Nothing hurts more than the tournament upset that wasn’t. You find yourself invested in these plucky upstarts and, oh, how it stings when they can’t get the job done in the end. You believed in them! And for what!? This happened to me three times yesterday. Here are those experiences arranged from least infuriating to most infuriating. Enjoy this cringe compilation.
No. 11 Princeton vs. No. 3 Indiana
Princeton was playing with house money after their first-round upset of a Kentucky team that had just won the SEC tournament. Indiana led by 14 points halfway through the third, but Princeton went on a nice little run to end the quarter and narrow Indiana’s lead to three. The excellent Princeton defense turned it up in the fourth quarter, and the Tigers even went up 50-49 at one point. But they devastated me with this final possession: With about 10 seconds left, and Indiana up two, Princeton’s Kaitlyn Chen drove to the basket and kicked the ball out … right into the hands of Indiana’s Ali Patberg. Oh no!!!
No. 7 UCF vs. No. 2 UConn
Gotta make your free throws. Gotta make your free throws. I suppose UCF merits little sympathy here; they finished the night 8-of-18 from the stripe, which you simply cannot do. And this game was theirs for the taking! UConn pretty much collapsed down the stretch, making only one of their last nine shots. A 12-point UConn lead with less than five minutes left became just a three-point lead with a little less than a minute left. Paige Bueckers was called for a shooting foul, sending UCF’s Brittney Smith to the line with about 22 seconds remaining. She missed the first one—ah, no!—and then on the second, she sort of pump faked, which led to a lane violation call, the basket being waved off, and the ball going back to UConn. Lane violation. No!!!
No. 10 Belmont vs. No. 3 Tennessee
As I remember it, this game took three hours, and the last minute accounted for two of them.
Anyway, big win for Team Gotta Make Your Free Throws. Belmont led by two late but missed two free throws that might have iced the game, and instead gave the ball back to Tennessee with a generous 24 seconds left. Enter freshman Sara Puckett, who had made just two of her last 16 three-point attempts, but nailed a go-ahead corner three when it mattered.