ICYMI: The Biggest Story for Any Final Four Team
With our writers traveling to New Orleans and Minneapolis for the men’s and women’s Final Four, respectively, today’s Morning Madness newsletter will be delayed. And as we all gear up for a basketball-packed weekend, take some time to read about each remaining Final Four team.
South Carolina women
• South Carolina heard the comments about his offense. Emma Baccellieri broke the Gamecocks’ complete offensive game that got them back into the Final Four.
• Hailey Van Lith led the way as the Michigan Cardinals withdrew to reach their fourth Final Four. Whether the guard can continue to carry a big points load as a sophomore could help her team upset the top overall seed, No. 1 in South Carolina, Ben Pickman wrote.
• Paige Bueckers buried shot after shot in UConn’s hard-fought victory over NC State. Ben Pickman wrote about the marathon that put the Huskies back in the Final Four.
• Stanford got his revenge, defeating Texas 59-50 in the Elite Eight after losing to the Longhorns earlier in the season. The defending champions are two games away from a replay.
• Maybe these wildcats aren’t that talented like previous national championship squads. But that might not matter, wrote Greg Bishop.
• The Jayhawks are the only No. 1 left in the men’s tournament. Jeremy Woo wrote about the Elite Eight’s surge in the second half that showed just how good they are.
North Carolina men
• Now nobody should doubt Hubert Davis anymore. Pat Forde has examined how the freshman coach leads the Tar Heels’ run to the Final Four.
• Coach K and Duke could finish their storybook. The young Blue Devils had a rocky end to the regular season. They could now be the team to beat, according to Pat Forde.
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From the vault
This section also appeared in today’s SI:AM newsletter, a free one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the sport, by author Dan Gartland. SI:AM delivers the most notable, compelling and important sports news to your inbox every weekday to keep you entertained and informed. Sign up at si.com/newsletters.
This photo of Virginia’s Ralph Sampson leaping high over two BYU opponents is a work of art. Sampson and the Cavaliers held off No. 9-seeded Villanova in their first game of the tournament and then advanced fairly easily past Tennessee and BYU to reach their first Final Four in school history.
However, the history of the East Region was Danny Ainge. Frank Deford’s summary of this segment of the bracket devoted a lot of space to Ainge’s exploits for the Cougars.
“Ainge with the fuzzy cheeks is a mythical figure who will make $500,000 over three years as third baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays starting this season,” Deford wrote.
But before she went to baseball, Ainge led BYU No. 6 to angry victories over No. 3 UCLA and No. 2 Notre Dame. Against the Irish, he sped up the floor in the final seconds, dribbled behind his back through three defenders to score the game-winning layup just before the buzzer.
Virginia lost to ACC rivals North Carolina in the national semifinals, and the Tar Heels lost the title game to Indiana while the Cavaliers beat LSU in the third-place game.
Ainge joined the Blue Jays for his third season in the majors (yes, he’d played in Major League Baseball as a sophomore) and told the team he was committed to baseball despite offers from the NBA.
On June 9, the Celtics drafted him with the 31st pick in the NBA draft. On June 10, he told Toronto team president Peter Bavasi that he wanted to play basketball instead. Most teams would have had no problem letting go of a guy who hit .187 and batted .228 in 86 games in 1981, but the Jays believed Ainge had potential and fought a lengthy legal battle with the Celtics over disrupting Ainge’s baseball contract with negotiate with him.
According to a later SI article, the Blue Jays wanted $1 million from the Celtics to buy out Ainge’s three-year, $525,000 contract. The case was eventually settled for an undisclosed amount, and Ainge signed with Boston in late November.