This Elite Eight was one of the best rounds of basketball ever. All four games were fantastic. Every game went down to the wire, with some of them going to overtime. Star players shined under the brightest lights, but who came out on top this past weekend?
#3 Texas Tech: 75 vs #1 Gonzaga: 69
The Saturday slate of games were two of the best college basketball games you could ever watch. Gonzaga did a terrific job slowing down Jarrett Culver, holding him to 5-of-19 shooting. The recipe for success this season against Tech has been slowing Culver.
That wasn’t the case on Saturday.
The entire Red Raiders team turned it up a couple of notches on the defensive end and stifled the Bulldogs offense. Chris Beard has implemented a new defensive style unseen in the realm of college basketball.
He calls it the no middle defense.
Essentially, he lets teams shoot three-pointers over lengthy defenders, and not letting anyone drive towards the middle. If teams can knock down these partially covered jumpers, then they’ll be able to outscore Texas Tech; however, most teams struggle to hit three’s and it leads to their demise.
Gonzaga was only able to knock down 27 percent of their threes, falling short of a national championship once again.
#1 Virginia: 80 vs #3 Purdue: 75
Carsen Edwards was unconscious in this game and win was stolen from him. He scored 42 points on 10 three-pointers. Those kinds of number rarely happen in the NBA, and they never happen in March Madness.
He played for 44 minutes, only coming out of the game to rest for one minute. If you saw some of the shots Edwards was hitting, it makes this stat line even more impressive.
Unfortunately, all of that was for nothing, and Purdue did not win. Not only did the Boilermakers lose, but they also choked badly.
With less than six seconds to play, Ty Jerome intentionally missed a free throw causing one of the greatest scrambles in college basketball history.
Tony Bennett must’ve felt a two-ton weight lifted off of his shoulder. The Hoos have finally made it to the Final Four.
#5 Auburn: 77 vs #2 Kentucky: 71
This Auburn team relies on one thing to win them games and that is defense. When the Tigers can string together multiple defensive stops in a row they are tough to beat.
Also, only turning the ball over nine times is huge for Auburn. They’re the type of team who needs as many possessions as possible in order for them to win. They didn’t dominate the offensive glass, so maintaining long possessions is what won them this game.
Auburn played a solid game, but it felt like Kentucky didn’t have their best night. Reid Travis had far too many paint touches, while PJ Washington did not seem to have enough.
Also the Wildcats only shot 24 percent from downtown, knocking themselves out of the tournament.
#2 Michigan State: 68 vs #1 Duke: 67
A few key numbers stood out to me after watching this game.
Michigan State didn’t shoot well. Xavier Tillman was the only player to shoot above 50 percent from the field for the Spartans. They did not have many second-chance points either, but they only turned it over 7 times and caused Duke to lose possession 17 times.
The Next big thing was Zion’s shot selection. He was destroying MSU every time he drove into the paint but he kept settling for three balls. He dominated the glass leading to his 14 rebounds.
This leads to my final point. Why was RJ Barrett trying to play hero ball? All season long it felt like Barrett wanted to be the star of this team as he came in as the number one prospect, but it was Zion’s team. The final shot of the game should’ve been in Zion’s hands no matter how much pressure was on him.
Duke may have some more work to do seeing that Zion, Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones may not be back next year.