Edney's.
What sets Reynolds' play apart from Drew's and Edney's, though, what was at stake: Nova's first trip to the Final Four since 1985 -- not just a win in the first weekend of the dance. Even if Reynolds does nothing else in this tournament, he'll forever have a place in tourney lore.
2. Pitt's national title hopes weren't just killed by Reynolds, though; in a big-picture sense, they died at the free-throw line. The Wildcats had ice in their veins, going 22-of-23 from the stripe, with the lone miss coming by Reggie Redding with 20 seconds left in the game. The Panthers, meanwhile, went 21-of-29, with DeJuan Blair, a 61.5 percent free-throw shooter on the season, going just 2-of-6. The discrepancy in accuracy was no fluke. 'Nova ranked 22nd in the country in free-throw shooting, at 74.8 percent, while Pitt ranked 229th, at 67.3. Like it did to Memphis in last year's tournament, lackluster stripe-work finally caught up to Pitt.
3. As good as Villanova looked in wins over Duke and Pitt, it looks like we're headed for a UConn-North Carolina title game. The Huskies match up well with likely Midwest Region rep Louisville -- UConn won by 17 in Freedom Hall on Feb. 2, and seems impervious to pressure -- and Carolina can outscore 'Nova in a transition game. There were times during the season where public opinion soured on both the Huskies (soon after the Jerome Dyson injury) and the Heels (when they lost to Boston College and Wake to open up the ACC, and weren't playing D) but they're now the two strongest teams in the field.
4. UConn can win it all if Stanley Robinson keeps playing like he has over the past four games. He'd fade in and out during the regular season -- like when he scored 19 at Marquette on Feb. 25, and then three against Notre Dame on Feb. 28 -- but has been locked in in the dance, acting as an explosive finisher around the basket as well as a defensive stopper. He had 13 points, six boards and four blocks against Mizzou and was a big help in withstanding the Tigers' chaotic
pressure. There isn't a team in the country that can stop Robinson, Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet at the same time when they're all playing together in the Huskies' frontcourt.
5. NCAA: Stop playing non-Final Four games in football stadiums. Their excuse is that they have to test out those regional sites for future Final Fours, but the gridiron venues are horrible for Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games. NBA arenas -- like FedEx Forum and TD Banknorth Garden -- are big enough. The backdrop in Glendale, Ariz., for the West Regional was downright eerie, just a sea of empty red seats. The photo above, from the UConn-Missouri game there, should give you a decent idea of the scenery. Even the fans who did show up seem miles away from the court, which is the complete opposite of the raucous, densely-packed settings college basketball is played in during the regular season. I understand they need to make money on this thing -- if cash were no object, then I'd put tourney games in Cameron Indoor and Hinkle Fieldhouse every year -- but it's coming at the expense of the atmosphere.