What was expected to be a defensive slugfest turned into an outstanding offensive game with some stellar defensive play mixed in.
De’Andre Hunter poured in 27 points including a game tying trifecta with 12 seconds left in regulation on a tremendous dish by Ty Jerome and the Cavaliers sank 12 of 12 free throws in overtime to capture their first national championship in school history, 85-77, over a hard fighting Texas Tech team.
Kyle Guy, the hero of the semifinal victory over Auburn and the Final Four’s Most Valuable Player, added 24. Hunter was 4 for 5 from 3 while Guy was 4 for 9. Hunter added 9 boards and Ty Jerome played a tremendous floor game scoring 16 points and dishing out 8 assists.
Virginia just kept making clutch shot after clutch shot to win the national title. Mamadi Diakite kept the Cavaliers hopes alive in the Elite Eight by sinking a 12 foot jumper as time expired in regulation to send their game with Purdue into overtime where the Cavaliers won 80-75. Then Guy had his heroics on Saturday versus Auburn, and Hunter came through in a hugely clutch way last night.
After getting shocked by Maryland-Baltimore County in the first round last year, the first time in the history of the tournament a No.1 seed has lost to a 16 seed, the Cavaliers were not going to be denied this year.
Well done, UVA.
Stanley Cup Predictions
The electric Stanley Cup playoffs commence tomorrow night and the Tampa Bay Lightning, which won 62 games this season, tying the NHL record set by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings along with 128 points, fourth most in NHL history, 4 short of the record held by the 1976-77 Montreal Canadians, will try to buck an interesting playoff statistic. Of the 14 teams that have won the President’s Trophy for the best regular season in the NHL since the salary cap era has been in existence (Tampa Bay was 62-16-4), only 2 of those teams have won the Stanley Cup, the 2007-08 Red Wings and the 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks. So history seems to be against the Lightning winning it all.
There is great talent throughout the playoffs. Alexander Ovechkin of the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals led the league once again in goals with 51. “The Great 8” has led the NHL in goals 8 times, which is the most in NHL history. The 33 year old from Moscow, Russia is hungry again as is his team, a charismatic, passionate, exciting group to watch. So much heart on that team.
Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov led the league in points with 128. He scored 41 goals, good for 6th in the league and dished out 87 assists, best in the league by 12 over second place Connor McDavid of Edmonton, who had 75.
Tampa Bay also led the league in goals per game at 3.89. Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevsky tied for 6th in save percentage at .925. Ben Bishop of Dallas led the league at .934.
So can the Lightning buck this unusual trend with regular season champions not succeeding in the playoffs? Here are my predictions.
Eastern Conference Final
Tampa Bay over Washington in 7
The defending champs play with a ton of pride and heart, but just come up short to the powerhouse Lighting. It’ll be a war.
Western Conference Final
Calgary over Nashville in 7
The Flames had the best record in the west at 50-25-7 and finished with the most points in the west with 107. Like them to outlast the Preds in a hard fought series as well.
Stanley Cup Final
Maybe that stat has the odds stacked against Tampa winning it all, but I trust the 25 year old from Maykop, Russia, Kucherov, the 24 year old Russian, Vasilevsky and the great Canadian 29 year old Steven Stamkos along with a loaded roster to bring Tampa home its first Stanley Cup.