The first game of the NCAA Elite Eight featured a gruesome shooting performance by Marquette. The last game will be remembered for a gruesome leg injury to Louisville's Kevin Ware. In between, fans found out a lot about contenders and pretenders for the NCAA title.
In this year of parity, many teams that were ranked No. 1 or were in the discussion at some point this season have delivered clunkers in the tournament, leaving the Final Four with ninth-seeded Wichita State, No. 4 Michigan, No. 4 Syracuse and No. 1 Louisville.
The Cardinals are the only ones that have the look of a potential NCAA champion. The rest are seriously flawed. When the teams convene in Atlanta, most of the questions will center on how Louisville can be beaten.
Louisville vs. Wichita State » The Cardinals have won 14 straight, including four in the NCAAs by an average of 21.8 points. In a tournament plagued by crooked shooting, Louisville has hit at least 52.7 percent of its shots in each of the wins.
This is the team that many thought in the preseason was the best in the nation, propelled by experienced guards Russ Smith and Peyton Siva, powered by linebacker-sized forwards Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear and protected in the rear by center Gorgui Dieng.
Does Wichita State have a chance? Any team that enters the Final Four shooting 45 percent from beyond the arc in its previous three games can do it. But will that be possible against a team that defends the arc (31.5 percent) as well as the Cardinals?
Syracuse vs. Michigan » The Orange have flummoxed four NCAA foes with their 2-3 zone defense, advancing in the tournament despite their own offensive woes in the halfcourt. On Saturday, they will face a coach, John Beilein, who went 0-6 against them when he guided West Virginia.
What Syracuse hasn't faced so far, however, is a team with a strong point guard. In Friday's win over Kansas, Michigan's Trey Burke not only hit the buzzer-beating 3-pointer that got the Wolverines to overtime, he became the first player in 26 years with at least 20 points and 10 assists in a Sweet 16 game. If there's an antidote to the Orange defense, it's a national player of the year at the point who knows where the ball needs to be.
- Kevin Dunleavy