Beyond it leading today's SN column, last night was ridiculously amazing on a couple of levels:
*The game itself -- and you know what game I'm talking about -- was, shot-for-shot, as dramatic as they come. It lacked the shock value of Northern Iowa over Kansas, but it was a better game.
*It was all the more interesting in that the principals -- K-State and Xavier -- were hardly "brand" names of college basketball, certainly among casual/non-fans. It supports the notion that the Tournament transcends even its essential elements like upsets, Cinderellas and buzzer-beaters -- or that it has to be with the Final Four on the line.
This was, simply, a marvelous basketball game between two very good, very motivated teams.
*It completely marginalized the "marquee" game of the night -- Kentucky-Cornell. Now, partly that was because UK-Cornell was a blowout early and never really became a game. But I live in NYC and even our local CBS affiliate kept it on the K-State/Xavier game virtually all the way. I watched the entire first half of UK-Cornell -- and basically none of the 2nd. But, again, it affirms that pre-game storylines are fine, to a point. But at some point, the quality of the game itself trumps everything.
*Gus Johnson. If he wasn't already the most beloved play-by-play announcer, this just added to it with a new twist: He was a trending topic on Twitter last night. It was a classic "Gus Johnson game," and don't discount that the game was infinitely more enjoyable and memorable for it. (As a thought exercise, consider Dick Enberg calling that game. Or Jim Nantz.)
*The late finish. If this was the 7 p.m. game, it would have been great. But it would have lacked that clock-pushes-past-midnight-no-we're-not-done-yet-god-it's-late-but-how-can-you-sleep value of the 12:30 ending. Also, that it happened on a Thursday night, rather than a Friday night -- there is something extra special with a game specifically like this, about knowing you have to get up early the next morning for work or school, but just not caring, because this game is so great. Sorry, West Coasters: You miss out.
The game didn't set a new bar for upsets or Cinderella stories -- it merely set a new bar for game quality: The big 3s, the string of made free throws (totally underrated!), the intensity.
Tonight, we might see Northern Iowa continue on its Cinderella path -- I think they will beat Michigan State, but with an Izzo team in the Tournament with a week to prep, that's still a big challenge. And it would be fun to see St. Mary's beat Baylor. (In the column lead, I lay out a Butler-Northern Iowa-St. Mary's-John Wall Final Four as ideal.) But Ohio State-Tennessee? Duke-Purdue? Meh.
Then again: Kansas State-Xavier was supposed to be a "Meh" game last night. It ended up being the best game of the tournament.
See the entire SN column here. There's a lot more in there.