March Madness lives on. Following the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament, The Post projected the final bracket and will spend the rest of the week presenting round-by-round results produced via online simulation, thanks to our friends at whatifsports.com.
This time, overtime went Seton Hall’s way at the Final Four.
Just short of 31 years after the Pirates suffered a controversial title game overtime loss to Michigan, No. 3 Seton Hall broke through to the national championship for the second time in school history with a 91-89 overtime win over No. 4 Oregon in The Post’s simulation of the NCAA Tournament.
After riding All-American Myles Powell during a historic regular season and virtual postseason run, the Pirates advanced to the title game with an incredible group effort. Powell was limited to 18 points on 6-of-16 shooting, but four teammates provided double-figure scoring efforts, while rallying Seton Hall from an 11-point deficit with 6:33 left in regulation.
With Powell held scoreless in overtime, 7-foot-2 Romaro Gill (14 points, seven blocks) played the unlikely hero, scoring six of the team’s final eight points — including the go-ahead shot on a pass from Powell with 25 seconds left — and blocking a shot by Oregon’s Chris Duarte on the game’s final play.
The teams had previously met on Nov. 27 in the Bahamas, where Oregon won, 71-69, despite Powell’s 32 points.
To claim its first-ever national championship, Seton Hall will have to knock off college basketball’s best program since the Pirates’ 1989 run — No. 3 Duke. The Blue Devils, who have won five national championships and made nine title game appearances under Mike Krzyzewski, sailed past No. 12 East Tennessee State, 87-74, in the other semifinal. The Blue Devils haven’t been to the championship game since winning it in 2015.
This title game would produce one of the best individual matchups in the sport, placing Powell — the Big East Player of the Year — against Duke star guard Tre Jones, the ACC Player of the Year and ACC Defensive Player of the Year. It would also pit the 73-year-old Duke Hall of Famer against 44-year-old Kevin Willard.
Duke opened its season with a win over final No. 1 Kansas, became the top-ranked team in the country and lost just once through mid-January. That one loss was a shocking home overtime defeat to Stephen F. Austin. The Blue Devils also lost to Wake Forest, the last-place team in the ACC, on Feb. 25, part of a 3-3 close to the season.
It’s often difficult to project Duke’s success in the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Devils weren’t favored to win either of their most recent two titles (2010, 2015), while three of Krzyzewski’s greatest teams (1986, 1999, 2018) fell short.
Duke has won seven of eight all-time meetings with Seton Hall. The Pirates’ victory was the sweetest.
After No. 3 Seton Hall reached the 1989 Final Four by beating No. 14 Southwest Missouri State, No. 11 Evansville, No. 2 Indiana and No. 4 UNLV, the Pirates overcame an 18-point deficit to destroy No. 2 Duke, 95-78, at Seattle’s Kingdome. Andrew Gaze scored a team-high 20 points for Seton Hall, while Gerald Greene added 17 points and eight assists.
P.J. Carlesimo was one victory from winning a national title before Krzyzewski captured one. One defensive stop would have secured it. With the final seconds running off the clock and Michigan’s Rumeal Robinson running down the court, referee John Clougherty inexplicably whistled Greene for a foul with three seconds remaining. Robinson went to the line and turned a one-point deficit into an 80-79 Michigan win.
Seton Hall hasn’t been back to the Final Four. The Sweet 16 has eluded the school for 20 years. This year could have been different.
The Pirates passed the eye test. The computer test, too.