We have made it through all but three of the March Madness tournament games and boy, was it a fun year. We had a few historical runs in the tournament as well as a coach who made history.
Let’s review the runs of St. Peters and Miami, who both made the Elite Eight, and discuss what was so special about these two double digit seeds this year.
National Peacock day boosts St. Peter’s
St. Peter’s Peacocks were the most fun and exciting storyline of this tournament by far. They were lined up with one of the toughest teams in the country, Kentucky, who had Oscar Tshiebwe, one of the best players in the country.
St. Peters was able to dismantle Kentucky before finding themselves playing against number seven seed Murray State. The Peacocks beat Murray State by 10, advancing them to the sweet sixteen. They were only the third 15-seed to ever make it to the Sweet Sixteen.
Their Sweet Sixteen game came against one of the tallest and most skilled teams in the country, the Purdue Boilermakers. Before this game started I said to myself, “a 15-seed HAS to make it to the elite eight at some point, right?”
Turns out I was right. On March 25th, which is National Peacock Day, St. Peters took down Purdue to advance forward to the elite eight. It is the first time ever that a 15-seed has made it this far in the tournament, and it was so much fun to watch.
Unfortunately the Cinderella run had to come to an end. The Peacocks were beaten down and tired and it showed in their matchup against 8-seeded UNC. It was the first time in tournament history that a 15-seed and an 8-seed have ever played against each other.
UNC dominated the floor, outscoring the Peacocks in the first half 38-19. The second half was closer but it did not matter because of the massive lead the Tar Heels had from the first half. Armando Bacot had 22 rebounds for the Heels, and Brady Manek posted 19 points and 8 rebounds in the game.
It was certainly a once in a lifetime run for the St. Peter’s team and it was incredible to watch. Hopefully they can inspire more double digit seeds to push themselves in the tournament.
Miami Hurricanes first Elite Eight appearance
Miami had an incredible season, especially if you look at the preseason ACC rankings. The Hurricanes were predicted to be 12th in the ACC standings, behind Louisville, Virginia, Florida State, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Clemson, Duke, NC State, Georgia Tech, and UNC.
The Hurricanes ended up going 14-6 in ACC regular season play, which included road wins over Duke, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, and Louisville. The Canes were 10-2 on the road this year as well. Miami was the four seed in the ACC tournament and only lost by four to Duke.
Miami is an undersized team led by a three guard offense. Coach Larranaga likes to run Charlie Moore, Isaiah Wong, and Kameron Mcgusty on the floor at the same time, and it worked for the majority of the season.
Heading Into the tournament the Canes were regarded as an okay team and were predicted to lose their first round matchup against USC. They scraped away a close victory, advancing past the first round.
They lined up against a very difficult Auburn team in the second round, but dominated them in the second half. Sam Waardenburg played like he was a 6’9” five-star recruit, and Kam Mcgusty averaged 19 points and 2.5 steals per game through the tournament. After beating Auburn by 18, the Canes also walked through Iowa State in their Sweet Sixteen game.
The Canes played in their first ever Elite Eight game and it started off beautifully. Kansas couldn’t make anything from the free throw line in the first half, and the Canes out hustled them the whole first half. 35-29 was the score after one.
Bill Self and the Jayhawks had some sort of prayer session at halftime, because Kansas came out dominating. They used their speed and size to their advantage and really wore down Miami on the fast break.
Kansas outscored Miami 47-15 in the second half. The Canes just could not put anything together, and it certainly didn’t help that the refs called some soft fouls on their only two big men.
All in all, the Hurricanes had a historical season. In their games against Auburn and Iowa State they trailed for only 16 seconds out of 40 minutes. Don’t forget Auburn was the number one team in the country for a lot of the year.
Coach Larranaga of Miami also became the first coach to lead two different schools to the elite eight asd a ten seed or lower. He brought 11-seed George Mason to the Final Four in 2006.
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