It started on Friday night with a late-night eruption in Dallas.
With 1.4 seconds remaining in overtime in the second game of the Women's Final Four, Morgan "Itty Bitty" William of Mississippi State rose up and, despite the outstretched hand of the Connecticut defender in her face, drained a jumper which gave the Bulldogs the 66-64 victory over the mighty UConn Huskies, ending their 111-game winning streak and sending the Bulldogs to their first-ever championship game. They will face Dawn Staley's South Carolina Gamecocks, who advanced to the title contest earlier that evening by fighting back from a nine-point halftime deficit to defeat Stanford, 62-53.
Then on Saturday night, the men took the floor in Phoenix for their Final Four weekend, and just like the women, they did not disappoint.
The No. 1 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs, making their 20th tournament appearance, and the No. 7 seed South Carolina Gamecocks, making their first Final Four appearance, were on the verge of securing a trip to their first National Championship game, and it was an thriller which came down to the final few seconds.
With South Carolina down three, Gonzaga fouled Sindarius Thornwell, sending him to the free throw line and, more importantly, preventing him from attempting a game-tying three pointer. He made the first one, missed the second one on purpose and, after one made free throw by the Zags, the game was over and the Bulldogs punched their ticket to Monday night's championship.
Roy Williams and the North Carolina Tar Heels then took the floor, trying to earn a second consecutive trip to Monday night's finale. Standing in their way were the Oregon Ducks, who were on a roll after destroying Kansas in the Elite Eight. And just like the preceding game, it came down to the final few seconds where two missed defensive rebounds by Jordan Bell of the Ducks gave the Tar Heels the victory.
Four games, three of which came down to the final few seconds. Two championship games which feature three teams making their championship game debuts (South Carolina, Mississippi State and Gonzaga). One team, South Carolina, could feature the second African American female head basketball coach to win a National Championship (Carolyn Beck was the first as the head coach of the Purdue Boilermakers in 1999). It's a tournament which features extremely significant and emotional storylines, ones which could positively affect the ratings tonight and tomorrow and make "One Shining Moment" even more captivating.
TV ratings aside, the success of the Final Four boils down to the excitement of the games, and between the four games we witnessed in Dallas and Phoenix, the Final Four has proven once again why it is the greatest weekend in sports.
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