Confident in your Final Four pick? You’ll be running for your life after this column is done.
When the NCAA Tournament started a couple of weeks ago, it had 67 basketball teams (plus Syracuse) all competing for a chance to earn a free tie from Jim Nantz. Now, it’s just down to four teams, while millions of people loudly cry out “MY BRACKET.”
There has been a lot of craziness throughout this March Madness, and I can assure you there enough happened in that time that we could write a column about the other worst moments from just the Tournament.
For this edition of the Worst, however, we’ll focus on the Final Four teams: Villanova, Kansas, Michigan, and Loyola (Chicago). All four teams have had memorable moments during the Tournament, especially the latter two.
Obviously, they haven’t lost in the Tournament, but here we’re taking a look at some of their worst losses of the regular season. Trust me when I say there are some bad losses out there. I could probably make an entire list just from Kansas (I won’t).
These won’t be shining moments, though.
When you look at ugly losses, there weren’t many of them for Villanova this season. They’ve lost four times the entire season, all by less than 10 points.
The Dec. 30 matchup at Hinkle Fieldhouse just so happened to be one of the first big match-ups of the conference season. Villanova came into the game winning its first 13 games.
So what went wrong for Villanova? It probably didn’t help the Wildcats that they defensively allowed Butler to sink 15 three-pointers. Granted, Villanova made 12 in the game. However, unless math has changed in recent years, I’m pretty sure 15 is greater than 12.
What also hurt Villanova was the free throw shooting. Villanova went 5-for-9 at the line, while Butler went 14-of-18. It’s the little things that can make a big difference, sometimes.
Now you might be wondering why this game over the St. John’s loss. That was obviously bad. I personally choose to believe St. John’s was the hottest team in the country during that time. They did beat Duke, after all. So just imagine that the St. John’s game was like 4b. or something. Maybe 5!
I could go on and on about the feel-good story of this NCAA Tournament: The Loyola (Chicago) Ramblers. It has been a pleasant surprise to see them succeed this season. Finally, a B1G team that represents the city of Chicago. Take that, UIC!
Loyola has lost just five games all season long. There were a couple of candidates to choose from, but in this instance, we’ll go with the Boise State blowout loss.
For a team that is pretty good with shooting the ball, they didn’t do it well that night. As a team, the Ramblers shot 21-for-57 from the field. They were 16-for-41 INSIDE the three-point line.
It didn’t help that Boise State shot 16-for-28 from three-point range.
If that’s not enough, Boise State out-rebounded them 40-23. It was a tough loss at the time. The Ramblers had a few more since, but look at them now. They haven’t lost in two months.
These are two teams that finished tied with a 13-5 record in B1G. Yet, Michigan is playing in the Final Four this weekend, while Nebraska’s season ended at the NIT.
When the two teams met on Jan. 18, it ended up Nebraska getting the win. They held the tiebreaker over Michigan and claimed that top four spot in the B1G tournament.
So what happened? Michigan didn’t shoot the ball well, finishing the game 21-for-56 from the field. For a team that loves to shoot three-pointers (Michigan is 10th in the nation in attempted three’s), they were 4-for-18 in the game.
Nebraska shot the ball much better, thanks in part to James Palmer Jr’s 19 points.
Michigan eventually avenged its loss to Nebraska in the conference tournament. Now, look at them. They could be competing for the National Title.
1. All of the above for Kansas! That doesn’t work? Okay, then the second Oklahoma State loss
Kansas lost seven times this season. SEVEN! And they went 13-5 in conference play. They haven’t had that many losses overall and in conference play since the 2014-15 season.
How do you pick one? The loss to Washington was bad, as was the Arizona State one. They lost to Baylor and Oklahoma on the road and to Texas Tech at home. The Jayhawks even lost to Oklahoma State…twice!
In this instance, the second loss, was the final game of the regular season for Kansas. The Jayhawks had already sewn up an incredible 14 straight Big 12 championships; perhaps they lacked motivation in Stillwater.
Whatever the psychological problems, scoring was a problem on the court for Kansas. The Jayhawks shot 25-of-60 from the field with Devonte’ Graham going 4-for-14 with 15 points. It was a tough way to end the season.
The Jayhawks, of course, recovered from the loss. They won the Big 12 Tournament and are now in the Final Four.
When it comes down to it, these four teams had their mishaps along the way. But they get the chance to compete for that National Title (and Jim Nantz’s tie).