With three games remaining in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, let’s look back at the 64 that have been played and hand out some awards and accolades. It’s been a fun tournament, unprecedented in many ways, too.
Here’s the hardware we’re passing around.
South Carolina Gamecocks
South Carolina’s outrageously good senior is leading the NCAA Tournament in scoring among all who played in at least two games (25.7 ppg) and is more singularly responsible for his team’s placement in the Final Four than any other player. Now, that’s not to say that he hasn’t had help. P.J. Dozier was downright vital to South Carolina’s win over
, and you could say the same for
in that second half of the regional final.
But Thornwell, who has been a really good college player the past two years, has evolved into a great one. A GREAT ONE. He’s the second-best defender left in this tournament (Oregon’s
is No. 1) and still is responsible for doing so much on offense. South Carolina now has three all-time legends in school history: Devan Downey, Alex English and Thornwell. He is good enough to get his team a national title. The prospect of that still seems far-fetched for some to believe, but so did South Carolina even getting to the Sweet 16.
Biggest surprise: Oregon’s Final Four run
I’m removing South Carolina’s run to the Final Four, because it’s almost too obvious. Plus,
wasn’t considered all that likely to make it to Phoenix, either. Losing big man
dropped Oregon from probably a No. 2 seed (I’m inclined to believe a fully healthy Oregon team would have been the No. 2 over Louisville) to a supposedly shaky No. 3. The Ducks were a trendy pick to be upset by URI in the second round, and indeed that almost happened.
was favored over the Ducks. But Jordan Bell was outrageously good, and
again saved the day. The most surprising shot of this tournament that didn’t go in was Derrick Walton Jr.’s 3-pointer that would have knocked out Oregon.
WATCH: Final Four Picks
And in Kansas City, in the regional final, Kansas starts seeing ghosts and seizes up against the Ducks. Oregon’s style of dominance, the way Bell blocked eight shots and Dorsey dropped daggers, was genuinely surprising. For Oregon to beat the teams it did the way it did, is just as surprising as South Carolina’s run. Remember, this is the schools’ first Final four in 78 years.
Duke Blue Devils
The Blue Devils were the odds-on favorite to win the tournament, got a 2 seed, then gave up the most points in a half in the Mike Krzyzewski era when they allowed South Carolina to drop 61 on them in the second round. People stumped for Duke to be a No. 1 seed, but it couldn’t get out of the first weekend. Mike Krzyzewski has lost as the higher seed to a team separated by five seed lines or more three times since 2012, but he also won the national title in 2015.
Let’s go way back to the First Four on March 16. PC held a 17-point lead on USC but couldn’t keep the Trojans (statistically the best comeback team this season; no team won more games after trailing by double digits) from pulling off a 75-71 win. The victory then propelled USC to pull another nice comeback in the first round against SMU. Since the initiation of the First Four in 2011, one team from that grouping has won at least two games in the tournament.
Most controversial moment: Non-call in Gonzaga-Northwestern
A no-call on a clear goaltend by Gonzaga’s
in a five-point game prompted
to scold the officials in disbelief, earning a technical. The T was warranted, but frustrating all the same because Collins was right. So for reacting on instinct in the biggest game of his life, he had to be whistled, and instead of a three-point
lead with less than five minutes remaining, it was a seven. Northwestern never threatened the rest of the way.
Most impressive play: Deonte Burton’s block on
I know Marquette lost, and I know Canyon Barry’s block to help Florida stay alive vs. Wisconsin was great, but seriously, this is outrageously awesome by Iowa State’s Burton.
Most questionable coaching move: Sean Miller
Miller admitted that he was out-coached by his former assistant, Chris Mack, in Arizona’s disappointing 73-71 loss in the Sweet 16 to
. What happened in the final 11 minutes will likely be remembered in Tucson for a very long time. I expect
to have an exceptional NBA career, making multiple All-Star Games and generally thriving at the highest level of the sport. It will become an interesting nugget to his career that he did not get one shot in the final 11 minutes of game action in his last game at
. Xavier defended well, but Miller did not get Markkanen touches, and in the end you can make the case that is what led to the upset.
Best supporting player:
After averaging less than 10 points in the regular season, Wilson dropped 17 on Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, then averaged 16 points and three blocks in Michigan’s run to the Sweet 16. The short-shorted, late-blooming NBA prospect wound up being invaluable to Michigan’s dramatic wins over Oklahoma State and Louisville.
Best moment: Chris Chiozza’s buzzer-beater
The Kentucky-UNC ending was a thriller, but Florida won at the horn. The visual is in the all-time NCAA Tournament highlight reel. Check it out:
Plus, and I think this has been lost in the aftermath of it all, Wisconsin was up two at the time. This was a do-or-die shot. It looked funky, and Chiozza didn’t need to hop into that awkward 3, but because he did, it’s one of the most thrilling shots in Madison Square Garden history — and that is a building filled with all-timers.and won it for Wisconsin over Villanova, but Chiozza (Cheese, as they call him) has the only true buzzer-beater of this tournament. If we are lucky, 2017 will give us a repeat of 2016’s immaculate ending. But that’s obviously asking for too much.
2017 NCAA Tournament awards: MOP, biggest surprises, disappointments so far – CBSSports.com