Monday, April 01, 2013 3:53 am
BracketRacket: Last 4, Ware's injury, odds galore
By OSKAR GARCIAAssociated Press
Today, an injury to Louisville guard Kevin Ware dominates social networks, we flash back to 1965 and work our way to 2012 to revisit the remaining teams' last Final Four appearances, and see what kind of payday you could have shipped had you bet on the other Louisville on Sunday.
But first, let's look at your Final Four and the chances they'll keep their win streaks alive.
CARDS STILL THE FAVORITE
The Final Four - a catchy name for a quartet of teams who just won a quarterfinal. Not that surviving the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament isn't a worthy accomplishment (ask Gonzaga, Kansas, Indiana or any of the other teams who were "supposed" to make it this far).
Las Vegas casinos still have Louisville as the favorite to win it all. The Cardinals are 10-point favorites over Wichita State, making Louisville the second biggest favorite in semifinals history since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, according to gambling expert R.J. Bell of Pregame.com (in 1999, Duke was favored by 11 points over Michigan State).
Casinos see the other semifinal as a tighter contest, with Michigan favored by 2 points over Syracuse, Bell said.
If you think that means a Louisville-Michigan final is most likely, fine, but don't forget all the unexpected turns this tournament has taken.
Wichita State started the tournament at 300-1 odds to win the title, while Michigan was 20-1 and Syracuse was 35-1.
Each team in the Final Four has been there before, some more recently than others. Here's a quick chronological look at the last time each school made it this far and how things played out.
- 1965, Wichita State: The Shockers went 21-9 in the 1964-1965 season, winning the Missouri Valley conference and making their first ever Final Four. Then they ran into UCLA and the Wizard of Westwood. Wichita State lost big to the Bruins, who went on to win their second national title under coach John Wooden. The next night, Wichita State was blown out even worse by Princeton, 118-82, in a third-place game.
- 1993, Michigan: Michigan's last trip to the Final Four featured the Fab Five, college basketball's biggest rock stars at the time. With Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King, the Wolverines beat Kentucky in the national semifinals, then lost 77-71 to North Carolina in the final.
The national title game was made even more famous by Webber calling a timeout Michigan didn't have with 20 seconds to play, sparking a technical foul that led to four straight free throws for Carolina's Donald Williams.
"If I'd have known we didn't have any timeouts left, I wouldn't have called a timeout," Webber said after the game.
- 2003, Syracuse: NBA star Carmelo Anthony was a freshman along with Orange star Gerry McNamara, and third-seeded Syracuse won its first championship in school history. Syracuse beat Texas 95-84 in the semifinals before beating Kansas 81-78 in the national title game.
For Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, the win in New Orleans redeemed a loss 16 years earlier to Indiana in the national championship in the same city.
"Honestly, it was better than if we won someplace else," Boeheim said in 2012.
- 2012, Louisville: Last year, Kentucky was fairly unstoppable on its run to the title and beat in-state rival Louisville 69-61 in the Final Four. But it was unlikely for Louisville to even be there given three season-ending knee injuries, several concussions and a run of eight players who missed at least one game in a wacky year.
The Cardinals got into the tournament by winning four games in four days to take the Big East tournament title. The run helped erase bad memories from first-round losses in the NCAA tournament in 2010 and 2011.
"I told the guys ... `I'm celebrating a season where we worked around the clock, around injuries and everything else. If you guys don't celebrate and have good, clean fun, you're fools.'" Louisville coach Rick Pitino said after the loss to Kentucky.
After a grisly injury to Cardinals guard Kevin Ware, the outcome of Louisville-Duke took a significant back seat on social networks to thoughts about Ware and reaction to the play.
Ware broke his right leg with less than 7 minutes left in the first half after trying to contest a 3-pointer by Tyler Thornton. The leg buckled when he landed, bending at nearly a right angle.
On Twitter and Reddit, the reaction was swift, wide reaching and prolonged.
Twitter hashtags "PrayforWare" and "KevinWare" were still trending worldwide nearly three hours after the play, well after Louisville won the game and secured a Final Four appearance. On Reddit, one of a handful of posts about the play hit the popular site's front page.
Sentiments for Ware came from all over the sports and entertainment world. Simultaneously, everyday fans compared the incident with other famous sports injuries and traded less-gruesome ways to share the news, including pictures and video of emotional reactions from players and coaches.
Joe Theismann, the former Washington Redskins quarterback, immediately reminded Twitter users of the 1985 injury on Monday Night Football that ended his career.
"Watching Duke/ Louisville my heart goes out to Kevin Ware," Theismann tweeted.
Sports network ESPN sent a message from its (at)ESPN Twitter account that was retweeted more than 17,000 times in less than 30 minutes: "Our thoughts go out to Louisville's Kevin Ware. Hate to see that happen to any athlete. Here's to a speedy recovery."
Syracuse's wins have been good for the guy who last brought the school a national title - New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony.
And it's more than just bragging rights: He's making doubters pay up.
Anthony told AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney that he's making teammate Steve Novak, who went to Marquette, wear orange on the Knicks' flight to Miami on Monday as payment for their bet on the Sweet 16 game.
His Orange already knocked out teammate Jason Kidd (Cal) and coach Mike Woodson (Indiana).
"I'm going down the line. I'm going down the line," he said Sunday night. "J.R. (Smith) is rooting for Louisville, he didn't even go to school. So I mean, he might be next."
Smith's brother, Chris, played at Louisville.
That's if Syracuse beats Michigan first.
"They're playing very well right now, so we'll see what happens. We're playing very well, too," he said.
The biggest weekend shocker in basketball: Louisville knocking off Baylor in the women's tournament. Baylor, led by the top player in the women's game, Brittney Griner, was largely considered the most dangerous team in the tournament this year.
After the loss, Griner squatted and pressed her forehead against her folded hands. Next to her, guard Odyssey Sims lay on the floor with her legs and green sneakers in the air and hands covering her face.
Safe to say they were surprised - and with good reason.
Baylor was a 24-point favorite to win the game. If you wanted to win $100 on Baylor to win straight up, you had to wager $20,000, Bell said. On the flip side, Louisville was a 75-1 underdog to win.
STAT OF THE DAY
It took an amazing comeback by the Michigan Wolverines to defeat Kansas in overtime in Friday's South Regional Final. But there was no such drama on Sunday, as Michigan downed Florida 79-59 and Louisville beat Duke 85-63. The two games marked the first time that regional finals were decided by 20 or more points since 1999, when Duke defeated Temple 85-64.
AND A BONUS STAT
Duke's record in regional finals after Sunday's 85-63 loss: 11-2. The last time the Blue Devils reached the regional finals and failed to advance to the Final Four was in 1998. Their opponent, Kentucky, went on to win the national title.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"All he kept saying - now remember, the bone's 6 inches out of his leg - and all he's yelling: `Win the game. Win the game.' I've not seen that in my life." - Louisville coach Rick Pitino speaking about injured guard Kevin Ware in a postgame interview with CBS after his team defeated Duke.
Oskar Garcia is a news editor for The Associated Press in Honolulu. He can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia