The involvement of the Kiwis in the NCAA Tournament ended in stunning fashion on Saturday when the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, stunned Jack Salt and the University of Virginia Cavaliers. Virginia became the first No 1 seed to lose to a No 16 seed in NCAA Men’s Tournament history, bundled out 74-51.
Last week we were celebrating a record eight New Zealanders heading for the Big Dance. On Saturday the dancing shoes were thrown in the closet for 2018 as all eight suffered first round exits.
On Friday Oklahoma Sooners (Matt Freeman) and Miami Hurricanes (Sam Waardenburg) were shown the door.
If that was disappointing Saturday’s action quickly changed from a quick step to a slow waltz as team after team struggled to keep pace with their opponents.
In early action on Saturday, Northern Colorado (Krystal Leger-Walker and Tiarna Clarke), Cal State Northridge (Tessa Boagni) and Cal Berkeley (Penina Davidson) left the stage.
Soon after Jacinta Beckley (Seattle University) became the fifth and final Kiwi woman to bow out.
New Zealand’s hopes of second round representation then rested on the broad shoulders of Salt but he and the Cavaliers missed their steps badly and became the victims of arguably the biggest upset in Men’s Tournament history.
The disappointment for Boagni, Davidson and Beckley will be the most acute as all three are seniors and their successful four-year college careers now come to an end.
For the other five, and the numerous other Kiwis on NCAA Division 1 teams, the practice routines for the 2019 Big Dance will soon get under way.