In a night of great contrasts, Michigan will meet Villanova on Monday night for the championship.
If the Wildcats play like they did tonight, the game could be over by halftime.
But first Game 1. The darlings of college basketball, so-called mid-major and 11th seed Loyola-Chicago dominated its big brother from the Big Ten for almost 30 minutes, but after five consecutive turnovers, David ran out of pebbles and Goliath poured it on, outscoring the Ramblers by 19 points in the second half.
Michigan was led by Moritz Wagner, who had a record-breaking night. Before tonight, only two players had scored 20-plus points with 15 rebounds in an NCAA Final Four game. You may have heard of them: Larry Bird and Hakeem Olajuwon. Add Wagner to the list — 24 points and 15 rebounds. He was spectacular, and without him, Sister Jean hangs around until Tuesday. Michigan won despite shooting poorly, only 7-for-28 from 3, but turned it up defensively in the final ten minutes. Loyola, which had been averaging seven 3s in this tournament, was 1-for-10.
In Game 2, Villanova was simply awesome. The game was essentially over two minutes in.
The Wildcats tied the NCAA Tournament record by making 13 3s in the first half and ended up with 18 3s on 38 attempts. Villanova had six players in double figures, shot 55 percent from the field and destroyed a No. 1 seed.
Kansas had no answer. Villanova could have beaten half of the NBA teams the way they played tonight. Twenty of their 36 baskets were assisted and they didn’t even attempt a free throw until there was under nine minutes left.
Earlier in the day, I spent sometime with UH coach Eran Ganot at the Jewish Coaches Breakfast. Two tears ago, Ganot was the Jewish coach of the year. This year it went to Auburn coach Bruce Pearl.
This was the first year the breakfast wasn’t at a Jewish deli and the bacon we were served I am told was turkey bacon.
So half the 90,000 folks here for the tournament will be leaving town. For Kansas, they will be back. They just ran into a performance for the ages. For the Ramblers, the dream is over, but you can be sure that applications will skyrocket and Sister Jean is now a legend. Who knows which mid-major will be next year’s surprise? Perhaps it will be a team in the middle of the Pacific. You just never know.