With two rounds of slightly unexciting video games final weekend, we had been due for some classics in the NCAA Event’s 2d week. Friday did now not disappoint. We saw a championship contender lose, two shut video games, and of route, some Zion Williamson highlight performs.
The chalk nature of the early rounds build up some unparalleled showdowns in the Candy Sixteen, with these tall video games creating ripple effects that can be felt unless a champion is crowned in April.
Listed below are eight objects to focal level on from Friday’s circulation:
1. Defense has been king
This March, with the video games slowing down in crunch time, The US’s only defensive teams gain risen to the occasion. With the total Elite Eight now build, it’s tempting to search out a commonality between these final. The eight teams peaceable alive are all tall defensive units.
Six of the eight final teams inappropriate in the tip twelve in the nation in defensive effectivity, per KenPom. Purdue is no longer some distance at the attend of, ranked twenty eighth. Auburn brings up the rear of ultimate clubs at Forty third in the nation.
This doesn’t mean every game left in the match is actually a rock fight tackle Michigan and Texas Tech played on Thursday. Auburn, Duke, and Gonzaga will all attack at a instant tempo. Virginia and Kentucky will bewitch issues slower. With out reference to what number of possessions happen in every game, the final consequence can be made up our minds on the defensive cease.
2. Duke survives all as soon as more
Correct 5 days after UCF barely left out two footage at the rim to defeat Duke, Virginia Tech suffered a identical destiny. On the Hokies’ final possession, Buzz Williams drew up a beautiful baseline out of bounds play resulting in a lob circulation to Ahmed Hill. Because the final 2d of law ticked away, Hill misfired on the alley-oop layup that would gain extended the sport into extra time.
The Blue Devils will now face Michigan Impart, new off two razor thin victories. If Duke performs in a similar vogue on Sunday, Tom Izzo and Michigan Impart will gain a leg-up on the East Space’s Final Four show.
three. Auburn strikes on without Chuma Okeke
Savor Michigan Impart, Auburn’s pick did now not near without an damage scare. Chuma Okeke had played an nice looking game, scoring 20 aspects and grabbing 11 rebounds midway during the 2d half. On a power to the rim, Okeke’s foot slipped and his knee buckled. He became as soon as helped off the court, with North Carolina gamers instant to provide their condolences.
After the sport, Bruce Pearl became as soon as in tears discussing Okeke’s damage, indicating the seriousness of the subject. North Carolina became as soon as a worthy check, but a ramification of hurdles peaceable stand in Auburn’s contrivance. Advancing without Okeke is actually a scenario. He offered a ideally expedient combine of inside and exterior of doors scoring in Bruce Pearl’s excessive-bustle offense.
4. Michigan Impart looks to be tall in straightforward pick over LSU
Although LSU had been playing very supreme basketball without head coach Will Wade on the sideline, the Tigers bustle ran out of gas in opposition to an elite Michigan Impart crew. Duration in-between coach Tony Benford has been up and down in his time at the helm, but became as soon as visibly overmatched by Tom Izzo on Friday night.
The Spartan offense ran tackle a effectively-oiled machine, especially early in the sport. Michigan Impart labored the ball to search out an originate teammate, with freshman Aaron Henry joyful to reap the advantages. One week after being the subject of a Tom Izzo tirade and the following fallout, Henry had one in every of his only video games of the season. Henry carried out the sport with 20 aspects on an ambiance kindly 9-14 shooting night from the world. He additionally added 8 rebounds and 6 assists.
Henry making a leap accurate into a unhealthy weapon for the Spartans gradual in his freshman season would boost Michigan Impart’s probabilities to circulation on to Minneapolis.
5. Carve Ward’s damage station is something to ogle
Michigan Impart left out Carve Ward in the paint when the junior heart broke his hand final month. He left out 5 video games in the usual-or-garden season before returning for shrimp minutes in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. His health is mandatory to Michigan Impart’s title hopes.
It became as soon as touching on, therefore, when Ward re-injured that identical hand, leaving Friday’s game. Ward had X-rays, which confirmed no extra injury. Michigan Impart officers introduced that Ward had certainly anguish his left hand but had no longer re-broken the an identical bone. As a alternative, he’d bruised a advantageous share of his hand. That became as soon as slightly right recordsdata for Spartan followers, but peaceable will impede Ward transferring forward. With that hand going through swelling, anguish, and rehabilitation, it’s onerous to factor in Ward providing the production Izzo and his crew will desire from their only tall man.
6. Kentucky sneaks past Houston
Although Houston tested the Wildcats, Kentucky evolved to its Thirty fourth Elite Eight in college historical past on Friday night. PJ Washington returned to the lineup and proved to be the adaptation.
Washington carried out the sport with sixteen aspects, out-muscling the Houston frontline in the paint. With Houston leading gradual in the sport, Washington fought through contact to convert an most vital bucket to lift Kentucky inside inserting distance. He additionally delivered a key block in the final minute.
Across the board, Kentucky’s size became as soon as too remarkable for the Cougars. The Wildcats out-rebounded Houston 36-23, along with 11 offensive rebounds. That can well be the case all as soon as more Sunday, when Kentucky meets SEC foe Auburn, most likely without Chuma Okeke.
7. Title contender North Carolina is first 1 seed to lose
The bracket remained overwhelmingly chalk through 5 days of play, with high seeds transferring on at portray charges. Auburn ended that, making North Carolina the principle No. 1 seed to be defeated this March.
The Tar Heels met an absolute buzzsaw, with Auburn making a barrage of long-vary footage. North Carolina’s defense had main points locating shooters on the three-level line. Auburn shot forty six p.c from originate air the arc for the sport, along with a crimson sizzling 2nd half whereby the Tigers made 12 of 18 from past.
Even at North Carolina’s ultra-rapidly tempo, the Heels would possibly maybe well never settle up. Any time Carolina tried to shut the gap, Auburn’s defense answered the choice. The Tigers steadily met the Tar Heels at the rim, blocking off six footage.
8. Tre Jones makes up for Cam Reddish’s absence
Mere minutes before the sport began, Duke introduced that Cam Reddish would no longer originate attributable to a knee sprain. Although Duke claimed Reddish became as soon as accessible to play, he did now not enter the sport. For an already thin Duke crew, shedding a starter will gain proved expensive on both ends of the floor.
As a alternative, Tre Jones stepped as a lot as occupy the void left by his fellow freshman. Up to now, Jones’ season excessive for 3-pointers made in a game became as soon as appropriate two. He hadn’t made larger than one three-level basket in a game since November. On Friday, Jones made 5 of seven from originate air the arc, buoying the Duke offense.
Shane McNichol covers college basketball and the NBA for Larry Brown Sports. He additionally blogs about basketball at Palestra Motivate and has contributed to Bustle The Court, ESPN.com, and USA This present day Sports Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain.