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Friday's Notes

Thursday Was A Sensational Night Of Basketball

Tennessee left nothing on the floor vs. Michigan in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
Tennessee left nothing on the floor vs. Michigan in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

This year's tournament continues to deliver and Friday night's games were among the best so far. The least of the bunch was UConn's victory over Iowa State in the Garden, a mere five point inevitability as it came to seem - and five points is nothing.

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But the others! Tennessee came this close to pulling off an incredible comeback against Michigan, falling short by just two points, 73-71. Virginia took the Spartans to the limit, but Adreian Payne dominated the end and carried Tom Izzo's bunch to the finish line.

And then there was Kentucky and Louisville.

Early on, it looked as if Louisville's experience and junk yard dog defense would put the young Kittys in their place. But Kentucky grew up fast this month. Taking out Wichita State was just huge. And as big as that was, with everything it means to beat Louisville, that was even bigger.

How could it not be?

And now Kentucky, after a year that nearly turned disastrous, stands on the doorstep of the Final Four, with only Michigan to overcome.

That may not be that easy. Playing Michigan means you'll often trade two for three, and John Beilein is a brilliant and still underrated coach.

But back to Virginia for a minute. How could anyone not be impressed with what Virginia has accomplished this season? There's no shame in losing to Michigan State, a team many think could win it all.

It's been a long time since Virginia fans could be truly proud of their program. In retrospect, getting rid of Dave Leitao, who failed on multiple levels, was a great decision. Tony Bennett has been tremendous, and he looks to have staying power. It's a great time to be a Wahoo fan.

On Saturday, Archie Miller will lead his Dayton Flyers up against the mighty Florida Gators. Does Dayton have a chance?

Well, at least a slight chance. Ask yourself: could Miller's team have beaten Kansas? Uh, yes. UCLA? Yes again. Virginia? Quite possibly. Michigan State? Can't rule it out. So why not Florida? It's a mismatch on paper, but no one plays on paper.

On the other side, Arizona and Wisconsin play, and since neither Bo Ryan nor Sean Miller has been to the Final Four, someone's - well, let's eschew that phrase - someone's getting their for the first time.

Oddly enough, though Sean Miller is by far the younger man, he in some ways has more experience: son of a coach, he played on a most dynamic, if flawed Pitt team, he's coached at Xavier and now at Arizona. His programs have done very well, though not Final Four well.

Ryan is the man with championship experience, though his were in D-II.

Still, it's hard to pick against Arizona. Both teams defend well, but Arizona's athleticism is far superior.

Then again, as Virginia has shown all year, superior athleticism can be, if not a liability, then certainly overcome with patience, hard work and skill.

Clemson and Florida State, both still alive in the NIT, are off until April Fool's Day and will take on SMU and Minnesota respectively.

And that's the end of ACC basketball for the season - no more than three games left, and possibly just the two.