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NCAA Men's Men's Basketball Tourney Down To 4


College basketball fans often refer to their season as the road to the Final Four. Well, we are there. The bracket survivors are Syracuse, surprise Wichita State, Michigan and Louisville. Let's talk basketball with NPR's Mike Pesca. Hey, Mike.


GREENE: So Louisville beat Duke to move on last night, but all everyone was talking about was the injury to Louisville guard Kevin Ware. I mean, what we saw on television was horrific.

PESCA: It was gruesome. CBS only replayed it a couple of times. But just looking at the faces of his teammates, this was, in medical terms, an open fracture to his right tibia and he did have successful surgery overnight. Coach Rick Pitino stayed with him. It obviously affected - well, it affected all teams and everyone who saw it. Right afterwards, Louisville, I think they gave up six points and only scored three.

But they regrouped and that's to their credit. I'm not saying that they were unique or alone in the ability to get past it, but that mental aspect of their game was one of the things that made them, you know, go on in the second half to be able to decimate Duke. And Rick Pitino, the coach of Louisville, said Kevin Ware was just saying, you have to win it for me, guys. You have to win it for me. And that inspired the team.

GREENE: Wow. We'll see if that inspiration continues. I'm glad he's doing OK. So Louisville, I mean, this injury notwithstanding, playing some amazing basketball. The one number one seed left. Are they the all-out favorite?

PESCA: Yes, they are the favorite for a couple of reasons. They've just been playing so well and also they're seen as having the easier path into the finals. Their opponent, Wichita State, sure, they're a Cinderella and an upstart, but they don't have the pedigree of the other two teams. Moving to the other side of the bracket, Syracuse has been playing amazing defense but they might have trouble with Michigan.

Michigan can actually shoot the ball and that's what's needed to beat the Syracuse zone. Not a lot of teams in college could do it and Michigan looked great in their shellacking for Florida yesterday.

GREENE: So let's move to the women's side. And speaking of Louisville, they got a big victory as well. I mean, a historic upset over Baylor. Give us the context here. This was huge.

PESCA: Right, right. Baylor had what many people believe and I think rightly so, the greatest player in the history of women's basketball, Brittney Griner. She was second on the all-time scoring list...

GREENE: Very tall, very tall.

PESCA: She's 6'8" player. She's the Wilt Chamberlain of women's basketball. But Baylor lost even though they were riding a 32-game win streak. And Louisville threw everything they had at her. Shoni Schimmel of Louisville had 22 points. Louisville did a couple things. They just shot the lights out, 16 three-pointers. They played extremely aggressive defense, to the point where it was a point of controversy.

The Baylor coach saying, you're not allowed to criticize the officials or else you get fined. She actually said in a press conference, please ask me about the officials because I want to get fined. Griner was held to 14 points. Even with all that, it took a last-second drive and a couple of made free throws for Louisville to win the game. They advance to the elite eight.

I'm going to say it was the biggest upset in women's basketball history.

GREENE: Wow. Big proclamation. All right. A lot of action last night, Mike, thanks.

PESCA: You're welcome.

GREENE: That's NPR's Mike Pesca. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
Mike Pesca first reached the airwaves as a 10-year-old caller to a New York Jets-themed radio show and has since been able to parlay his interests in sports coverage as a National Desk correspondent for NPR based in New York City.
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