Michigan eliminates No 1 Kansas in overtime March Madness thriller
At this point in our March Madness coverage, we have if anything . So, let's begin by saying that many probably could have predicted most of Friday night's results: 15th-seeded FGCU lost to a superior Florida team, Coach K's Duke survived, the tournament's overall top seed, Louisville, will be making an appearance in the Elite Eight. What may have been somewhat less predictable would be Louisville being the only remaining No 1, thanks partly to a clutch-three pointer from Michigan's Trey Burke.
In Friday night's biggest game, perhaps the biggest game of the tournament so far, the fourth-seeded Michigan Wolverines knocked off the one-seeded Kansas Jayhawks 87-85 in an overtime thriller. Fittingly played in Cowboys Stadium, fourth-seeded Michigan rallied from a deficit that was as big as 14 points at times, and was at five points with 21 seconds left in regulation, to tie the game and then win what was, almost nearly as improbably, the first overtime game of the tournament.
Michigan's hero, Trey Burke, looked absolutely awful for the first half, as Kansas held the point guard scoreless. Burke then erupted when his team needed him, scoring 23 points after the half, none bigger than the three that sent the game to overtime. Just one day after Ohio State's LaQuinton Ross made the shot of the tournament, Burke effectively made Ross a footnote by hitting a three-pointer over Kansas's Kevin Young, :
Kansas had a shot at winning it in overtime, as the Jayhawks and Wolverines spent some time exchanging the lead, and even had the ball while down only by two in the game's final seconds. However, Kansas failed to bank their final shot attempts, and ended up becoming the third No 1 eliminated. The surprisingly dangerous . Meanwhile, Michigan secured its longest tournament drive since the days of and live on to face third-seeded Florida in the Elite Eight on Saturday.
Florida was assigned a less fun task on Friday, having to play the "Team That Ruined Everybody's Fun" rather than the tournament-shocking upset specialists. With pretty much the entire college basketball world rooting for the the 15th seeded Florida Gulf Coast University, , Florida was forced to play the villain's role. Early on in Thursday night's game, it looked like "Dunk City" (FGCU's catchy, albeit nickname) was going to again run away with the game, building an 11-point lead early in the game, to the delight of the Eagles-friendly crowd.
But Florida kept cool and kept up their defensive pressure, eventually regaining control by going on a 16-0 run late in the first half. Florida prevented FGCU from making a field goal during a 4 1/2 minute stretch, forced 20 turnovers and ended up shutting down Dunk City in a low-scoring 61-50 affair. FGCU ended up matching their lowest points total of the year. This is further vindication of Florida head coach Billy Donovan's emphasis on using advanced defensive statistics to get an edge upon opponents in a tournament that, as FGCU's surprising run to the Sweet 16 proved, has a way of baffling those who think they have understood it.
Fittingly enough, the games at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis weren't quite as outsized as those taking place at Cowboys Stadium. No, the Indianapolis crowd didn't get to see a top-seeded team get bounced, but they did get to see the Louisville Cardinals play a close game, which seems to be almost as rare of an occurrence. Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals faced a rough battle from the resilient 12th-seeded Oregon Ducks. Louisville won 77-69, but it's quite likely that the NCAA Tournament would feature an Elite Eight without a No 1 if it weren't for the heroics of Russ Smith. The guard's 31 points were the main reason that Louisville, rather than Kansas, weren't at the top of this page for all the wrong reasons.
The Indianapolis crowd didn't get a chance to root for America's Favorite Underdogs Of The Moment, aka the FGC Eagles, but they did get to root for "whoever is playing Duke", which is pretty close for most of the country. Unfortunately, in this case it was third-seeded Michigan State, and they had to deal with Seth Curry on Friday night. In a performance reminiscent of , Curry went on a three-pointer tear, hitting six of nine attempts and ending up scoring 29 points. Unlike those games his brother had with the Warriors earlier this year, Seth Curry's team actually won as second-seeded Duke defeated Michigan State 71-61. Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils will face Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals on Sunday night in what will officially be called the Midwest Regional Finals but will be informally known as the biggest of the 2012-13 college basketball season.
On Sunday night, Duke's Coach K, as he's best known among media members who long ago gave up trying to spell or pronounce Krzyzewski, will be playing for his 12th Final Four appearance, tying the legendary John Wooden. Meanwhile, thanks to Trey Burke's tournament-shifting three against Kansas, Louisville's Pitino will be playing to prevent this from being the fourth Final Four not to include a No 1 seed (it happened in 1980, 2006 and 2011). Two of the most disliked coaches of modern college basketball, leading two of the game's premiere programs, will go against each other in a game where either outcome has historic consequences. If the craziness winds down as the begins winnowing out teams like FGCU and Oregon, the dramatic stakes only increase as the surviving teams begin to fight for their legacies while they battle each other. Bring on the Elite Eight.