The Sweet 16 had four teams advance to the Elite Eight round with wins Thursday night. All four games in their own ways were impressive for the teams which advanced for chances to play at Lucas Oil Stadium and the Final Four in Indianapolis next weekend.
The Notre Dame team which played for most of the game Thursday night against Wichita State was the one I feared would show up last Saturday against Butler. Fortunately, it waited five days to appear. The Fighting Irish drained the 3 and the pick-n-roll offense ran to almost near perfection. Notre Dame made several runs throughout the game and answered every run made back at them by the Shockers. They’ll have to spread it out and try to extend Kentucky on Saturday night for any chance to make the biggest shock of the tournament.
Allen Iverson said Kentucky was talking about practice
Daxter Miles, the rest of his West Virginia teammates, Coach Bob Huggins and the rest of the nation saw tonight what people in Big Blue Nation like to refer to as a “We are Kentucky” game. Daxter opened his mouth saying we should applaud the Wildcats for being 36-0 because after tonight they would be 36-1. Kentucky looked like they had practice against the Mountaineers as they ran the score up to something-2 in the first half. The game was already decided and it seemed like it was midway through the second half before West Virginia scored its first basket. Back in December Kentucky held UCLA – another Sweet 16 team – to seven first half points. The Bruins at least scored 37 points in the second half to lose 83-44. West Virginia Thursday night scored 39 total as the Wildcats doubled them with 78. Tonight as the Kentucky players took to twitter the Wildcats are now 36 and won.
Badgers come from behind again
Wisconsin again came from behind with a 19-7 spurt to dispose of North Carolina. These two teams were participants in the Battle 4 Atlantis back in November. Most thought that would be the championship game of the Thanksgiving weekend tournament. Because of the Tar Heels losing to Butler we had to wait until tonight to see the game. North Carolina led throughout but as stated once the Badger machine got going with Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker it was On Wisconsin to the Elite Eight.
Zona makes a comeback too
Not be outdone by comebacks in the West Regional Semifinals tonight, Arizona also made its comeback against Xavier in the nightcap in Los Angeles. The win by the Wildcats sets up the Elite Eight rematch from last season against the Badgers, which Wisconsin won in an overtime thriller. As they had since about the middle of March, the Musketeers 1-3-1 zone gave the Wildcats some serious issues throughout the game. After the under 8:00 media timeout, it appeared Arizona had the answers against the zone. It forced Chris Mack to change it up to man-to-man. The battle of the night was Xavier’s Matt Stainbrook against Arizona’s Kaleb Tarczewski went at each other down on the post. Stainbrook had 17 points and 10 rebounds while Tarczewski had 12 and 12. Along with attacking the 1-3-1, Arizona also stepped up the defense and rebounding. The Musketeers went the final eight minutes of the game with only one field goal. Meanwhile, the Wildcats used an 11-2 spurt to take the lead and eventually win the game.
Saturday’s Elite Eight games are set to give us some fireworks worthy of teams battling for two slots into the Final Four. Things to think about – Can the nation’s hottest offensive team spread out Kentucky? Can Arizona versus Wisconsin Part Deux live up to the hype? We will know when the smoke settles in Cleveland and Los Angeles Saturday night and two tickets to Indy are punched.
Note before bed: I asked this on Facebook and Twitter but maybe someone reading this can explain it to me. Why do the Sunday Elite Eight games get hosed with its tip times compared to Saturday’s games? Saturday’s Elite Eight games will tip at 6 pm EDT and 9 pm EDT respectively. Sunday’s games will tip around 2 pm EDT and 5 pm EDT. Don’t give me the “Don’t want to battle against Sunday Prime Time” excuse. That’s because the Round of 32 games on both Saturday and Sunday had the same tip times. So, let’s again test a theory which was proven right in last year’s tournament. The winner of the early game, Friday night will win the Elite Eight game Sunday. Last year Connecticut played the first game on Friday night and beat Iowa State. Michigan State had an epic battle with Virginia in the second game to advance. On Sunday, the game tip at 2 pm and by halftime you could tell the Spartans were losing their legs compared to the Huskies. By the under 16:00 media timeout it was clear UCONN was at the advantage. If the games tipped at the same time on Sunday as they do on Saturday would that have helped Michigan State from a rest standpoint? Possibly. Thus, we’ll see if the winners of North Carolina State-Louisville and Gonzaga-UCLA games look “fresher” in the Sunday championship games.