Elite Eight Rundown: Saturday, March 25th

For today’s Under The Radar postseason games along with coaching carousel updates – CLICK HERE

WEST REGIONAL (San Jose, CA) (all times Eastern)

#11 XAVIER VS #1 GONZAGA (TBS, 6:09 PM).  These two do not play regularly, but they have played on occasion and the two programs seem to have an awareness of one another.  Neither has been to a Final Four, and although many expected Gonzaga to be here, almost no one expected Xavier to make it this far.  Xavier is not the same team they were fifteen days ago.  In the last two weeks, they’ve beaten three protected seeds away from home, including a full strength Arizona team (well, almost) in their last game.  It ranks up there with some of the most improbable tournament runs ever.  We’ve seen #11 seeds make it this far (and even farther), but we’ve never seen one who only managed to beat one team (albeit two different times) in the last five weeks of the regular season.  As for Gonzaga, I can’t help but get the feeling they haven’t played a really good game in the tournament yet, but yet here they are.  If they do manage to put it together today and play like they did during much of the regular season, it could be a long day for Xavier.

 

MIDWEST REGIONAL (Kansas City, MO) (all times Eastern)

#3 OREGON VS #1 KANSAS (TBS, 8:49 PM).  Kansas blew past a pretty good Purdue team in the second half, whereas Oregon won in a thriller against Michigan.  Both teams were in the Elite Eight a year ago, and both failed to advance to the Final Four.  Kansas is obviously a storied program and this year’s edition of it has looked as good as anyone else in the country despite their off the court issues.  Oregon has had a great two year run with back to back Elite Eights and first place finishes in the Pac Twelve.  If it ends today, then all I can say is that I hate it had to end with them not being at full strength.  To be fair to Kansas, I think I’d pick them to win this even if Oregon was at full strength, but I just hate to see a team that’s been so good (be it Oregon or anyone else) lose when they’re not able to be at their best.

 

PUPPET NOTES AND RAMBLINGS

-The games last night weren’t nearly as good as Thursday night.  I thought Butler would really squeeze North Carolina and that just didn’t happen.  The Tar Heels blew it open early, Butler couldn’t knock down the open looks that they did get and it was never really in doubt.

-South Carolina sprinted ahead of Baylor in a game that was also blown open early on, but this was much more of a surprise.  South Carolina has played magnificently in this tournament and Frank Martin deserves a ton of credit not just for what he’s done this year, but for how much that program has progressed since he took it over.  They had almost no tournament history or history of success to speak of and now their games are sold out, people are excited, and last night they blew out a Baylor team that had been having a spectacular season.  Now they’re one win away from the Final Four against a familiar foe in Florida.

-UCLA vs. Kentucky was expected to be the game of the night, and while it wasn’t a bad game, it wasn’t exactly down to the wire either.  Kentucky played one of their better games of the entire season in that they were able to score against UCLA (I know a lot of teams have done that, but UCLA was pretty solid on defense against Cincinnati), but they were also able to limit UCLA’s high powered offense.  Kentucky moves on to face North Carolina on Sunday in a game that should give us a rather large volume of viewers.

-The game of the night was between Florida and Wisconsin.  Coming into last night, there had been no overtime games, nor were there any games won on a buzzer beater.  Well, this game gave us both of those things.  The two teams seesawed back and forth, and after Wisconsin appeared to be completely dead at the end of regulation, they forced turnovers and hit a game tying three to force overtime.  Wisky got a lead early in overtime, and it was then Florida who had to come back.  Canyon Barry ran the length of the court to block a breakaway Badger layup prior to a game-tying shot by Florida. After one final defensive stop, they went the length of the court in four seconds and hit a game winning three pointer to knock out the Badgers.  This is the second year in a row that Wisconsin has lost in the Sweet Sixteen in rather dramatic fashion.

-If Xavier wins tonight, everyone in the greater Cincinnati area needs to be on the lookout for John Stalica!!  He may lose control!!  He may not be able to handle himself!!