But Lonzo Ball and his UCLA Bruins stole the show
The March Madness bracket obliterators were in full swing as upsets were abound on Sunday and top seeds dropped like a wack CD falling from a Manhattan office building back in the '90s.
The No. 8 seed Wisconsin Badgers upset defending national champion and No. 1 overall seed Villanova, 65-62, to punch their ticket to the regional stage for the fourth year in a row. It wasn’t that big of an upset because Wisconsin was poorly seeded for a team with its track record and recent history of tournament success. Facing them in the tourney second round was little reward for the Wildcats, who will not become the first college team to repeat as champions since Florida did it in 2006 and 2007.
Duke University was another popular bracket pick and a reliable brand name that folks felt comfortable riding with. However, Frank Martin's unheralded South Carolina squad had other plans for Coach K’s mighty Dukes, who despite being five-time NCAA Champs during his reign, are no strangers to getting upset in the tournament.
In front of thousands of garnet-clad faithful at Bon Secours Wellness Arena Sunday South Carolina defeated the ACC champs and No. 2-seed 88-81 and punched a ticket to New York and the Sweet 16. Following its first NCAA tournament win since 1973 on Friday, USC (24-10) awaits Baylor on Friday.
Ball Boyeeeeee !!!
With all of the upsets going around there was one team who refused to be a victim on Saturday and one player who refused to allow it. UCLA and Lonzo Ball fought off a tough Cincinnati squad and continued its quest to prove LaVar Ball, who predicted UCLA's first c'hip since 1995, a fortune teller.
The leading candidate for Player of the Year dominated the flow of the game and dissected the Cincy defense for 18 points, seven rebounds and nine dimes.
The "basketball prodigy from Chino Hills," as one announcer accurately and eloquently states, put on a masterful show combining his deft passing with pinpoint shooting and veteran decision-making. When he wasn’t throwing effortless alley oops, he was swishing jumpers or going to the glass and snatching the rock down.
“Defenses get tired when I’m pushing the ball like that.” Ball said after the game.
Unlike his dad who is a blowhard with zero humility and who loves the spotlight and making people shriek with at his over-the-top comments, Ball is a team player, very humble and always deflecting praise to his deserving teammates.
“I have two of the greatest wing players in the country beside me,” said Ball when explaining the reasons for his individual success. And those wing players, most notably coach Steve Alford's son, say that Ball coming to the school has been a blessing.
UCLA is headed to Memphis and the Sweet 16 to face an even tougher opponent in Kentucky on Friday. Ball was respectful, but his heart doesn’t go pitty-pat for those Cats.
“They have a lot of athletes and they’re going to play hard and we're going to play hard,” Ball said when asked about the looming battle of the beasts. “May the best team come out on top.”