Intriguing Performances From March Madness: Final Four

NCAA National Championship

The Power of 2

Heading into their game against Oregon, Baylor has won each of their tournament games by at least 25 points. The Bears have steamrolled past every team they’ve faced in the tournament until now.  Oregon’s offense wouldn’t go as quite as their contemporaries.

Oregon’s big three, Sabrina Ionescu, Satou Sabally, Erin Boley combined for 48 of their team’s 67 points. A surprising feat considering Baylor’s Didi Richards and Juicy Landrum hounding defense left Ionescu scoreless in the first quarter. The duo held Oregon’s star to 5-20 shooting from the field.

While Richards and Landrum were tasked with shutting down Ionescu they left the scoring to Baylor’s twin towers, Lalani Brown and Lauren Cox. The duo combined for 43 points, 18 rebounds, and 9 assists.

Baylor has been a dominant force all season losing just one game in the regular season. With the defeat of Oregon, they waltz into the Championship game with the best resume of the field. They’ve trampled a player capable of a 30-30 game, one of the most talented teams in the tournament, the nation’s leading scorer, and a player many scouts believe is the best player in this draft class.

Repeat?

In a game worthy of national title Notre Dame squeaked past UCONN 81-76. After 26 lead changes and a dash of Arike Ogunbowale magic one of the best rivalries in women’s college basketball continues to favor the “underdog”.

The Irish seem to have the edge over the Huskies stepping past them in consecutive final four games in search of another title. Notre Dame’s starting five outperformed UCONN in every way, boasting better production in every statistical category except field goal percentage and turnovers. Sunday night they look to push their luck against a calculating Baylor defense.

The Call Heard Round The World

By definition, a shooting foul occurs when a defensive player makes contact with a shooter who has started a continuous shooting motion and is in that shooting motion until he returns to a normal floor position. Kyle Guy’s situation indeed fits these parameters. His landing space was encroached on by the Auburn player but should there be a time and place for a potentially game-deciding call?

With the three free throws Kyle Guy earned with .6 seconds on the clock he stamped Virginia’s first national championship bid. Virginia won the game in the final seconds but it doesn’t explain why this foul put Auburn on the bad side of a discussion that will undeniably sweep the nation.

Virginia beat Auburn on the glass, shared the ball more effectively, and swatted three times as many shots. On paper, they earned this win through efficient play, their brand of basketball. Whether you believe that call was necessary the Cavaliers fought the Tigers tooth and nail to play Texas Tech on Monday.

Battle of the First Timers

Texas Tech didn’t win a chance for a chip on the heels of their projected lottery pick or on the strength of their shooting, they won it with will. It was a team win highlighted by dominant performances of some unlikely heroes.

Tariq Owens, being one, hosted a block party in the first nearly matching Michigan State’s assist (3) to his block total (2). The Red Raiders defense had the fifth most efficient offense in the nation scrambling for buckets the entire game. The pressure they applied didn’t make diamonds it crushed the dreams of an upperclassman-laden team.

On the offensive end Matt Mooney supplemented Jarrett Culver’s poor shooting night with 22 points. But Culver wouldn’t let the party end without leaving his mark at its closing. He made a dagger three and a free throw to negate MSU’s late-game run. The duo were the only double digits scorers in red jerseys Saturday night. A luxury you’re permitted when your defense holds all but one player from the opposing team under their scoring average.

If you’re not ready to see a defense first national championship game look away now. Texas Tech’s victory over Michigan State guarantees two of the best defensive teams in the nation to duel on Monday night.