That’s how quickly things can change in March.
One call, one hero, one (or two) no-calls, and one ticket to the Sweet 16 for the Arizona Wildcats.
How do you top a thrilling victory in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament?
You do it again.
How great is this tournament? The Cats were one play – Derrick Williams’ buzzer-beater-beater – from going home in the opening round. Now they have the geographical advantage against 1-seed Duke.
It was a game for the other guys. Williams missed 10 shots. MoMo Jones missed all of his. Kevin Parrom missed time with an injury. So Jordin Mayes and Brendon Lavender took a bunch of 3-pointers and didn’t miss at all.
This is why you give minutes to 10 guys all year. It’s why you develop Mayes and you don’t give up on Lavender. This is why you let Kyryl Natyazhko learn from his mistakes on the court.
The terminology of the expanded tournament has been confusing. Louisville lost in the First Round last year but made it to the Second Round this year even though the Cardinals still didn’t win any games. I nominate new names like the Sexy 64 and the Thunderous 32.
But there’s no debating the Sweet 16.
It was another going-away present for senior Jamelle Horne in a season that just won’t go away. Horne endured three coaches in four years (and not playing for the guy who recruited him) but he’ll leave with two trips into the tournament’s second weekend.
And he’ll get to play Duke.
I honestly didn’t even consider the possibility of the Cats playing Mike “Shushefskee” and the Blue Devils because I remember getting worked up for nothing in ‘04 and ‘09. There’s a whole lot to get worked up about now.
From the “If it ain’t broke” file, here’s how the end of the Texas game went down:
We pick things up with a minute and a half left in the game. The score is tied at 67.
1:24 – Solomon Hill is called for traveling. This is not the run-before-you-dribble kind. It was more of the jab-step-jab-step-drag-your-pivot-foot variety.
1:07 – J’Covan Brown hits a jumper in the lane. He scored Texas’ final 11 points. The Wildcats are very happy it wasn’t the final 13. 69-67, Longhorns.
0:27.0 – Hill spins into the lane but gets his shot blocked. Natyazhko ends up with the rebound and kicks it out to Williams for an open 3. No good. Kyryl taps the rebound again and Hill pulls it down. Solomon drives toward the hoop and one official calls a Texas foul while the other says Sean Miller called timeout. The timeout stands. Deep breath…exhale.
0:14.5 – The Cats run pick-and-roll with Kyle Fogg and Williams (foreshadowing). Williams dribbles behind his back and attempts to go 1-on-3. His right-handed shot ends up going to the left of the entire backboard. No call. Ballgame…one would think.
(Everything about the ill-fated Texas timeout has already been said but here are the details: It was called by Jordan Hamilton, the Longhorns’ leading scorer and a 78% free throw shooter. I have no idea either.)
Still 0:14.5 – The 5-Second Call. Or, if you’re a Texas fan, The 4-and-a-Half-Second Call. Watching the replay, Tex is right. It wasn’t a full five seconds. Somewhere Pitt fans are joining in the outrage.
0:9.6 – Pick-and-roll with Fogg and Williams again. Texas doubles Fogg (don’t get beat by a 3) but Kyle threads a bounce pass to Williams. Hamilton tries to take a change from the side. Derrick falls forward after the contact, flips the ball over his head and it perfectly hits the square on the backboard and falls through the hoop. Wildcat Universe rejoices.
After a long delay to confirm the time remaining, Derrick Williams steps to the line and shoots, not like a boy who has missed 5-of-10 free throw attempts in the 2nd half, but like a man. Nay, more than a man; a legend.
0:00.0 – No call on the shot, no call on the rebound. MoMo is kissing the camera, Kyryl is flashing his longhorns, and Duke is waiting.
How do you top two thrilling victories in the NCAA tournament?
Go for three.
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