This week we saw the 2005-2006 college basketball season come to a close with the Florida men’s team and the Maryland Terrapins women’s team both winning their first national championships.
Monday night, No. 3 Florida defeated No. 2 UCLA, 76-57, in a blowout game in Indianapolis.
The Gators were led by forward Joakim Noah, who dominated the paint with 16 points, nine rebounds and six blocks.
From start to finish, Florida was more aggressive and physical than UCLA. The key to the Florida victory was not allowing UCLA to set up their full court press, pushing the ball and eliminating turnovers.
For so long, Florida has been a premier football school, so winning a national championship in basketball was the last thing any true basketball fan could have predicted.
Many analysts counted out Florida because of UCLA’s strong basketball tradition and the intimidation of the Bruin defense.
This was the first time in the tournament that UCLA allowed more than 60 points. Florida also got big play from Lee Humphrey, who scored 15 points and was 4-8 from three-point territory.
As a team, UCLA could not make a basket shooting 36 percent from the field and 17 percent from three-point land. UCLA starters went 20-53 from the field, their worst shooting performance for the whole tournament.
Noah was voted Most Outstanding Player of the game, making the win even sweeter.
Freshman Kristi Toliver hit a three-pointer at the end of regulation to send the game into a 70-70 over-time against Duke on Tuesday night in Boston.
This was Maryland’s sixth overtime game of the season. The Terrapins came into the game 5-0 in overtime, with all those wins coming on the road.
This time, overtime was again all Maryland, with the Terrapins allowing only five points and picking up the 78-75 victory.
Like Florida, many expected Duke to demolish Maryland, but the underdog found a way to prevail once again. Maryland came out flat in the first half allowing Duke to reach a double digit lead at halftime.
Duke did a superb job of shutting down Marissa Coleman in the first half, who has been the Terrapins’ spark plug during the tournament.
In the second half, Maryland step up their defense and played with more passion.
Even though Coleman was limited on the offense end, she found a way to make her presence felt snatching 14 rebounds and picking up a big steal in the last 10 minutes.
Coleman was named MOP of the game, who credited her coach timeout speech for her change of play.
This year’s March Madness has been the best in recent years. We saw top seeds upset by mid-major colleges and George Mason being the first mid-major team to reach the Final Four in more than 20 years.
California saw its beloved Bruins reache the championship game for the first time in 10 years since the days of the O’Bannon brothers.
Even though UCLA did not come out victorious, their appearance in the game made a statement: The West Coast can still play ball.
Darnell Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.