Commentary: A talented player’s monumental mistake helps Furman pull off a March Madness miracle

It was noon Thursday, West Coast time, on the first day of the NCAA basketball tournament that will hold our attention for the rest of March and the early days of April, when we got the ultimate reminder of why they call this March madness.

After all, what’s psychotic and whimsical about a bunch of college basketball games? Sure, there’s going to be some exciting games, some excitement, some crazy stuff amidst all the wrestling and shouting. But madness?

But there it was, Virginia playing Furman. Virginia was ranked nationally all year, even peaking at No. 2. Furman had not been to an NCAA tournament since Jimmy Carter was president. Virginia was seeded 4th in its 16-team regional league, with Furman 13th. Virginia plays in the prestigious and battle-hardened ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference), Furman in the little-known and generally overlooked Southern Conference.

So when Virginia put the ball in play with about 10 seconds left and just a little time left to defend their two-point win, it would be a tale of David nearly slaying Goliath. Nothing more. Back pat for the Furman team. A deep sigh of relief for the Virginia team, who could quickly get to their next opponent’s scouting report.

That was even safer when the ball caught Kihei Clark, Virginia’s point guard veteran. Clark, a 5ft 10 veteran from Woodland Hills, had been there so many times and had done it so many times. Due to the extra eligibility year allowed by the sport’s COVID-19 erasure year, Clark was a fifth grader. He held ACC records in minutes played, games played and assists. As Virginia won the 2019 NCAA title, Clark saved the day in a regional final against Purdue by locating a missed free throw, jumping into the backcourt, rushing back to the basket and finding teammate Mamadi Diakite 10 yards from the basket. His pass arrived just in time, Diakite’s shot went wide with a split second to go to level the game, Virginia won the game in overtime and advanced to the NCAA title. On the Charlottesville campus it is known as “The Play”.

Clark didn’t have to make a heroic play this time. He was surrounded by three frantic Furman players who would have likely fouled him. He also had a break. With those options, he settled on a third. He threw the ball up and as far across the court as possible, obviously assuming the ball would stay in the air long enough for the clock to run out.

It didn’t. His throw was intercepted by a Furman player who just had time to dribble back a few steps and pass to a teammate on the three-point line. The shot went up, the ball went through and Furman won. It was a monumental mistake, committed by the player who was least expected to ever make one.

It was madness. Pure madness. With probably more to come.

Source :

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *