Hoyas complete Final Four field with shocking comeback

With about eight minutes to go and North Carolina leading Georgetown by 10 in the last regional final of the day, I made the cardinal sin of the NCAA Tournament: I gave up on the game.

Apparently, so did the Tar Heels.

North Carolina has been as bipolar as any team in college basketball this season, and that was as evident as it ever has been as the Tar Heels put together one of the more spectacular collapses of this NCAA Tournament as I attempted to finish putting together my son's dresser that had been taunting me, half finished, for day.

One minute, North Carolina's up by 10, and I'm telling my wife that Georgetown has practically no chance, because rarely do teams track down the Tar Heels from behind. The next, I'm sitting on the couch, kicking myself for finally tearing myself from the TV at the most inopportune time.

It turned out to be exhibit 1a of why I picked the Tar Heels to be the first No. 1 seed upset in this Tournament.

In the best of times, they wear teams down with their superior depth and athleticism, putting away opponents with a relentless flurry of fast breaks capped by dunks and layups. It's how they built a 10-point lead over No. 2 seed Georgetown with roughly eight minutes to go in the game.

In the worst of times, they're undisciplined, giving away possessions on both offense and defense. That's how they made just two baskets over the final nine minutes of regulation and five minutes of overtime in frittering away a trip to the Final Four in a most unlikely manner.

All the credit in the world goes to Georgetown for not giving up on the game. The Hoyas were not intimidated by the Tar Heels from tip to buzzer, and they've made a believer out of me. I still don't think they'll get past Ohio State, but they're a darn good team.

Other observations ...

  • In the early game, it was live by the sword, die by the sword for Oregon. Tajuan Porter lost his golden touch, and Florida's strong inside game was just too much for the undersized Ducks. Maarty Leunen is one of the most underrated big men in the Pac-10, but he was clearly overmatched against Joakim Noah and Al Horford. Frankly, it was only a matter of time before the Oregon was done in by a cold shooting performance; the Ducks should feel fortunate it didn't happen sooner.
  • For as much as everyone loves Tyler Hansbrough -- the toughness, the "Psycho T" persona, etc. -- the guy sure disappears for long stretches of games. Any player who is a true go-to guy doesn't let his team go the final 15 minutes of a game with only two buckets. There's talk about him coming out for the NBA Draft, but the guy clearly needs to stay in school and figure out a way to become a more consistent force.
On the Bracket Challenge front, Ryan Sadoski has slipped into the lead by just a mere point ahead of Chris Cloke, who had the Heels heading to the championship. I'm still looking good for third place, if Ohio State does its job.

I'll have more Final Four talk this week, and probably ease into some more baseball. See you then.


Dr Pezz said...

When NC twice in a row put up a three with only ten seconds elapsed in the shot clock, I thought for sure a time out would end the rushed, undisciplined play. My wife, who really doesn't follow hoops, even asked "what are they doing?" NC stopped dumping the ball in and crashing the boards from angles as they had all game long. They decided a three was a better shot than driving the lane while the refs just wanted to blow the whistle. The final shot of regulation really surprised me: wide open lane and NC pulls up for another three when the game is tied.

Who paid the Tar Heels to lose? :)

One of my biggest pet peeves in sports is when a team leaves its winning formula after building a lead. The prevent defense for an entire half (Holmgren, you listening?), three pointers with a lead and lots of time, and pulling back the reins on offense when leading in the second half (pick a sport, though football first came to mind).

Being too clever can bite you in the butt as well as stopping coaching during a game.

Nuss said...

Interestingly, this was precisely the kind of coaching job that led a lot of people to believe that Roy Williams would never win a national championship at Kansas.

There still are a lot of people who believe that UNC won that championship two years ago in SPITE of Williams ...