It’s called March Madness for a reason.

It’s called for a reason March Madness. That’s why it’s a unique format, that’s why it turns the United States upside down every March. The 2022 college tournament, the back to normal (which is not normal) after the suspension of 2020 and the bubble 2021 (in Indianapolis) is having a tremendous level… in which there is no shortage of scares to remember. The Sweet 16, the round of 16 of the table or the regional semifinals, depending on how you want to look at it, started with a tremendous day in which Two number 1s fell, surely the two great favorites. The one that was by consensus, Gonzaga, and Arizona, for many the great threat. Neither of them will even be in the elite 8the door to the Final Four in New Orleans.

But there was more: two favorites Yes they won. Villanova controlled Michigan and Duke had to squeeze to the max to submit Texas Tech. It was Mike Krzyzewski’s 100th major tournament victory, Coach KMore than anyone. in his last dancethe year of his retirement, secured his seventeenth ticket for the elite 8, the quarterfinals. Another NCAA bench record. And not only that. Seen what I have seen so far, his Duke Blue Devils look like the big favorite for the title.

Gonzaga’s defeat is a convulsion. He was the heavy favorite, the No. 1 college, the redemption story after hanging out in the last Finals on the brink of the perfect season (all wins…until the skid against Baylor). But no, either, the Arkansas Razorbacks got in their way and jammed (68-74) an attack that is usually pluperfect: 87.8 points on average, the best figure in the whole country. But the tournament arrives, and… Like a year ago in the finals, Arkansas did a lot of things that served Baylor well. Physical, physical and physical. Resilience.

The plan was clear: distress creator Andrew Nembhard (7 points on 11 shots, 3 assists for 5 turnovers), make Drew Timme sweat his points (25 on 19 shots) and, above all, charge against the 213 centimeters of endless arms but only 88 kilos of Chet Holmgren, the Unicorn that points to number 1 of the next draft. Jaylin Williams created a wild ecosystem in the zones and the referees were very hard on Holmgren, heavily penalized and fouled out with 3:29 to go, with the score at 56-62. He finished the tournament with 11 points, all in the second half, and 14 rebounds.

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Reminiscent of that team of the “40 minutes of hell“built by Nolan Richardson in the 90s (champion in 1994), Arkansas stomped with the muscle of Williams (15 points, 12 rebounds), Trey Wade and a JD Notae who shot 29 times to finish with 21 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. Arkansas, number 4 in the West, gave the surprise in San Francisco and the ticket to the Final Four will be played with Duke. Another gigantic challenge: the Blue Devils went from more to less (final 78-73) against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, who started sweeping and arrived alive to the last minutes. Paolo Banchero, another in the accounts for the number 1 in the draft, added 22 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. But Duke is much more, of course: Mark Williams, Jeremy Roach, AJ Griffin… A tremendous team. Champion mimbres in what would be a movie farewell for Coach K.

Since 2013, Gonzaga has reached the tournament as number 1 five times and has not added any title. His path has ended, like that of Arizona, another defeated number 1, this one in the South, where the duel of elite 8 will face Villanova (2) and Houston (5). Since Baylor, the champion, had already lost, there are three number 1s out of action when we are still in the middle of sweet 16 Crazy: pure Madness. The last seed alive is Kansas, who plays Providence in Chicago today, table Midwest. Since the tournament was ordered like this (1979), there have only been three Final Fours without any number 1. And never since 64 teams compete in the final draw has there been a elite 8 no heads of series. So it’s all up to Kansas.

Arizona was always in tow (60-72 final) against Houston, a team wonderfully led by Kelvin Sampson. Without getting off the hook, aiming for a timely recovery… that never came. The Cougars resisted with a great game from Jamal Shead (21 points, 6 assists) and Kyler Edwards (19 + 3) a back court who led an unexpected victory against a Wildcats out of focus: Kerr Kriisa injured, Tubelis and Koloko ill, Bennedict Mathurin’s 15 points insufficient, who awaits him in the top 10 of the draft. In the south, Houston will play the ticket to the Final Four with Villanovawhich contained Michigan (63-55) in a game of a terrifying physical level.

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