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NCAA Tournament: Best Games, Performances From The Sweet 16 & Elite 8

With a few days to go before basketball resumes, the only thing we can do to quench our March Madness thirst is talk about what was and what is still to come in this year’s NCAA Tournament. This is Ryan Mayer and I’m here with my colleague Bryan Altman to break down our favorite moments from the weekend and take a look ahead to the Final Four.

Ryan: First question I have for you before we get to the actual analysis of these games. Have you recovered yet from the devastation that is losing Notre Dame from your bracket?

Bryan: I might never recover actually. You know the crying Villanova flutist? If there were a camera on me I’d be going viral right now too. Tears - no instruments - but I was inconsolable for about, 30 seconds or so.

Ryan: You mean this girl?

And it’s a piccolo but I know you’re still recovering from that loss. Anyway, onto the actual court, in that game I was just stunned by the way Notre Dame was able to keep it close. I figured (like many) that they would have to hit a ton of threes in order to stay in the game, but they went right at the ‘Cats and would have gotten it done had Jerian Grant not tried to play hero ball and do it all by himself three straight possessions down the stretch.  

What was the best game from either the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight for you?

Bryan: I don’t think you can pick any game other than the Notre Dame/Kentucky matchup. Obviously I was emotionally attached to that one but it was still such a phenomenal game. I know John Calipari was reticent to say that his team were playing even decent basketball that night but we all know how good of a team Notre Dame really was after that one. Other than that I’m leaning towards Michigan State/Louisville but man did that one get ugly for the Cardinals towards the end. That was seriously one of the poorest offensive showings I’ve seen since Dayton suddenly forgot that the whole “scoring” thing is a prerequisite for winning games when they played Oklahoma in the round of 32.

Ryan: I’m still basking in the glow of the whooping that Kentucky put on West Virginia. To me I love watching a team just put it on another team after one of their guys made a dumb remark. Especially because it was a freshman who no one knew prior to his comments. Let’s enjoy this for a second:

Alright, but in terms of best game to watch that wasn’t an utter dismantling? I’d have to go with Wisconsin Arizona, because of how cool under pressure Sam Dekker was in that game. It also produced one of the best vines I’ve seen:

Yes that is Dekker as Batman villain Mr. Freeze. I love the internet sometimes.

What was your favorite moment during the last four days of Madness?

Ryan: Favorite moment is a tough one, because there wasn’t an RJ Hunter shot, or a stunning upset really this weekend. I would probably have to go back to the Kentucky West Virginia game because of the double block that they put on that poor, poor, little guard.

Your thoughts?

Bryan: That was, no lie, just rude. But, Kentucky clearly don’t take any prisoners as we’ve all learned. It’s interesting that the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 were both so compelling but possibly lacked that true signature moment that defines a round like the R.J. Hunter shot. While we’re on the subject of Hunter, I’d have to say that my favorite personality from the Sweet 16 was Matt Stainbrook and I loved his game against Arizona. Stainbrook has become America’s sweetheart pretty much overnight, what with his boyish good looks and whatnot. In all seriousness though, he was a beast in the paint and his story of being an Uber driver was just legendary.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 26: Matt Stainbrook #40 of the Xavier Musketeers reacts in the second half while taking on the Arizona Wildcats during the West Regional Semifinal of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 26, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

So let’s move on to the Final Four. First of all, how does your bracket’s Final Four stack up with the real thing? And what are you looking forward to seeing Saturday?

Ryan: Quick side note, what does it say about me that when you said rude I immediately thought of the “Why you gotta be so rude” song? Probably nothing good right? You know what I don’t need an answer on that. As for the Final Four, my bracket’s been screwed since Iowa State lost (Thanks Cyclones), but I’m hoping and praying we see Duke and Kentucky win, strictly because I think that championship match-up would be the most compelling. There would be a legit 6 first round NBA picks playing in a UK-Duke final, with the possibility of a couple more. Plus the projected number 1 and 2 overall picks in Okafor and Towns going at each other? Please basketball gods give us this game.

Bryan: I get it and I would never argue with a basketball fan that wanted to see that matchup but there’s something deep inside of me that really wants to see the Michigan State story continue. Tom Izzo’s coaching job has been nothing short of magical and Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine have been as fun of a backcourt duo to watch as any in this tournament. Basically, I’m an underdog kinda guy through and through.

Ryan: I’m as big of a Izzo fan as there is. I fully worship at the altar of always pick Michigan State further than you think they’re going to go in any given year because Izzo is legitimately a wizard. I don’t know how he does it. But that final match-up would be just unbelievably tasty and both the college and NBA basketball fan in me is salivating at the prospect.

Bryan: I have to jump in because I feel like we’re doing a huge disservice if we don’t mention Wisconsin. There really isn’t a championship matchup that isn’t compelling. Seeing Dekker and Kaminsky taking on either Izzo and the Cinderella Spartans or the “Yankees” of NCAA basketball in the Blue Devils would be fantastic.

Ryan: Very true, this Final Four grouping of coaches has a combined 6 national titles, and like 27 Final Four appearances. That’s gross. Coach K tied the legendary John Wooden by making his 12th Final Four appearance. As much as I’d love that Duke-UK matchup I’m happy with however this plays out.

So let’s wrap this up in a nice little bow - who you got playing on April 6th for all the marbles?

Ryan: Real simple. Duke and Kentucky. Thought it would happen prior to the tournament, doubled back on myself and picked Iowa State (stupid, just stupid) but that’s the matchup I think we’ll get. Can Wisconsin beat Kentucky? Sure. Can Michigan State surprise the Blue Devils? Absolutely. It’s March. But at this point generally two things matter the most. Which team has the hottest player? Duke with Justise Winslow and Wisconsin with Sam Dekker. But also who has the most talent? And the answer there is the Wildcats by a pretty wide margin. I think their depth in the end helps them beat the Badgers, and Michigan State just doesn’t have enough pixie dust left to make it to Monday. If Izzo does that however, we need to legitimately check whether or not he’s a wizard. I’m not kidding.

Bryan: I reluctantly have to agree with you on the Kentucky front. I think Notre Dame will go down as the last team to give them that kind of a run for their money and they will find a way to beat Wisconsin. However, I’m not so sure that Michigan State can’t spring the upset. They’re playing with a lot of confidence right now, not that the Blue Devils aren’t, but I don’t see a reason why the Spartans can’t take Duke to the limit and beyond on Saturday. One thing’s for sure, as we’ve already said, both games should be fantastic and whichever teams end up in the championship on Monday night they’ll be deserving as any of that spot, that’s for sure.

Ryan: Only reason I don’t think that the Spartans can pull the upset? Their front court. Outside of Dawson, they don’t have anybody to deal with Winslow and Okafor. If Louisville had a legitimate offensive minded big, (Montrezl Harrell doesn’t count, didn’t record a field goal in the 2nd half) the Cardinals would have won that game because both Schilling and Costello fouled out for Sparty. Duke has the best offensive low post player in the country in Okafor and a whirling dervish, tasmanian devil type player in Winslow. The biggest problem I have with this week though Bryan? What am I supposed to do until Saturday? Watch the NBA? NHL? Spring training baseball? This break may kill me.

Bryan: Well, your Duke argument is compelling and this is one of those unfortunate moments where my only real counter-argument is “hey, it’s March man.” As far as killing time goes, without getting too far off topic, “Better Call Saul” is on tonight? That’s something no?

Ryan: This is probably going to be sacrilegious to most folks reading this but I have only seen like one and a half seasons of Breaking Bad so “Better Call Saul” would probably make zero sense to me.

Bryan: I tried man, I believe you might just be out of luck until Saturday night.

Ryan: Well I appreciate the effort. Until Saturday night folks. Spend some time with your families that you may have neglected while brooding over your bracket being busted.

Be sure to check back in with us next Monday when we wrap up the Final Four and prepare for the “One Shining Moment” montage.

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