One day, two overtime games. The first time it’s happened in the elite eight in the history of the tournament.
West Virginia/Louisville: If you can’t win in regulation by hitting 18 of 24 three pointers, then you just can’t win. The 18 makes were a WVU record, and the second most in a tournament game. It was a performance that would have rivaled Villanova’s in the ’85 championship game had it resulted in a win. After three misses in OT, WVU finished 18 for 27 on threes. Here are the games (between D1 teams only) this season where a team made at least 15 three-pointers and made at least 60% of their attempts:
2/19 Creighton (20-30, 66.7%) vs. Chattanooga 3/26 West Virginia (18-27, 66.7%) vs. Louisville 3/12 Louisville (15-23, 65.2%) vs. Memphis 1/17 Georgia Southern (22-34, 64.7%) vs. Chattanooga 12/20 Cornell (15-24, 62.5%) vs. Syracuse 11/19 Texas Tech (16-26 61.5%) vs. UNC Asheville
We’re talking a total of 4,752 games, and in terms of volume and accuracy, the Mountaineers output was one of the best. How snake bitten was Chattanooga? I don’t care how bad your perimeter defense is, to witness what were arguably the two best three-point shooting games is some serious bad luck.
On the coaching side, Pitino mixed up the usual 2-3 zone with some man in the first half, but played the majority of possessions with zone. The man was slightly more effective. There was a six possession stretch of zone early where WVU scored 15 points, and in the process increased its lead from 6-3 to 21-7. An amazing run of 14 for 16 threes began during this time and lasted into the middle of the second half. Anyway, Pitino went exclusively man in the second half, which resulted in a faster pace and a little less offense for WVU. But overall it was a game where the offenses dominated.
Arizona/Illinois: This isn’t one of those games that is explained with numbers. Illinois, down 15 with roughly four minutes to go, played like the best team in the nation at its most desperate. Anyone that doubted Illinois’ claim to being the best team in the nation cannot do so anymore. It is looking more and more like the final will be the rarest of the rare: a game between the two best teams in the country.
The coaching critique in this one falls on the final play of the game. Arizona, after a timeout, ran a play for Hassan Adams. Adams got the deer-in-the-headlights look when he unexpectedly drew Deron Williams defensively, and never made what could be considered an offensive move, before heaving the ball towards the hoop just before the buzzer. Lute Olson, who fortunately has a 1997 national championship to ward off claims of being a serial choker, would have liked to draw up something to avoid Williams. However, WIlliams had been responsible for Salim Stoudamire for most of the game.
The two Final Four teams have adjusted offensive efficiency ranks of 4 and 5, respectively. Their defensive ranks are 9 and 15. Today’s games will pit two teams with better offenses (UNC, Michigan State) against two teams that rely more on defense (Wisconsin, Kentucky).