We are clearly at the point now where we can start to talk about the 2023 NCAA tournament as being the greatest ever, and it’s not even over yet.
Sunday’s two regional finals reinforced that idea considerably. First San Diego State and Creighton had a ferocious contest that went to the final second before the Aztecs won 57-56. And in the second game, Miami had a brilliant comeback to upset Texas 88-81.
In the first game, Creighton looked for a while as if they might win it. The Bluejays kept a narrow lead for much of the game until San Diego State pulled ahead 46-45 with 6:44 left.
And from there, it was the basketball equivalent of hand-to-hand combat but you got the sense that San Diego State was slowly strangling the Bluejays.
And San Diego State came close to disaster when Adam Seiko, panicking a bit about getting the ball inbounds, threw a high pass towards the basket that Baylor Scheierman picked off, scoring a layup and tying it up, 56-56.
This was after the Aztecs missed a lot of shots that could have gotten them some separation. They’re a frustrating team at times offensively because they’ll just go cold as they did against Creighton but their defense, and their relatively fresh legs, kept them in the game.
Remember how well Creighton shot earlier in the tournament?
SDSU limited the Bluejays to 40 percent overall and just 2-17 from deep for 11.8 percent.
Against Baylor, this team hit 11-24. Against Princeton, the Jays hit 9-21.
Even then, there was controversy when Aztec guard Darrion Trammell drove the lane and a foul was called. Bluejay Ryan Nemhard had his hand on Trammell’s hip as he went up to shoot.
Some people, notably Charles Barkley, said he hated to see a game decided by an official, but that’s really foolish. You can’t decide a game by not enforcing rules. And notably, the officials are graded after every game and It’s certainly not in their interest to swallow the whistle at a critical point. That review would be absolutely brutal.
Greg McDermott has long loved the deep shot and San Diego State just took it off the table.
With the win, San Diego State will play Florida Atlantic in first game of the Final Four Saturday evening, which means of course that one of the two will play for the national championship Monday night.
In the other half of the Final Four, UConn will play Miami after Miami’s very impressive comeback against Texas.
The Hurricanes started out hot, going up 9-2 before Texas really got going. And after they did, the Longhorns looked pretty much in control. At one point, when Texas was up about 13, we looked at the boxscore and saw that Miami was shooting around 60 percent from the floor and thought, well, that doesn’t make sense.
Well it does if you aren’t defending very well and Miami wasn’t.
They fixed that in the stretch run, clamping down on Texas and ripping off a 35-16 run over the last 12 minutes of the game.
Isaiah Wong tied the score 75-75 with 4:44 left.
Miami went up 79-77 on a pair of Jordan Miller free throws and then Marcus Carr struck back to tie it back up.
Norchad Omier then stepped into a bit of controversy, but it wasn’t his fault.
He jumped up for a rebound and Longhorn Brock Cunningham backed under him. At first it was called a foul on Omier - it would have been Omier’s fifth - but the call was reversed. Omier hit his freebies and other than a layup by Tyrese Hunter to cut it to 85-81 with :19 seconds to go, it was a parade to the free throw line the rest of the way.
And just like that, Miami made it to the Promised Land. Since 2015, the ACC has sent Duke, UNC, Virginia and Syracuse, and now the Hurricanes. This the eighth time one of those teams has made it since 2015.
For all the talk about the ACC being down, that’s pretty remarkable.
It won’t be easy.
Three out of the four teams left standing are defensive juggernauts. Miami is capable of playing well on that end too, but for them to win, they’ll have to first overcome UConn’s ferocious D and then either Florida Atlantic or San Diego State.
We’ve said this before and other people have too but it bears repeating: the Big 12? Gone. Big Ten? Gone. SEC? Gone. But thanks to Miami, the ACC still has legs.
We’ll revisit this soon but at first glance, we’d think UConn would take out Miami, and on the other side?
That’s really tough, but both teams are deep and can maintain a high level of play. But only one scores well. So tentatively, we’ll go with FAU.
But wouldn’t it be fun if it was Miami and Florida Atlantic? Can you imagine the excitement in Miami if that happened?