We’re here, the Elite Eight, which in any other place in the world would be called Quarter Finals and we have one decisive conclusion. The Big East rules. 4 teams, UConn, Louisville, Pitt and Villanova. Only one ACC team made it, my personal favorites for the Championship(if Lawson stays healthy), North Carolina. That kinda puts a stake in the heart of all those “The ACC is the best Conference” people. The Big 12 got two into the final 8, Oklahoma, as most predicted with their monster player Blake Griffin who has been fantastic in the Tournament so far, and Missouri who surprised Memphis in the battle of the Tigers and will face Uconn in the next round. Michigan State are the Big Ten’s only team, making Tom Izzo’s team 8-0 as a no.2 seed in the Tournament. Championship this year again? Who knows.
So Here’s a roundup of Fridays and Thursdays results and Highlights of these games.
UConn – Purdue: 72-60
The no.1 seed advanced against the boilermakers in Phoenix, with 4 players in double figures. Thabeet had 15 points and 15 rebounds, while Austrie led the scorers with 17 and A.J. Price added 15 points and 7 assists. Uconn can be very happy about it’s perimeter defense, allowing Purdue to 6 three pointers out of 23 attempts and 12 of 41 in jumpers.
Pittsburgh – Xavier: 60-55
Levance Fields came up big in the money time, with a 3 pointer and 2 more off a steal to seal the victory for the Panthers in a tough tough game vs. Xavier who were there until the end. It was Pitt’s first ever tournament victory over a top 5 seed. Besides Fields, Sam Young in a so so shooting night led Pittsburgh with 19 points. Dejuan Blair ruled the boards with 17 rebounds and added 10 points.
Missouri – Memphis: 102 – 91
Missouri stepped on it 10 minutes into the first half, and Memphis were never in the game again. Missouri are one win away from their first final four appearance. T.J. Tiller scored 23 points, a career high for him, leading 5 Mizzou players in double figures. Memphis allowed more than a 100 for the first time under John Calipari, and besides Tyreke Evans who scored 33 didn’t have too much to sell again Missouri.
Villanova – Duke : 77 – 54
Even though many predicted Memphis to reach the final four and were surprised by the Missouri upset, this one wasn’t less of a shocker to many, especially Duke fans who usually over evaluate their team, and ACC fans as whole who didn’t understand how good and deep the Big East really is. Things were tights in the first half, but Duke lost ‘Nova in the 2nd one, and lost to the Wildcats for the first time in more than 50 years. Duke were just horrible from the field, shooting 5 of 27 from 3, and 16 of 60 overall from the field, and you can’t get anywhere like that. Dante Cunningham scored 14 with 11 rebounds for Nova who were led by Reynolds who scored 16.
North Carolina – Gonzaga : 98 – 77
Another game that turned out to be a complete mismatch. Even though Zaga hanged for the first half, the Tar Heels were in the lead from the first basket, and just grew stronger and stronger as the game progressed, while Gonzaga slowly faded away. Tyler Hansbrough had 24 points and 10 rebounds, Ty Lawson scored 19 and added 9 assists and Wayne Ellington scored 19 as well in a night Carolina didn’t need their bench to contribute.
Louisville – Arizona: 103-64
The Cardinals are probably the hottest team in the country right now, and their demolition of Arizona just strengthened their support. This was their biggest tournament win ever, and it was Arizona’s worst defeat in the tournament. Rick Pitino is now 9-0 in Sweet Sixteen games, and this one was one of his easiest. Despite Budinger who scored 22, no one in Arizona showed up, while Louisville had 5 players in double figures, with Earl Clark leading the way with 19 points and 9 rebounds. The debate with Arizona belonged in this year’s tournament is now over. They no longer belong there.
Michigan State – Kansas : 67-62
Kalin Lucas came up huge for the Spartans, with 7 points in the final 49 seconds and capped off a great second half for Michigan State, coming back from 8 points down, allowing Kansas only 26 second half points. Goran Suton scored 20 points, grabbed 9 boards and had 5 steals, leading Michigan State throughout most of the Game. Sherron Collins scored 20 points for the Jay hawks, which weren’t enough to bring Kansas into the Elite Eight. The Champions are out.
Oklahoma – Syracuse: 84-71
Finally, a big east team losing! Blake Griffin was too much from Syracuse as well, and all that talk about the Orange big guys being able to handle him went out the window. Griffin dominated, like he has all season and the tournament scoring 30 points and adding 14 rebounds. The whole team played tremendous defense, forcing 18 turnovers on Syracuse, and allowing only 7 of 24 from the 3. Johnny Flynn was the only who showed up for Syarcuse with 22 points, but he had no help from the rest of the guys, unlike Griffin, who had Tony Crocker scoring 28 points and Austin Johnson with 9 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals.
So what have we got now?
Uconn play Missouri, with Uconn being our pick, despite all the Calhoun negative buzz surrounding the team the past week.(Saturday, 4:40 PM ET)
Louisville play Michigan State, and as much as I like the Spartans, Louisville look too strong right now, and I see Pitino getting to the Final Four.(Sunday, 2:20 PM ET)
Pitt square off again Villanova, a huge Big East battle, I’ll put my money on Villanova.(Saturday, 7:05 PM ET)
Last but not least, UNC take on Oklahoma, and even though I don’t think Carolina can fully contain Griffin, they can deal with rest of them, and they just too much fire power going for them right now, making it another Final Four for Roy Williams and the Tar Heels. (Sunday, 5:05 PM ET)