The greatest sports saga of recent years continues. Sister Jean, the tireless 98-year old Loyola of Chicago cheerleading nun, has her Ramblers from the Missouri Valley Conference headed to basketball’s Final Four in San Antonio this coming weekend. The beloved Sister Jean has enthralled viewers and nearly singlehandedly resurrected the college game from a number of recent scandals to create the most endearing sports story in memory. Sporting her very own Sister Jean sneakers and Loyola letterman’s jacket, she has endured interview after grueling interview to cheer her team on. They have done their part, winning three nail biting games by the grand total of four points before blowing Kansas State out to get to the Final Four. You rock, Sister Jean!
When Malik Newman of Kansas hit a three-pointer in overtime for Kansas to put the game out of reach for Duke, the announcer reached back for a Seinfeld line and chortled, “Hello, Newman,” perhaps somewhat less vile than Jerry so often did in greeting his postman neighbor. Fitting, in that disliked Greyson Allen, a scurrilously dirty player from Duke, had missed a last second shot in regulation which would have given Duke the win for their 13th trip to the Final Four. But it was not to be as Newman scored all of the Jayhawks 13 points in OT to secure the win.
Michigan edged Florida State by four and Villanova sailed to its fourth straight double-digit tournament win by overpowering Texas Tech. The Seminoles had great talent but it was the cunning coaching of Michigan’s John Beilein down the stretch, cannily inserting his personal four foul sated, 6’11” German center, Moritz Wagner, (pronounced Vagner, like the composer Richard, rather than Wagner, like the actor Robert.) Go figure. To paraphrase Frasier Crane, “Just what we needed down the thrilling stretch, another language!”
The Villanova Wildcats look almost unbeatable and draw Kansas in the Semi-Final on Saturday. All the announcers and pundits are picking ‘Nova to claw the Jay Hawks. But be careful. Of all the teams I’ve seen, none plays as well together as Kansas. Totally unselfish, they constantly find the open man for close, in the paint, points. They were very patient in dissecting the Duke zone, running the clock down before shooting, keeping the score down and the ball out of the hands of the talented one-and-done Duke diaper dandies.
A word about the huge upset of overall number one seed Virginia by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. In the thirty-three years since the tournament expanded to 64 teams, there have been 136 match ups of 1 vs 16. Never has a number one seed lost any of those games. Virginia’s style of slow play prevented their playing catch-up when UMBC shot the lights out, going 26 for 48 from the field, including 12 of 24 three-pointers to win by twenty points. The Cavaliers have much less to be cavalier about for the next year.