How Furman beat Virginia and busted your bracket

One of many first thrilling finishes of the 2023 NCAA Match additionally gave us our first March Badness play to devour within the type of Virginia’s gorgeous 68-67 loss to the Furman Paladins. Clad in Willy Wonka purple, Furman earned their golden ticket to the match for the primary time in 43 years, after profitable the SoCon Championship Recreation. Nonetheless, it was Virginia’s ultimate minutes that sealed their very own ignominious destiny. There’s the Princeton offense after which there’s the South Harmon Institute of Know-how (S.H.I.T.) offense, Virginia ran down the stretch.

Early within the second half, it appeared Virginia was about to overwhelm Furman, till the latter switched to a 1-3-1 zone halfway by the second half and instantly started chipping away at Virginia’s double-digit lead. We’ve seen this from Tony Bennett System groups earlier than. UVA robots neglect how you can perform after they come throughout spunky mid-majors.

The place did Virginia go mistaken?

After defending the lead over the ultimate 5 minutes, turnovers and ill-advised heat-check pictures from distance pushed Virginia out to a 63-67 lead with 19 seconds remaining. Bennett’s Wahoos function with machine-like effectivity. Nonetheless, within the final 20 seconds, Virginia’s offense resembled a damaged merchandising machine.

A missed free throw by Kihei Clark and two free throws by Furman’s Garrett Hien on the opposite finish pulled the Paladins inside two factors. On the following inbound, Reece Beekman inexplicably regarded again after assembly the entice and laced a bounce go to Clark, who was instantly caught within the pincers of Furman’s entice deeper underneath the mistaken basket. At that second as a substitute of a) launching the ball off a defender’s leg b) whipping a skip go to wide-open teammate Isaac McKneely, or c) calling a timeout, Clark misjudged how a lot time was left and his arm power by winding up a hook go that was intercepted by Hien, who kicked it to Pegues for the game-winning 3-pointer.

Furman’s second-leading scorer Jalen Slawson was nonetheless in shock strolling into the locker room, bellowing, “He simply freaking threw the ball!” in response to a query.

Who deserves the blame?

The apparent blame has been positioned on level guard Kihei Clark. The fifth-year guard dedicated a cardinal level guard sin with fewer than seven seconds remaining, however Tony Bennett bore witness to his fifth-year starter’s sacrilege. Any head coach price his salt would have the situational consciousness to appreciate {that a} level guard who picks up his dribble whereas trapped within the nook of an opposing backcourt was in peril.

As an alternative, Bennett preserved his timeout till after JP Pegues’ redemptive triple soaked the online to award the Paladins with a one-point lead. For Virginia, the loss extends its NCAA Match winless streak into its fourth 12 months.

The final time the Wahoos received an NCAA Match single-elimination matchup, it was their nationwide championship win over Texas Tech. In 2022, their season ended within the NIT Quarterfinal. The 2021 Cavs limped into the primary spherical and had been chucked from the match by 13-seed Ohio. Virginia’s untimely exit is nothing new. In 2018, they had been the primary 1-seed to get chopped down by a 16-seed in NCAA Match historical past. Nonetheless, Virginia was simply flat-out unprepared as soon as that recreation tipped off.

Bennett is probably the most hot-and-cold coach within the nation. That will must do with how he applications his offense’s actions and leaves them devoid of self-expression when performs break down that leaves them weak, however Furman’s entice can’t be something worse than what Clark sees in observe on daily basis. There’s tough blame to go round and Bennett should stew on this one for one more 12 months, however he’s changing into a perennial March Badness contender.

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