WEST REGIONAL: Wisconsin 64, Arizona 63
Frank Kaminsky carried Wisconsin to the Final Four with 28 points, including six in overtime, as the Badgers defeated Arizona 64-63 in a physical West Regional final Saturday night.
Kaminsky had 11 rebounds and scored from all over, including three 3 pointers, for the No. 2 seed Badgers (30-7). It’s Wisconsin’s first Final Four appearance since 2000, and first for 69-year-old coach Bo Ryan, who earned his 704th career victory.
Nick Johnson had the ball with a chance to win, but he missed a shot that came just after the buzzer for Arizona (33-5), the top-seeded team that has yet to win a West Regional final in Anaheim in four tries. Johnson led the Wildcats with 16 points, and Aaron Gordon had 18 rebounds in the relentlessly physical game.
Johnson stood with his hands on his hips, staring straight ahead, while Kaminsky and the rest of the Badgers rushed to celebrate.
Traevon Jackson added 10 points for the Badgers, and Kaminsky was chosen as most outstanding player of the West Regional.
Kaleb Tarczewski scored 12 points and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 10 points for the Wildcats, who were trying to get coach Sean Miller to the Final Four for his first time.
Instead, Miller was sent to the sidelines on the same day his younger brother Archie’s Dayton Flyers lost to Florida in the South Regional final.
The first 40 minutes were a back-and-forth struggle between the only 1-2 seeds remaining in the regionals, with neither team leading by more than three points over the final 12:09 of regulation.
Overtime was even more dramatic, with Arizona having an answer for just about everything Wisconsin did.
Ben Brust hit a 3-pointer to put the Badgers up at the start of the extra session; Gordon answered with a 3 to tie it up again at 57. Kaminsky scored inside and Gordon dunked at the other end for another tie.
Kaminsky’s jumper and a free throw by Josh Gasser gave Wisconsin a 62-59 lead. Tarczewski’s two free throws and Jordin Mayes’ tip-in drew the Wildcats to 64-63 with 58 seconds left.
T. J. McConnell’s jumper missed, but Arizona got the offensive rebound and found Johnson, who missed and got called for the push-off on Gasser with 3 seconds left.
Wisconsin inbounded on the baseline, but turned the ball over in a play reviewed by the referees.
That set up the final play, with Pac-12 player of the year Johnson unable to bail out the Wildcats.
Late Friday: EAST REGIONAL: Michigan State 61, Virginia 59
Two programs very familiar of late with the NCAA Tournament’s round of eight will meet for the right to go to the Final Four. Michigan State, the No. 4 seed that has become one of the favorites to win the title, and Connecticut, a No. 7 seed enjoying the underdog role, both won Friday night in the East Regional semifinals and will play today with the winner heading to North Dallas for the Final Four.
The Spartans (29-8) beat top-seeded Virginia 61-59 and gave a defensive clinic in the win.
Connecticut (29-8) advanced with an 81-76 victory over third-seeded Iowa State in a game in which both teams were making a lot of shots.
Michigan State and Connecticut met in the national semifinals in 2009, an 82-73 victory for the Spartans.
If the Spartans play defense like they did against Virginia (30-7), holding the Cavaliers to 35.1 percent shooting, the final score shouldn’t be like it was five years ago.
“I thought our half-court defense in general was maybe one of the best,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I thought once we were in the half court, ours might have been as best as we have had in a long, long time, to be honest with you.”
Virginia came into the game leading the nation in points allowed per game at 55.5.
The Cavaliers did a credible job against Michigan State on that end of the court, they just couldn’t score.
The Spartans held the Cavaliers to 35.1 percent shooting (20-of-57), well off the 45.7 percent they shot during the season and nowhere near the 54.3 percent they shot in the two NCAA Tournament games.
Late Friday: MIDWEST REGIONAL: Kentucky 74, Louisville 69
John Calipari finally figured out how to get his players’ attention. He banned television.
The Wildcats and their fans aren’t complaining now.
Julius Randle had 15 points and 12 rebounds, Dakari Johnson added 15 points and forced Russ Smith into missing a potential game-tying 3-pointer and eighth-seeded Kentucky advanced to today’s Midwest Regional championship game.
“They’re playing for each other,” Calipari said after beating last year’s national champs for the second time this season.
“They have finally surrendered and lost themselves in the team. It’s just taken us a long time.”
The transformation couldn’t have come at a better time.
After a wild ride through the regular season, Kentucky (27-10) is finally rolling. All the eight-time national champion has to do now is beat second-seeded Michigan (28-8) at Lucas Oil Stadium.
It looked as if Louisville (31-6) was headed toward that highly anticipated rematch of last year’s NCAA title game when Luke Hancock made two free throws with 4:33 left to give the Cardinals a 66-59 lead.
That’s when the Wildcats buckled down.
Aaron Harrison started the game-closing run with two free throws.
Alex Poythress tied it with a three-point play with 2:11 to play, gave Kentucky the lead for good with a free throw at the 1:26 mark, and the Wildcats’ suffocating defense allowed just one basket the rest of the way.