And…..we are down to 4. If you guessed these 4 teams would be headed to Phoenix you are lying. The Elite 8 games provided us with a mixed bag of good games and blowouts as has been the theme of this NCAA Tournament. Here is a recap of each game and my thoughts on the game.
#1 Gonzaga Beats #11 Xavier
Final Score: 83-59
Headline: Xavier’s Magical Run Comes to an End.
MVP: Nigel Williams-Goss (23 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists)
Xavier’s magical tournament run comes to an end in the Elite 8 as they ran into a buzzsaw. Gonzaga has gone deep into the tournament a number of times on Saturday they played like they were not going to get denied. Gonzaga punched their first ever ticket to the Final Four. Nigel Williams-Goss has been spectacular all season and he was the key setting up the Zags for open shots early. Gonzaga knocked down 12 three pointers at a 50% rate (12/24). They were hitting shots early and often. I tweeted out “Gonzaga is hitting shots. Look out.” early in the first half. Gonzaga only got a combined 11 points from big men Pzemek Karnowski and Zach Collins but it did not matter. Xavier focused on stopping the Gonzaga front court and it led to wide open looks for their guards. Mark Few finally gets his team to the Final Four with a legitimate shot of winning it all.
#3 Oregon Outlasts #1 Kansas
Final Score: 74-60
Headline: Kansas Shoots Their Way to an Elite 8 Exit
MVP: Jordan Bell (11 points, 13 rebounds, 8 blocks, 4 assists)
Another Elite 8 appearance, another Elite 8 exit for the Kansas Jayhawks. The Jayhawks looked unstoppable in their first three games in the tournament but Saturday was not their night. Kansas made just 20% of their deep shots and their offense just couldn’t get going. Jordan Bell was the difference in this game. Once the Jayhawk deep shots were missing they drove to the rim where they were met by Jordan Bell. Bell blocked 8 shots but was involved every time the ball came into the paint. Dillon Brooks is an All-American level player, but Tyler Dorsey has played better than him in their four tournament games. Dorsey pumped in 27 points with some clutch deep shots to not allow Kansas back into the game. Oregon has so many talented players and arguably the tournament’s best player in Tyler Dorsey. Ducks are flying to Phoenix!
#7 South Carolina Advances Past #4 Florida
Final Score: 77-70
Headline: South Carolina Wins the East Region
MVP: Sindarius Thornwell (26 points, 7 rebounds)
The east region was tough for many brackets as they had to choose between Villanova and Duke. Well South Carolina ended up winning the region after a great performance against Florida. Florida was coming off an emotional win over Wisconsin but South Carolina just played their game like they have all tournament. They played great defense and held their opponent to 70 points. Sindarius Thornwell played like the leader he has been all tournament. He poured in 26 points and PJ Dozier added 17 of his own to help the cause. Frank Martin’s team may be the lowest seed in the tournament, but they are legit and are hotter than any team in the tourney.
#1 North Carolina Beats #2 Kentucky
Final Score: 75-73
Headline: Luke Maye Saves the Day
MVP: Luke Maye (17 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists)
Kentucky fans had their heart ripped out by Luke Maye. Justin Jackson missed the front end of a 1 and 1 giving Kentucky a chance only down 3 points. Malik Monk did Malik Monk things and drained a three to tie it. Roy Williams left his timeouts in his pocket and let his guys play. A Theo Pinson drive lead to a pass to a wide open Luke Maye for a midrange jumper with only .3 seconds left. Maye was huge with 17 points. Maye is usually a big man who gives the Tar Heels spot minutes. He averages 5.5 points a game. Maye had 3 games with double digit points in the regular season. He has 3 such games in the NCAA Tournament. He has really stepped up when the lights are bright. North Carolina dealt with more Joel Berry ankle injuries in this game. They need him to get that ankle as healthy as possible before the Final Four begins on Saturday.