Our Favorite Games of the 2011 Tournament

Mayo

This tournament has produced plenty of great games. When trying to pick a favorite, you kind of have to figure what criteria goes into your “favorite” game. Is it an upset? Is it a buzzer beater? Is it a game where a team finally proved that they were the real deal by handling their business the way they should? A lot of this probably changes from person-to-person depending on if you have any kind of rooting interest. Luckily–or unluckily depending on how you look at it–I haven’t had a horse in the race this year, so I have been able to enjoy this tournament as just a basketball fan rather than a fan of any team in particular. And, since my bracket was busted basically after the first weekend, I’ve been able to be just about as objective as I have ever been during March Madness.

I was going to lead this off with the Pitt-Butler game in Round 2 (or is it Round 3? I can’t keep up with the changes in this year’s tournament, but let’s just say round of 32), but the two fouls in the last four seconds of that game really ruined an otherwise great game for me. Such a hard fought contest where both teams were laying it all on the line, and then it ends with two of the most indefensibly stupid fouls that I can remember in this tournament. So that’s out.

From there, I have to go with the Kentucky-Ohio State Sweet 16 game. That game had everything. First, you have the upset aspect: a 4-seed over a 1-seed isn’t the biggest shock ever, but when you consider the youth of Kentucky and the fact that OSU came into the tournament as the overall number one, it is a little more impressive. Secondly, you have multiple potential lottery picks going at it, in Jared Sullinger, Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight, and William Buford (OK, Buford isn’t getting a ton of lottery buzz right now so that might be a stretch, but a potential first-rounder for sure). Then, you have the unsung hero aspect, with relatively unknown Kentucky senior Josh Harrellson (I didn’t even think UK had any seniors this year…) rising from obscurity, chipping in a double-double, and containing OSU’s best player in Sullinger. Harrellson had to be Kentucky’s MVP in that game right? Last but not least, the game was in doubt all the way up until the end, with Diebler hitting the three to tie with 20 seconds left and then Brandon Knight closing the door with a 15-footer with five seconds on the clock.

That game had everything. Let’s toss it up to the others to see if they can come up with one better. I doubt it…

Giblin

What about Michigan-Tennessee? Oh, right.

My favorite game was Florida-Butler clash because of that epic comeback. Down 11 with about ten minutes to go, Shelvin Mack and the rest of the Bulldogs rallied and forced overtime where they eventually won (with the help of some questionable shot selections from the Gators’ guards). But the comeback wouldn’t have been possible without the unbelievable play from McDonald’s All-American seldom used Chrishawn Hopkins. Hopkins made Brad Stevens look like a genius as he set up Matt Howard for a score and then buried a huge 3 to fuel the comeback. And the overtime was just as awesome. The final minutes of OT had multiple “daggers” as Gus Johnson would call them. Walker for 3 to put the Gators on top by one. Did Mack worry? Nope. Pulled up and matched it. A defensive stand at the end and Butler was on their way to consecutive Final Fours.

A classic game that was just the beginning of the best Elite Eight games in years.

Del

Sorry for the late post, but I often like to arrive fashionably late most of the time anyways.  After watching the tournament, I have come to the conclusion that most certainly (for the exception of maybe a 16 over a 1) any Division 1 basketball team can defeat or knock off any other in this crazy month of madness!  Teams like VCU, Richmond, Morehead St, and even Marquette all proved that and all should be commended and patted on the back for their seasons and for VCU season thus far.  Every year, I see a lot more younger coaches and newer faces in the spot light on the sidelines.  Coach Smart from VCU, although I do agree with Giblin’s earlier post 100%, has done one hell of a job in this tournament. I think it is more than an accomplishment to have already knocked off a Big East, Big Ten, ACC, and now Big 12, and #1 seed Kansas team in route to a Final Four. So far, there have been many great games this year that I have watched/listened to on the radio,

When you think of a favorite NCAA Tournament game, one usually thinks of Cinderella stories, buzzer beaters, last second free throws, clutch three pointers, or even bracket busters, but if I had to pick a favorite game of 2011, I actually would have to go with an old fashion beating.

Florida State coming into the 2011 tournament, I’d say was more in a hole than anything else.  As a Terrapin ACC Fan, I do watch almost every game or at least hear about every score in the ACC, so Florida St. was certainly a team I had seen before.   I knew, although finishing 3rd in the conference, that with Chris Singleton, junior star power forward, out for most of the second half of the season that they weren’t the same team at the climax.  Very inconsistent at times, the Seminoles had their ups and downs of their season.  They defeated then #1 Duke in the middle of the season, but other than that win, the Seminoles really still had something to prove for their resume.

Hamilton's Seminoles first Sweet 16 since 1993

Singleton, coming back for the tournament, but not even close to healthy, must have lifted a spark over them because 3rd Round Game 10-seed Florida State against 2-seed Notre Dame was my favorite game of the tournament.  The reason I loved this game was because to me it really said a lot of the things.  Not to knock on Notre Dame or Mike Brey (who I think kind of stinks in the tournament and should honestly be on the hot seat), but I think this game is a strong example of how the ACC is a better conference than the Big East.  Going into this game, 2-seed Notre Dame (27-7) was one of the best teams, if not the best team, in the Big East finishing 2nd among another 9 Big East teams to make the tournament.  Well, after Florida State was done with them, they looked nothing like a bunch of Surrendering Irish.  The Seminoles (23-10), knocked down seven 3 pointers in the first half and were up as much as 23.  With great defense and leadership from Derwin Kitchen and scoring from Bernard James, who had 14 points, the Seminoles held the fraud Big East Notre Dame Irish 31 percent shooting (7 from 30 from 3 point land) and came up with a 71-57 defeat.  This game I thought was a huge statement for the ACC and Leonard Hamilton’s program at FSU.  I have enjoyed watching Hamilton’s program and how it has grown since he came to FSU after coaching the Wizards in 2002. Although this was not what I had in my bracket, I was glad to see and also enjoyed knowing that Ben Hansbrough will never have a championship like his brother.  I don’t like either of them and am very happy to see Ben fail.  Finally, most importantly, this game gave Florida State their first Sweet 16 appearance since 1993, when they had the great Sam Cassell on their team, who took them to the Elite 8.

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