1. Jay Wright is a very lucky man. He’s the coach of a Final Four team now, but he came very close to being second-guessed for the rest of his life. With his team clinging to a late two point lead with seconds to go, Wright made the very bold call for a home run throw from the in-bounds. The receiver at the far end of the court couldn’t catch the ball and stay in-bounds, and they turned it over and gave Pitt a chance to win. The Panthers tied it up and Nova took the lead for good with less than a second left, though. If it hadn’t turned out that way, though, then Wright would have been haunted for life by questions about why he went for the bomb when he could have gone for a traditional in-bounds, probably gotten fouled, and won with less stress. Beyond that, though, that was probably the most entertaining game of the tournament. At least for a while, anyway. It was a slugfest between two heavyweights, and Nova proved that they are going to be very interesting down the stretch. They have been a nice, reasonably safe moneyline play as a mild underdog the last two rounds, and there is a good chance that that will continue next round.
2. Mizzou was admirable and entertaining tonight, but they just ran out of gas at the end. It’s amazing how clear the difference was in this one – foul shots. UConn didn’t commit many fouls, and they took advantage of their foul shots. Both UConn and Villanova really capitalized on outstanding free throw shooting today. I hope John Calipari was watching and taking notes.
3. Gilbert Arenas looked very good in his return to action. His first game of the season saw him score 15 points and add 10 assists. Though the Wizards are so far past useless this year that it’s ridiculous, maybe this will finally give us a way to capitalize on them down the stretch. If nothing else, itmight finally make them somewhat interesting to watch. What a mess that franchise is.
4. It was an eventful day on the horse racing front. First, American horse Well Armed traveled to Dubai and took down the richest race in the world – the Dubai World Cup. He took down the $6 million race by a stunning 14 lengths, and he did it by seizing the lead early on and never looking back. Impressive and, frankly, unexpected. Next, the Florida Derby, the recent hotbed of Kentucky Derby winners with winners like Barbaro and Big Brown, promised a huge battle of impressive horses, and it delivered. Quality Road won the race, as he did the Fountain of youth. Second was Dunkirk, a beautiful, expensive, and previously undefeated colt. Theregoesjojo finished third, though he certainly wasn’t outclassed. The race was so close, and those three horses so well respected, that the $2 trifecta – picking the top three horses in the right order – paid just $12. That’s a small fraction of the usual payoff. All three horses will likely head to Kentucky for another showdown on a bigger stage, and Quality Road will go there as a very major contender. Those two dramatic and exciting races were overshadowed just a bit by some sad news out of Kentucky. Alysheba, the megastar who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in 1987 and was Horse of the Year in 1988, had an accident in his stall at the Kentucky Horse Park on Friday and had to be euthanized. He was a spectacularly classy horse whose duels with Ferdinand were some of the great moments of all times in the sport I’ll miss him.