On Thursday, chaos continued to reign in the Sweet 16. Last night, there was a sense of order returning to all 4 games played last night. In the Midwest, Udoka Azubuike had 14 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes of action as Kansas outlasted Clemson 80-76 in the first semifinal of the night. Gabe DeVoe led Clemson with 31 points, but just wasn’t quite good enough to put the Tigers over the top. In the second game in Omaha, both Syracuse and Duke struggled mightily behind the 3-point arc, but the Blue Devils did force Syracuse into 16 turnovers (while only committing 7 themselves) to survive with a 69-65 victory.Marvin Bagley III led Duke with 22 points, and also got a double-double from Wendell Carter Jr. (14 pts, 12 rebs) to move on to the Elite 8 against Kansas.
In the East Region, West Virginia gradually pulled ahead to a 6-point lead with 11 minutes to play after trailing by 2 points at halftime. From that point, Villanova scored 11 straight points to take a 65-60 lead and gradually pulled away en route to a 90-78 victory in Boston last night. Villanova did live comfortably by the 3 last night – they hit 13 of 24 overall and were led by 27 points from Jalen Brunson. In the other game, Texas Tech beat Purdue 78-65 despite the Boilers’ Carson Edwards scoring a game-high 30 points. The story of this game was the Red Raider bench – they outscored Purdue 24-6 (including 14 points from Zach Smith). This is the first time in Texas Tech’s history that they have advanced as far as the Elite 8.
There was one notable coaching vacancy that opened up in the Atlantic 10 – after 14 seasons and an appearance in the 2013 Sweet 16, La Salle parted ways with Dr. John Giannini as head coach. Coupled with Rhode Island, there are now 2 spots open in the coaching ranks for the Atlantic 10.
(11) LOYOLA-CHICAGO VS. (8) KANSAS STATE (6:09 PM, TBS). From a historical perspective, you wouldn’t think of Kansas State immediately as a team that has 13 appearances in the Elite 8. While they have advanced to the Final Four on four different occasions (most recently in 1964), they are 0-7 in the Elite 8 since 1964. However, at least one team is guaranteed to break a 50-plus year drought – Loyola’s last Final 4 appearance was in 1963 when they won the national championship that season.
(9) FLORIDA STATE VS. (3) MICHIGAN (8:49 PM, TBS). It took a buzzer-beating 3-pointer for Michigan just to get into the Sweet 16 with their win against Houston, and then had 8 different guys hit 3-pointers in their rout of Texas A&M on Thursday night. A little more surprising is the relative ease in which Florida State has won 2 out of their 3 games in the NCAA Tournament; they had 2 decisively easy wins against Missouri and Gonzaga sandwiched around a 12-point come-from-behind win against Xavier in the 2nd round of the tournament. The Seminoles have not been to the Elite 8 since 1993, but they do have one lone appearance in the Final Four dating back to 1972 (when they lost in the championship game to UCLA that season under head coach Hugh Durham).
(3) NORTHERN STATE VS. (1) FERRIS STATE (3:00 PM, CBS). At a school where hockey is usually their big sport this time of year, Ferris State comes into this game with a 25-game winning streak and will be looking for their first-ever championship in men’s basketball following a 6-point win against West Texas A&M in the semifinals (which, oddly enough, happened on the same day that Michigan beat Texas A&M). The Wolves of Northern State will also be looking for their first-ever championship in men’s basketball – they will also have a home-court advantage as they are playing about 200 miles away from their campus in Aberdeen, South Dakota. NSU outlasted Queens (NC) 105-99 in double overtime to advance to today’s championship game.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN AT LIBERTY (2:00 PM, CBS Digital Network). There is also one final quarterfinal matchup in the CIT that will be played this afternoon. Liberty is coming off of a 12-day layoff after their victory in the 1st round against North Carolina A&T (dubbed the Jim Phelan Classic). Central Michigan has also had a week of down time to prepare; they beat Wofford last Friday that followed their opening win against Fort Wayne in the Hugh Durham Classic. The semifinal matchups will be determined after this game goes final.