CHICAGO — Bill Self survived… himself.
The man with a resume full of head-scratching March Madness losses to teams his program never has any business losing to was on his way to another one. The No. 1 Jayhawks were trailing No. 10 Miami by six points at halftime. And if something was going to be done, this was the time.
This is why halftime is so important.
“For whatever reason, the lid (on the basket) came off in the second half, the intensity picked up defensively, and then we had about two good plays turn into four, and four turned into eight, which turned into 16,” said Self. “That was about as well as we could play in the second half. These guys earned it.”
“We need about four days off. I can’t wait to get to New Orleans.”
Joining the Jayhawks in the Bayou for Saturday’s Final Four will be Duke, Villanova, and North Carolina, as the Tar Heels defeated Saint Peter’s 69-49. The Peacocks were the ultimate March Cinderella who was trying to become the first No. 15 seed to make it to the last weekend. But, this ain’t no fairytale. This is real life. And in this world, Goliath beat the sh*t out of David.
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After watching Houston fall to Villanova on Saturday, followed by Duke taking care of Arkansas, everything was in place for a Final Four weekend that featured four of the most prominent names in the sport. However, things were up in the air early on Sunday afternoon, as Kansas was playing as if they weren’t interested in eating crawfish and beignets later this week.
“That was an impressive start to the second half, to go from down six to tie it in… ‘what? Two minutes?” Self explained.
The 10-0 run that Kansas used in the early minutes of the half didn’t just put them ahead for good, it got their fans out of their seats. For much of the first half, it felt and sounded like the Hurricane fans were larger in number, despite that not being the truth. And the Miami fan behind me that was screaming “Pack it up” to the Kansas players during warmups almost got his wish. But, almost doesn’t count. Just ask the folks at Arkansas, Houston, and at Saint Peter’s.
After having the 2020 NCAA Tournament canceled due to COVID-19, and the 2021 version played in a weird bubble in Indiana that lacked fans and the normality of March Madness, this year’s tournament has a little of everything. Fans were back in the stands, there were upsets galore, a bunch of brackets were busted, and stars showed up for their teams. It led to a Final Four that will please the networks, give sportswriters an unlimited amount of angles to pursue, and a situation we’ve never seen before.
Duke vs. North Carolina Part III will make history, as it will be the first time that the best rivalry in college basketball takes place during March Madness. North Carolina is looking to end Coach K’s career with a loss after beating him in his last game in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke is out for revenge — they hope to send their coach out with ring No. 6. And on the other side of the bracket, Villanova and Kansas will face off in a rematch of their 2018 Final Four matchup, when the Wildcats won 95-79 before defeating Michigan in the national title game to capture their second championship in three years.
For all the parity that people love to claim has taken over college basketball, this year’s tournament has proven that the rich are still…rich. Wannabees like Gonzaga couldn’t get it done — again — and a former March staple like Michigan State got denied during the first weekend. Sister Jean wasn’t able to pull off any miracles for Loyola, and last year’s champion, Baylor, was reminded why they’re third on the depth chart in their own athletic department after the Tar Heels dispatched of them in the Second Round.
As the only sport that owns an entire month, college basketball has always been about the Haves and the Haves Not, with a little bit of March’s magic sprinkled in. But, as we enter the final week of the season, the bluebloods have made a statement. “This is our tournament, not yours.”