Today, the opening day of March Madness, hasn’t been very mad. There have been no upsets and no close games. That is until No. 11 St. Mary’s, who beat Middle Tennessee State in one of the First Four games, faced No. 6 Memphis. Heading into the game’s final minute, it seemed all but over: Memphis held a comfortable six-point lead and only needed to sink some free throws to advance to the second round. Ha! Free throws. The bane of every college team’s existence.
Leading 53-49 with :14 seconds remaining, Memphis’ D.J. Stephens missed the second of two free throws, only giving his team a 54-49 advantage. St. Mary’s Matthew Dellavedova raced up the court the other way, only to find himself double-teammed and swung the ball cross court to Eividas Petrulis. Petrulis pump-faked; Memphis was obviously expecting St. Mary’s to jack a three. But then, stepping through the contesting defender and leaning towards the basket, Petrulis threw up a wild three-pointer:
It’s good! Memphis leads 54-52, five seconds remaining.
But even with the miracle three-pointer cutting into their lead, Memphis could still ice the game with two free throws. Pending a successful inbounds, of course. And, naturally, that didn’t happen. Memphis guard Joe Jackson, who was sprinting back towards his own bucket to elude his defender, could not handle the inbounds pass and bobbled it out of bounds, leaving St. Mary’s with the ball under the basket and 1.9 seconds remaining to score two points. The play was drawn up for Delleavedova, who had carried the team the entire way. After setting a screen of his own, he curled towards the corner and caught the ball in rhythm as he fired up a corner three-pointer…
Yeah, airball. But still: that game went from practically over to nailbiter in a matter of seconds. Even though St. Mary’s couldn’t pull off the upset, this is the madness that March is all about.