And then there were 8…
The Sweet 16 has come to an end and the Elite 8 is now set. How did we get to this point? Let’s recap the Sweet 16 and see how it all went down.
On Thursday, there were three double digit wins and one game that featured a very familiar late game winning ending to it. The East Region was filled with not that much excitement. 3 seed Marquette pretty much manhandled 2 seed Miami in their game. Shane Larkin not having such a great night, along with the rest of the Miami Hurricanes, they could not find a rhythm and had no answer for Vander Blue and the Marquette Golden Eagles. Marquette would lead big the whole night and never look back, burying Miami and advancing onto the Elite 8. Their challenger will be the 4 seed Syracuse Orange after they put down the 1 seed Indiana Hoosiers. Syracuse, led by James Southerland and Michael Carter-Williams, continued to play their nasty 2-3 zone that Indiana had no answer for. Indiana looked lost all night and had trouble creating any kind of rhythm on offense to generate points.
The West Region featured an exciting game earlier in the evening with 2 seed Ohio State clipping 6 seed Arizona Wildcats at the buzzer. Aaron Craft would pass to LaQuiton Ross and he would knock down the 3 with 2 seconds left to give the Buckeyes the win. Like de ja vu all over again for the Buckeyes, and they advance on again just by the hair on their chinny chin chin. Later that night 9 seed Wichita State utterly dominated 13 seed La Salle. They ended the Cinderella run of La Salle, but they continue their run of their own. The Shockers dominated on the boards 44-24 and this was the biggest reason why the Shockers dispatched of the Explorers.
On Friday night, there was a lot of the same, three wider margin wins and one exciting finish. In the Midwest Region, the 1 seed Louisville Cardinals handled the 12 seed Oregon Ducks. A valiant effort and great tournament run by the Ducks, they certainly surpassed expectations, but they were just flat outgunned in this one. It didn’t help they struggled making the easy plays and really hurt their own chances. More so though, Louisville’s Russ Smith was spectacular with 31 points and he really dictated the entire game. They will get to lock up with the 2 seed Duke Blue Devils after they took care of the 3 seed Michigan State Spartans. The Blue Devils rode their strength in complete basketball behind Seth Curry and were able to win the battle of the legendary coaches. Sparty just couldn’t quite get it done and that leaves the highest profile matchup for the Elite 8 in 1 seed Louisville against 2 seed Duke.
Last but not least, the South Region had the most interest of the Sweet 16 matchups. Early in the evening there was the exciting game from 1 seed Kansas and 4 seed Michigan where Trey Burke hit a game tying 3 with under 5 seconds to go to send it to overtime. Michigan would then go on to win 87-85 and completely rip the heart out of the Kansas Jayhawks because they had the game locked up and could not close it out. That leaves the last one of the night where Cinderella story 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast Eagles would take on 3 seed Florida Gators. There was so much hype for this exciting team and their run and rightfully so but maybe too much of the weight of the pressure on their backs. They started out great early but then the game settled in and Florida started taking over the game and controlling the Eagles. And yes, it has struck midnight and the Cinderella story is over, sucking the wind out of the tourney in my opinion. Hate to see that kind of exciting team go down, but as it is, Florida advances to the Elite 8 to take on Michigan and congrats to them, they showed up and took them seriously.
The Elite 8 is just on the horizon as the first two games will get started later today, so stay tuned for my Elite 8 preview and I am going to be doing predictions for this one as well. I will have that up before the games tip off. Until then, sleep easy and dream of more exciting finishes for these games, I know I will.