And then there were six (half of Final Four decided)

Though I was one of many who thought Maryland overrated this season, I don’t think I’m alone in saying Louisville came out of nowhere this year to win tonight. I wouldn’t have thought “Final Four” and Louisville to be in the same sentence at the end of March, but they were really gritty tonight. They wanted the win, which is more than it looked like Maryland wanted. I’m not going to speculate, but Louisville’s hunger for victory was palpable tonight.

ESPN story link: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncw/recap?gameId=294000030

I was laughing at the way Louisville was starting to jump up and down………until Marissa Coleman stepped to the FT line with tears in her eyes. When she came out of the game she walked into Coach Brenda Frese’s arms and wouldn’t leave them. Just inconsolable on the bench. It was sad.

Then Card Angel McCoughtry started yelling into the camera to Kara Lawson, about how she’d see her in St. Louis (Lawson had picked the Terps to win). McCoughtry also said she was ready for Obama before getting off camera. Some people thought it was in poor taste, but I’m willing to give the kid the benefit of the doubt. We all do and say wack stuff when we’re excited.

This piece in today’s Baltimore Sun provides some insight into McCoughtry’s personality:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/college/basketball/womens/bal-sp.mccoughtry30mar30,0,1749103.story

In Angel, Roi and his wife, Sharon, had a capricious child, one who didn’t like the word “no” and often brought her mother to tears.

“I’m sort of a quiet, laid-back person, and I thought I’d have a quiet, laid-back child,” Sharon said. “But she was just the opposite. If I told her, ‘Let’s do this,’ she’d do the opposite. Now that I realize, she had all that energy for a reason; it just had to be channeled into something.”

Basketball became the perfect outlet. Growing up in Baltimore’s Northwood neighborhood, there was always a game nearby for a teenage McCoughtry. It usually meant playing against boys, though older, quicker and tougher.

And here’s another testament to hard work:

Once on campus, she kept working on her game and kept improving. As a sophomore, McCoughtry was named Big East Player of the Year.

“I joke with her that I’m not sure how many friends she has,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “She’s always in the gym.”

I’d like to take a moment to thank all the young men all over the country who had no problem playing with McCoughtry, Dawn Staley, and countless other women who went on to great things in the sport they love because of it.

On the other side of the NCAA tourney, and the country, Jayne Appel is taking over where Candice Wiggins left off last year. Forty-six points is pretty amazing.

ESPN story link: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncw/recap?gameId=294000015

Appel story link: http://www.mercurynews.com/sportsheadlines/ci_12026703?nclick_check=1

“She’s a 10 out of 10,” teammate Jillian Harmon said, describing Appel’s mental toughness. “You can count on her. She’s going to do whatever it takes.”

Tenacity and toughness are great things.

But all this leaves me a little uncertain. Have I mentioned I’m going to the Final Four? First time, and it’s more than a little ironic that my team got knocked out in the first round. Even more ironic when I consider that the likely matchup on one side of the semi-finals – Stanford and Connecticut – will probably be the true championship game. Because let’s face it, ladies and gentlemen, those are the top two teams in the country right now. Not taking away anything from Oklahoma (who will also probably win tomorrow, alongside the Huskies), but Stanford and Connecticut have been kicking butt and taking names this post-season. The only way either/one of them will lose in the next week or so is to each other.

Faced with that, I’m prepared for this year’s championship game to be a bit of a letdown (unless some wild upset takes place). I just hope it’s not like the 2005 game, when Baylor kicked the butts of Michigan State.

On the bright side, I’m not emotionally invested in any team right now, so I can just enjoy myself in St. Louis.

Tomorrow:

Connecticut vs. ASU, 4 PDT/7 EDT

Purdue vs. Oklahmoa, 6/9

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