The typical March Madness is back with a vengeance! The Sweet 16 did more than just live up to the hype, providing us fans with excitement, buzzer-beaters, and late drama.
Arguably the best game of the tournament occurred late last night, when 8 Wisconsin played 4 Florida for a spot in the Elite 8. The game was a back and forth roller coaster ride between both teams exchanging long scoring runs and droughts. After a made Florida 3 to take a 72-69 lead, Wisconsin coach Greg Gard called timeout with 6.5 seconds remaining. Wisconsin inbounded the ball, and senior point guard Zak Showalter took the ball himself and chucked up an off balanced 3 pointer that went in at the buzzer sending the game to overtime. Quick side note, this is the only overtime game out of the 56 that have been played so far in the tourney. OT was relatively low scoring as most of the points by both teams were gained at the free throw line. With 4.1 seconds left to go. Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes was fouled and he made both big foul shots, despite being a 59% foul shooter all season. Florida then took the ball up the floor and senior guard Chris Chiozza took a tough 3 pointer and it went in as time expired! Florida went on tow in the game 84-83 in a true March classic.
Yet another bracket buster happened when 11 Xavier defeated 2 Arizona 73-71. he game was close throughout until the end when Arizona led 69-61 with just under three minutes left. Then Xavier went on a 12-2 run to finish the game and the Musketeers were about to advance to the Elite 8. But Arizona had the ball and 7 seconds to go. Kadeem Allen shot a 3 pointer that rimmed in and out so Xavier held on to win. Trevon Bluiett led the team with 25 pts. and J.P. Macura also had 14 pts. to help establish the much needed victory.
7 South Carolina continued the upset trend of the week in a blowout of 3 Baylor 70-50. The Gamecocks have surprised numerous people in their tournament run as they have eliminated both Duke and Baylor back to back. 1 Gonzaga has silenced the haters by making it to the Elite 8 again, after a narrow victory over 4 West Virginia. WVA’s Jevon Carter had the ball for the last 20 seconds and missed 3 potential game tying 3’s that cost his team a chance of winning. Even though Carter finished with 21 pts. and led all scorers, it wasn’t enough to dethrone the Zags as Przemek Karnowski had 13 pts. of his own. Also, Karnowski is the winningest NCAA Division 1 player in college basketball with 134 all time wins and he has played in the most games as well, which is 143.
3 Oregon won a classic against 7 Michigan 69-68 in a game that featured 14 lead changes and 7 ties. Tyler Dorsey had the go ahead layup in the final seconds and Derrick Walton missed the game winner for the Wolverines sending the Ducks to their second straight Elite 8. 1 North Carolina easily handled 4 Butler 92-80. 1 Kansas destroyed 4 Purdue 98-66 sending the Jayhawks to their second straight Elite 8 as well. Lastly, 2 Kentucky pulled away from 3 UCLA 86-75. In a battle of the stars, UK’s DeAaron Fox and Malik Monk outshined UCLA guard and probable top NBA pick Lonzo Ball. Fox had 39, while Ball was limited to just 9 pts.
As the Elite 8 is next one thing we can all expect, is that their will be some crazy and memorable moments to come, I promise you.
The Elite 8 matchups this weekend:
11 Xavier vs. 1 Gonzaga
3 Oregon vs. 1 Kansas
7 South Carolina vs. 4 Florida
2 Kentucky vs. 1 North Carolina