Virginia over Purdue
Score: 80-75 (OT)
Purdue may have lost, but junior Carsen Edwards led the Purdue Boilermakers into overtime against the No. 1 seed Cavaliers. He ended with 42 points, including a huge bank-shot 3-pointer with a little over a minute left in regulation to go up by two. Purdue seemed to have the game within their grasp, with ESPN giving Purdue a 91% chance of victory with five seconds left, as the Boilermakers held a three-point lead with Virginia heading to the free-throw line to shoot two free-throws. After making the first, they were forced to miss the second, and after a scramble for the ball, Cavalier guard Mamadi Diakite hit a buzzer beater to tie the game and sent it into overtime. In overtime, Edwards seemed to run out of magic, throwing a turnover on the Boilermaker’s final offensive possession. He later said, "We had a screen for Ryan (Cline) and I was just trying to kick it ahead before he fouled me, and I just, just kind of... it was a tough catch for Ryan, and just how it happens." Virginia’s free-throws sealed the deal to send the Cavaliers to the Final Four the year after they were upset in the first round.
Next up for Virginia: Auburn (No. 5 seed)
Michigan State over Duke
The first points for both teams came from monster dunks, setting the tempo for the rest of the game. Fast transition, big plays, lead changes, and electric energy characterized this matchup between the No. 1 and No. 2 seed of the East region. Michigan State dominated early in the first half, but Duke came roaring back to take the lead before Michigan State regained their energy to go into halftime leading 34-30. The second half saw more back-and-forth action, but Michigan State’s tempo, teamwork and forced turnovers pushed them over the edge. Coming down to the final seconds, RJ Barrett missed the first of two free throws that would have tied the game at 68, and Michigan State regained possession to run out the clock. Cassius Winston played a huge leadership role during this game, controlling the tempo and energy while putting up 20 points and 10 assists of his own. Zion Williamson (24 points, 14 rebounds) and the Blue Devils put up a fight, and there is no doubt they are one of the best teams in college basketball. But, as MSU coach Tom Izzo said in a post-game interview, “To be the best, you have to beat the best… We’ve got some warriors and these guys hung in there.”
Next up for Michigan State: Texas Tech (No. 3 seed)
Auburn over Kentucky
Score: 77-71 (OT)
Auburn is officially headed to the Final Four for the first time in program history. In a stunning overtime victory, the No. 5 seed Auburn Tigers defeated the No. 2 seed Kentucky Wildcats 77-71. Despite starting the game off slow, Auburn turned up the heat at the end of the half, cutting Kentucky’s lead to just five points. This momentum carried the Tigers into the second half, where they came out on fire. They went on a 12-2 scoring run, shifting the momentum of the game and putting them in the lead. As the game got down to the final minutes, it was still painfully close and the lead was continuously switching between the two teams. At the end of regulation the score was tied, and the game went into overtime. Auburn’s ability to continue to play aggressive basketball while tired propelled them to a victory over the Wildcats. The Tigers were led by Jared Harper who scored 26 points, and made each of the 11 free throws he attempted. Bryce Brown also had a big game, scoring 24 points of his own, making four of the team’s seven three-pointers. It is safe to say that this underdog’s win busted more than a few brackets. Play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle may have summarized this game best when he said “anything can happen in March.”
Next up for Auburn: Virginia (No. 1 seed)
Texas Tech over Gonzaga
It may be hard to find someone who appreciates the term “defense wins championships” more than Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard. The Red Raiders held the Gonzaga Bulldogs to just 69 points Saturday night, a team who averaged 88 points per game on the season. Gonzaga took a two-point lead going into halftime and shot 50% from the field in the first half. Despite the below-average half for the Texas Tech defense, they were ready to make adjustments and take away what beat them in the first half. Gonzaga shot just 34% in the second half, and turned the ball over 16 times in the game. “It's real. That defense is real," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "It impacted us tonight.” Texas Tech was led offensively by Jarrett Culver, who scored 19 points for the Red Raiders. Guard Davide Moretti also hit a clutch three late in the game to help lead the Red Raiders to their first ever Final Four. "Texas Tech is going to the Final Four," coach Beard said. "Some of you look surprised. But Texas Tech is going to the Final Four." Texas Tech will have their hands full in the next round, as they will go up against the big, strong and well-coached Michigan State Spartans.
Next up for Texas Tech: Michigan State (No. 3 seed)