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March Madness

Jay Wright has been working 32 years for this moment and he can’t believe it

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—Jay Wright has been working for 32 years to get to this moment; and it’s as though he isn’t sure this is really happening.

Monday night in Houston, Wright led his guys to the National Championship.

His stoic reaction as his team won the game, was as surprising as the outcome of the game itself.

Holding back the tears? Or the shocked, stunned reaction to the nano second change of events that just took place before him. You can imagine that after North Carolina nailed a three-pointer to tie the game with six seconds to go in regulation the veteran coach must be thinking about overtime strategy and its as though reality caught him off guard.

There would be no overtime.

He is the head coach of the 20016 National Champion Villanova Wildcats.

“You know, it is still surreal,” Wright said after the game.

“I don’t think I’ve really digested this yet. I really don’t. I’m still in my coaching mind, making sure we handle things properly, making sure we cut down the net correctly, we take care of our responsibilities here. I don’t think this has hit me yet.”

Wright continued,  “About my reaction, when you’re a coach, you’re always thinking about the next play. I was really thinking, Is there going to be more time on the clock?”

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32 years after beginning his career as an assistant coach at Rochester in the early 80’s he reached the pinnacle of his ambitions.

It was decided in seconds.  32 years of work solidified in seconds as his player, Kris Jenkins put a single orange basketball in a basket and all those years of hard work paid off.

“I’m the adult,” said Wright.

“I got all these 18- and 22-year-olds around me. They’re going to go crazy, and I’m going to have to get them gathered up here and we’re going to have to defend a play with .7 seconds. That’s what I was thinking.”

 

Villanova wins the National Championship on a shocker

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—Kris Jenkins told Ryan Arcidiacono he was going to be open. The game is tied 74-74 and there are six seconds until the clock turns red.

After inbounding to Arcidiacono, Jenkins sprinted up the court and yelled ahead, “Ryan Ryan”.

Arcidiacano heard his teammate and left the ball suspended for a nano second beyond the three-point line. Jenkins concentrated, released and nailed it.

Your 2016 National Champions, the Villanova Wildcats.

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North Carolina almost pushed it to overtime when Tar Heel senior guard Marcus Paige made a nearly one-handed, double-clutched, three-point shot with under 10 seconds remaining to tie it at 74-74 a piece. And we’re heading to overtime, right?

No, Nova would win it at the buzzer 77-74 on the Kris Jenkins three-pointer which will now forever be “The Shot” in college basketball lore.

Villanova head coach Jay Wright stood in stunned silence as the confetti came pouring down from the NRG Stadium rafters. His assistants hugging him, he stood in stoned silence and then started a little fractional of a smile, but never finished it, knowing that the dream had been realized some 32 years after he began his coaching career as an assistant in Rochester, New York. Then he put his hands up in disbelief.

It was a win for the players and a win for the coach and a win for the Wildcats of Villanova everywhere.

The night The ACC won March

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—It just isn’t fair.

Atop the coaching list in a single conference sits the czar Coach K, just below him Roy Williams or Jim Boeheim depending on who you ask, and don’t forget Rick Pitino and his 743 career wins, two national titles, and 20 NCAA tournament appearances.

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And in a year that Pitino sat out, his coaching brethren who are the legends of this profession, combined for 6,694 wins and that’s not counting Jamie Dixon’s 328 career wins who recently departed Pitt for Texas Christian.

Friday night the ACC advanced four teams into the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse, Notre Dame, Virginia and North Carolina experienced the elation of moving on-without much fanfare or nets to be cut down. Just domination.

Half of the remaining field has ACC membership.

The remaining coaches of the ACC’s four elite eight teams (Jim Boeheim Roy Williams, Tony Bennett and Mike Brey) have a career win total of 2,454.  Boeheim will be looking for his second NCAA title, Williams his third and Brey and Bennett their first.

The ACC is also guaranteed a participant in the National Title game, and is already guaranteed two spots in the Final Four.

Of the remaining other four non-ACC teams, Kansas appears to be most poised to keep playing- perhaps setting up a classic power matchup between Kansas and North Carolina April 4th in Houston.

At this point the ACC will break the most wins in an NCAA tourney with at least 19. Also, according to Darren Rovell of ESPN, the conference by virtue of its success,  will be compensated by the NCAA for “25” units to the tune of $39 million.

All said, the ACC is 16-3 in this tournament and that says it all. Over the last two tournaments, the conference is 33-8.

The Big 12 was strong, the Big Ten was gritty, the top of the Pac-12 showed us some stuff, but the best was really the ACC all along.

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Northern Iowa just set the NCAA Tournament and your bracket on fire

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—We all love the improbable upset, and so does the NCAA Men’s basketball selection committee.

Friday’s action gave us that and more. More was a buzzer beater. What’s better than a March upset?  A March Madness buzzer beater.

And what more could you ask for other than a matchup between a sixth-seeded Texas program whose logo is known throughout the college sports landscape and an eleventh-seeded Northern Iowa from the heartland whose expertise is to do just what we want them to do: upset and do it in a big way.

Texas, led by a coach by the name of Shaka Smart, who in years past has been the engine driver of great tourney upsets and alas Northern Iowa who just 11 days ago defeated Evansville to win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament on yes, a buzzer beater.

We’re in Oklahoma City, the same place where “The Shot” happened Bryce Drew’s legendary heave from just beyond the 3-point line when Valparaiso shocked Mississippi State in the 1998 NCAA Tournament.

Friday night, four seconds remaining, Paul Jesperson standing six-foot-six and 24 years of age, a redshirt senior who grew up in Merril, Wisconsin about 330 miles from UNI’s campus in Cedar Rapids accepts the inbounds pass, one dribble and the lob off the backboard, it’s good!

It was set up by the masterminds of the NCAA selection committee but never scripted not for a moment.

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NCAA tournament No. 1 Seeds: UNC, Oklahoma, Villanova and Iowa?

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USA TODAY posted a mock field of 68 with less than two months away from NCAA Tournament tournament time. (54 days 3 hours 42 minutes and 19 seconds until the First Four in Dayton to be exact at the time of this writing.)

Iowa sneaks in on the Top seed line in USA TODAY’s projection, along with the predicted UNC, Oklahoma and Villanova, each of which are ranked in the Top 4 in both the AP and Coaches poll.

Currently sitting at 2nd in the Big Ten and 14-3 overall, Iowa has a lot of work to do for this to play out.

The Hawkeyes host No. 22 Purdue this Sunday then travel to No. 7 Maryland in one week. The regular season also includes two more games against ranked Indiana for Iowa.

Villanova appears good enough to hold on through the regular season sitting at 1st in the Big East and 17-2 overall.

UNC seems to be the favorite as of now to win it all. Oklahoma has been to the tourney three straight years, lastly losing in the Sweet 16 in 2016, and appear to be on their crescendo headed towards greater accomplishments in March.

See the full bracket at USA TODAY by following the link below:

Iowa, Villanova, North Carolina and Oklahoma are No. 1 seeds.

Source: NCAA tournament bracketology: Projecting the field of 68

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