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Local Sports

March 26, 2014

LINDLEY: Early excitement of tourney packed into a handful of games

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament saw great games last weekend including Kentucky’s captivating victory against Wichita State — hardly a “Shocker” — and none stranger than Iowa State’s time-vanishing escape against North Carolina. Those should keep fans analyzing and debating until this Thursday’s tip-offs in the tournament’s Sweet 16 round.

As dramatic as the endings were in several games, far more were settled before the last TV timeout.

Of 16 games played last weekend, 10 were decided by 10 points or more, with the average difference being 17.6 points. Of course, three games were determined by two points, and another by three points, helping the tournament live up to its billing as the greatest spectacle in college sports.

For Coach Gregg Marshall’s Wichita State team, it will take a while to grasp the significance of its game against Kentucky’s collection of McDonald’s All-Americans.

Some TV analysts had called the Shockers as a fraud — a hard-to-fathom assessment given last season’s run to the Final Four and a 35-0 record this year. Wichita State answered each of Kentucky’s athletic plays with one of its own. In the end, though, missed free throws ended the Shockers’ dreams of becoming the first undefeated national champion since 1976.

If the floor in St. Louis was a sea of conflicting emotions after the Kentucky-Wichita State game, the scene in San Antonio was one of confusion as officials studied a replay —- seemingly for an eternity — of the last 1.6 seconds of the North Carolina-Iowa State battle. The officials then called the coaches together and explained the game was over, time had expired. The Tar Heels would not get a last chance.

The call appeared to be correct, and North Carolina coach Roy Williams was a model of sportsmanship as he extended his hand to Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg. Williams’ team may have lost, but he stamped himself as a winner in every other way possible.

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