After the analysts, talking heads, bloggers, pencil-necks, and just about anyone with an opinion on college hoops had their say, the 'Canes faithful were hoping that the 3rd time would be the charm and that Miami Basketball would hit Warp Speed and find a way to the Elite Eight.
Early on, Villanova came out strong on offense and defense. A jumper by Kris Jenkins and 3-pointers by Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson. Just like that the Wildcats clawed out an 8-0 lead. Lost in that early lead was two quick fouls on Villanova's guard Josh Hart, which would likely send him to the pine for the rest of the 1st half.
Sheldon McClellan answered the opening spurt with a 3-ball of his own and then Angel Rodriguez found Kamari Murphy on a sweet cut for a two-handed slam to cut the Wildcat lead to 8-5.
Rodriguez continued his offensive torrent by slicing through the Wildcat defense and keeping the 'Canes within 3. The Wildcat defense caused Miami some serious problems in the first several minutes, forcing 4 turnovers. In order for the 'Canes to stay in the game, they would have to take better care of the ball.
Anthony "Amp" Lawrence nailed a three from the corner to cut Villanova's lead to 14-10, but the Wildcats continued to hit tough shots, punctuated by a Arcidiacono pump-fake prayer (and the foul) that reminded me of Elvin magic from Lord of the Rings.
After a lane violation led to another Arcidiacono free throw, the Nova guard wasn't finished as he drained a 3 and then a Miami turnover led to another easy Villanova basket. Just like that, the 'Canes were down 22-10 and things were looking somewhat grim for the team from Coral Gables.
After a much-needed time-out called by Jim Larranaga, the 'Canes turned the ball over again and the sloppy play was putting them in a deep hole. 'Nova wasn't done as Daniel Ochefu had an easy dunk and hit another shot. The Wildcat big man was besting Tonye Jekiri early, and the 'Canes would need their senior center to step up and answer the challenge.
After the 'Canes botched a fast break, Nova continued to pour it on with another 3-ball, but McClellan answered with a 3 of his own, and then Rodriguez nailed a 3 from the corner to bring the 'Canes deficit to 29-20. Then McClellan drained another from long-distance to punctuate a 9-0 'Canes run and force Villanova coach Jay Wright to call a time-out with a slim 29-23 lead.
Out of the time-out, Miami had a much-needed stop and on the offensive end Rodriguez continued his ridiculous shooting with yet another 3 and the 'Canes were right back in it.
After a McClellan miss from afar, Davon Reed came out of nowhere for a monstrous tip-dunk. Rodriguez brought the 'Canes to within one with a crossover and a nifty drive down Wildcat lane. Nova, however, answered with a 3 and continued their hot shooting from just about everywhere.
Down 36-30, with just over 3 minutes left, McClellan was called for a suspect offensive foul which led to a TV time out.
Jekiri finally got on the board with a layup off a Rodriguez pass, but could the 'Canes stop the Wildcat onslaught?
Kris Jenkins channeled his inner Stephen Curry and nailed a 3 from a LONG-LONG distance as the shot-clock rand won, but James Palmer answered with a bomb of his own to keep Miami within striking distance.
Palmer got into the lane and was fouled, leading to two successful free throws, and the 'Canes were down 43-37 going into the half.
For those of you who didn't watch the game, it is almost amazing that the 'Canes weren't down double figures going into the second stanza, considering the amount of turnovers and the torrid offensive attack by Villanova.
If 'Canes fans were hoping that the half would cool off at the half, they were wrong. Nova continued to hit everything and extended the lead to 51-39 with 17 minutes to play. Even with Ochefu out with a sprained ankle, the Wildcats kept coming. McClellan, however, bricked-in a 3 and the canes were down 53-42.
Whatever Miami did, Nova seemed to have an answer for it. The 'Canes were having trouble building momentum and the Wildcats didn't want to give up their mo-mo. For most of the game the officiating had been even, but 'Nova, as well as they played, started to get whistles for minor bumps, while Miami was called for ticky-tack fouls.
But the 'Canes weren't done. Rodriguez nailed another 3 and cut the Nova lead 50 61-51. Nova continued to score and kept a low-double digit lead. The 'Canes continued to get flagged for touch fouls and 'Nova was money from the line.
Lawrence helped keep the 'Canes in it but second chance points for Villanova extended the lead to 76-58, and things looked really bleak for Miami.
McClellan hit a layup and the harm, but it looked to be too little, too late, as the Wildcats were firmly in control of the game with 5:36 left.
Great season for Miami, but it was Villanova's night. Nothing could have derailed this buzz-saw.
The Good: Villanova's shooting was incredible. That's why they won. They made everything. At every moment. All the time.
The Bad: The 'Canes turned the ball over way too much. The reffing the 2nd half was abysmal, but it wasn't why the 'Canes lost.
The Ugly: Miami's full-court press was an automatic basket for Villanova.
The Miami Hurricanes flew into Louisville, Kentucky to play the Villanova Wildcats in the hopes of going where the program has never gone before: to the Elite Eight.