Last hurrah coming up for college basketball fans

Published 9:35 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2017

By this time next week, the 2016-2017 NCAA basketball season will be wrapped up tighter than a fresh mackerel at an ocean-side seafood market after the men and women complete their respective tournaments as the final four teams will square off on both sides.
Needless to say, a few brackets have been busted, some earlier for most. On the men’s side the South Carolina Gamecocks (26-10), a SEC team that just barely made the field, will meet the Zags of Gonzaga (36-1) on Saturday at 6:09 p.m. in the first of the men’s semifinal games.
Following that contest at 8:50 p.m., the North Carolina Tarheels (31-7) will seek to make the finals once again with redemption on their minds after losing on a last-second shot last season to Villanova in the championship contest.
Standing in their way is the Ducks of Oregon (33-5) who feel like they are deserving of a title shot as well.
Last week I told someone that it would be intriguing to see a southern showdown should both North Carolina and South Carolina manage to make it through their semifinal contest to set up the championship contest which is scheduled for Monday night.
All four teams have had to work to earn their spot, and each wants nothing more than to be the last one standing.
The Gamecocks greatest obstacle will be in overcoming the height of the Zags. However, South Carolina has been hanging its hat on its defense the entire tournament, and this will probably be a barn burner.
North Carolina sent the Kentucky Wildcats packing with a last-second shot that guaranteed the Tarheels their 20th visit to the Final Four.
This contest should be another track meet as the Ducks love to push the basketball at a break-neck speed much like Carolina.
On the women’s side, the South Carolina Lady Gamecocks joined the men’s program in the Final Four under a former Tennessee standout in head coach Dawn Staley.
Joining the Lady Gamecocks are tournament favorites Connecticut who is on a phenomenal win streak, winning over 100 straight games without a defeat.
Stanford (32-6) will be the Lady Gamecocks’ (31-4) opponent in a 7:30 pm tipoff on Friday night for the right to play in the national championship game on Sunday at 6 p.m.
In the nightcap, UConn (36-0) will tangle with another SEC team in Mississippi State (33-4) at 9:30 p.m.
Again, it will be intriguing to see if both SEC teams can manage to stand tall in their contest to make it an all-SEC showdown.
The SEC conference on both sides of the brackets have made believers across the country that the SEC is just not a football conference but has to be taken seriously in basketball as well.
This has been a fun tournament to watch as initially, I hadn’t planned on watching any of the tournament on the men’s side, but every time I turned on the television to a game, it was thrilling down to the final horn.
The Florida-Wisconsin game was something else going back and forth as Wisconsin came screaming back forcing overtime with a last-second shot and then Florida won the game in overtime with a last-second three-pointer of its own when it appeared all hope was gone.
I guess this is the reason that tournament time in college basketball is called March Madness as 64 teams battle with all they have to extend their season and earn the right to be called the best team in college basketball.
The madness is almost over, and champions are about to be crowned. It should be an exciting weekend to gather your friends and family around the big screen to watch some amazing basketball action.

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