Last night, the first two spots of the Final Four were filled – the South Region and West Region were both decided. Unlike their first three games of the NCAA Tournament, Loyola continued their winning ways with a relatively easy 78-62 victory over Kansas State in Atlanta. Ben Richardson led the Ramblers with 23 points last night, and was also named MVP of the South Regional for his efforts. They will play Michigan on Saturday night – the Wolverines were able to survive against Florida State despite hitting a low percentage of 3s this time around. The Seminoles did cut the game to 2 points with 24 seconds remaining, but after a pair of free throws by Duncan Robinson, they missed a 3-point attempt with 14 seconds left and strangely opted not to extend the game with fouls after that point. FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton would not elaborate any further on that point, but nonetheless Michigan advanced to their second Final Four under John Beilein and their first since they advanced to the championship game in 2013.
Elsewhere, it was more good news for another team in Michigan – Ferris State completed their dream season with a 71-69 victory against Northern State to win their first NCAA Division II championship. Zach Hankins hit a shot to put the Bulldogs up for good with 1:31 to play and sealed the game with one more free throw afterwards. Northern State was denied their bid to win the championship in their own state for the first time since Kentucky Wesleyan in 1999.
In the CIT, Liberty edged out Central Michigan 84-71 to advance to the CIT semifinals next Wednesday. Liberty will host their third game of the tournament on Wednesday – these Flames will take on another group of Flames when they play Illinois-Chicago in the first semifinal. Sam Houston State will travel to Northern Colorado in the second semifinal that same night.
Middle Tennessee will also name UNC-Asheville’s Nick McDevitt as their next head coach. Rumors originally had Xavier associate head coach Travis Steele originally turning down the job to await whether or not Chris Mack moves on to Louisville and put his name in the ring should Xavier’s position open up.
(3) TEXAS TECH VS. (1) VILLANOVA (2:20 PM, CBS). The third spot for the Final Four will be decided in Boston – this was the same place where Villanova won back in 2009 to advance to the first Final Four during head coach Jay Wright’s tenure. While Villanova did have their first close game against West Virginia on Friday night, Texas Tech held a fairly comfortable lead against Purdue for most of the night before moving on to their first Elite 8 in program history.
(2) DUKE VS. (1) KANSAS (5:05 PM, CBS). Normally we are treated to this matchup every three years in the season-opening Champions Classic – these two teams met last season where Kansas beat then top-ranked Duke at Madison Square Garden. This time around, both teams are coming off of close wins in the Sweet 16 – Kansas survived against Clemson and Duke overcame a poor outside shooting performance against Syracuse to move on to today’s game. Kansas will also be looking for their first Final 4 in 6 years and overcoming recent heartbreak in the Elite 8 the last two seasons – they fell to Villanova in 2016 and Oregon last season. Duke will be looking for their first Final 4 since winning the title in 2015.