For Jon Teitel’s interview with Drake Academic All-American Reed Timmer – CLICK HERE
John Calipari had warned his players not to “drink the poison” going into Kentucky’s matchup with Kansas State, but K-State made him look prophetic with a strong start in which K-State jumped out to a 13-1 lead in the opening minutes. Kentucky never led until the 2nd half, but the game was tied going into the final minutes. Barry Brown put K-State up for good with 18 seconds to play, and Kentucky missed twice from 3 in the closing seconds of the game. This will be Bruce Weber’s 3rd trip to the Elite Eight – he made one appearance with Illinois and 2 with K-State.
They will play the Loyola Ramblers – they overcame an early 12-point deficit and had a 12-point lead themselves in the 2nd half where they hit their first 12 shots to start the 2nd half. Even after the Wolf Pack made their customary 2nd half comeback, Marques Townes hit a dagger 3 to give Loyola a 2-possession advantage with 10 seconds to play. Nevada hit a 3 with 5 seconds left on the clock, but since they still had fouls to give, they were not able to foul Loyola to the point where they would have to shoot a 1-and-1 and the clock ran out on their season. Loyola has now won 3 games by a grand total of 4 points, yet they find themselves on the doorstep of their first Final Four since their championship season in 1963.
In the West Region, Florida State continued the chaos on their side of the bracket with a surprisingly easy 75-60 victory over Gonzaga. The Zags were without Killian Tillie in the post and paid dearly against the Noles’ deep front line. Terence Mann led FSU with 18 points; they will play Michigan for the West Region Championship on Saturday. The Wolverines saw 8 different players hit 3-point shots during the game (they were 14-for-24 overall) and coasted to an easy 99-72 victory against Texas A&M.
Only 3 other games were played under the radar of the NCAA Tournament last night – 2 of which were in the NCAA D-II Tournament. Ferris State won their 25th game in a row and beat West Texas A&M 85-79 to advance to the title game on Saturday afternoon. They will play nearby Northern State in the championship; the Wolves outlasted Queens (NC) in double overtime with a 105-99 victory.
The CBI best-of-3 championship is also set – San Francisco held off a late rally by Campbell to beat the Camels 65-62 at home. They will host North Texas in the first game of the championship next Monday; Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) will be played at North Texas later in the week.
After the Dan Hurley hire became official at UConn yesterday, there were 2 other notable vacancies that were filled – Walter McCarty will take over at Evansville and Niko Medved will become the new head coach at Colorado State as well. But the major domino that will potentially fall this weekend will be when Chris Mack meets with the Louisville staff to discuss their head coach vacancy.
(5) CLEMSON VS. (1) KANSAS (7:07 PM, CBS). Clemson finds itself in their first Sweet 16 in 21 years with a victory against New Mexico State and a thorough trashing of Auburn in their first 2 games played at San Diego last weekend. They will take on a Kansas team that had to claw their way through both games played in Wichita – they overcame an early 10-point deficit against Penn and had to survive a late push by Seton Hall in their 2nd round win last weekend. However, Udoka Azubuike played limited minutes in the Jayhawks’ first 2 games, but won’t be further restricted by the medical staff for this weekend’s games.
(11) SYRACUSE VS. (2) DUKE (approx. 9:37 PM, CBS). In a case of better-late-than-never, Syracuse is not just winning games away from home, but also beating at least one heavyweight in Michigan State in the process in a de facto road game in Detroit. They did lose 60-44 at Duke in their lone regular-season matchup. As for the Blue Devils, they were rarely challenged in 2 blowout wins in Pittsburgh against Iona and Rhode Island.
(5) WEST VIRGINIA VS. (1) VILLANOVA (7:27 PM, TBS). It wasn’t surprising that Villanova was able to breeze through their first two games against Radford and Alabama, even with the Wildcats’ recent woes in Round 2 of the NCAA Tournament. It was a little surprising that West Virginia also won their two games with relative ease – they avoided the 5-12 upset special in Round 1 against Murray State and then followed that up with a beatdown of in-state foe Marshall two days later. This has the makings to be the highest scoring game of tonight’s round of games.
(3) TEXAS TECH VS. (2) PURDUE (approx. 9:57 PM, TBS). This is the ONLY matchup tonight where chalk completely held in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Even though Purdue did lose Isaac Haas to a broken elbow in their win over Cal State-Fullerton in the first round, they did come back from an early deficit against Butler and ended up holding off a late Bulldog rally to advance to the Sweet 16 in Boston. As for Texas Tech, they ended up surviving and advancing after a pair of white-knucklers against SFA and Florida in their first 2 rounds in Dallas.