NEW YORK — So you didn’t think the NCAA Tournament had enough excitement this year?
Wisconsin and Florida solved that problem for you.
The Badgers started things, as they erased a 12-point deficit in the final 4:15 to force overtime, a stretch that included an 8-0 run at the end of regulation that was capped by a Zak Showalter running three with 2.5 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 72.
Wisconsin jumped out to a lead in overtime, but the combination of an inability to make free throws and and this epic chasedown block from Canyon Barry left the door open for the Gators, who eventually won the game on this running three from Chris Chiozza:
If we get a better one than this, I just hope I’m courtside for it.
KeVaughn Allen led the way for the Gators with 35 points, and no one else on the Gators scored more than eight points, but it didn’t matter. The Gators are still headed to the Elite 8, and Mike White will have a chance to play for the right to go to the Final Four in his first NCAA Tournaments.
Replacing a legend like Billy Donovan was never going to be easy, but White is doing an admirable job.
The other subplot here: With the win, Florida becomes the third member of the SEC in the Elite 8, and with a regional final against South Carolina on Sunday afternoon, it guarantees that there will be at least one SEC team in the Final Four.
While there were celebrations in the Florida locker room, Wisconsin’s was one of devastation.
The Badgers started four seniors, including tournament stalwarts Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, who played in their 17th career NCAA Tournament games.
Hayes had 22 points, but he’s going to be haunted by the free throws he missed. He was 7-for-14 from the line on the night, including four missed freebies in overtime. The end was similarly heart-breaking for Koenig, as he was a non-factor in overtime due to an injury he suffered on the possession before Showalter’s game-tying three.
Both of them are going to spend years thinking ‘What if?’ That’s how the NCAA Tournament works.
Everyone leaves in tears, either because they’re cutting down the nets at the Final Four or because their season — their career — just came to an end.
Hayes and Koenig were no different.