Watching number one seeds fall and witnessing Cinderella stories are part of the magic in every NCAA tournament. We’re running out of number one teams, as Louisville remain the only one standing after Kansas were beating by Michigan. On the other end of that spectrum, the magical run of Florida Gulf Coast is over, losing to Florida and leaving pretty much only big boys left in the dance.
After Thursday and Friday, we’re left with only one Number one seed, and the overall number one team in the tournament according to the committee and the ability (so far), Louisville. They’ll face in the Midwest finals one of the two remaining number 2 seeds, Duke. The other number 2 seed, Ohio State, plays Wichita State in the West Regional final.
One the other side of the bracket, it’s two number 3’s against two number 4’s. Florida, getting past the surprising Florida Gulf Coast, will play Michigan in the South Final, after Michigan seem to be getting at the perfect moment, knocking off Kansas with a huge game winner by Trey Burke in a 87-85 win. In the East regional final, we have a Big East duel, as Syracuse get to play conference rival Marquette before the two head off to different directions next season.
For Louisville, beating Oregon 77-69, it was their 13th consecutive victory, which includes winning the Big East tournament. Russ Smith continues to be red hot in the tournament, scoring 31 points against the Ducks, averaging 27 points per game so far in the Big Dance. This is their 13th overall Elite Eight appearance, and fourth since 2008.
Duke, completing the only #2 vs #1 matchup we have in the Regional, got by comfortably enough against the very difficult Michigan State, showing everyone who was afraid strong rebounding teams will hurt them that they have more than just sharpshooting to push them through. They beat the Spartans 71-61 with a huge game from Seth Curry, scoring 29 points. It’s the school’s 19th Elite Eight appearance and first since 2010, when they won the national title.
Ohio State, needing a LaQuinton Ross three pointer to get them through the Sweet Sixteen against Arizona, are in the Elite Eight for a second consecutive time (making the final four last year) and a 15th time overall. For Wichita State, beating La Salle and remaining the lowest seed still alive in the competition, it is their fourth Elite Eight overall and first since 1981. They’re 1-3 all-time at this stage.
The first of the 3 vs 4 will be Syracuse vs Marquette. The Orange, beating Indiana in the Sweet Sixteen, are in the Elite Eight for a second consecutive year, hoping to make their first final four since 2003. Marquette make the Elite Eight for the first time since 2003 and 7th time overall.
In the second #3 vs #4 we have Michigan, beating Kansas thanks to Trey Burke hitting the game winning shot in overtime, knocking off #1 seed Kansas. Burke finished with 23 points, averaging 15.7 in the tournament, but were led by Mitch McGary, a Freshman, averaging 19.7 points in the tournament so far. This is their first Elite Eight appearance since 1994.
Florida, the #3 seed, beat FGCU 62-50, stopping the whole dunk city hype with defense, which will be their key once again against the Wolverines. Mike Rosario led the way with 15 points; he’s averaging 16 in the tournament. For the Gators, it’s their third consecutive Elite Eight appearance and 7th overall, hoping to make their first Final Four since 2007, when they won the second national title in a row.