Big 12 Bounce: Three conference teams compete in Elite Eight

Tristan Winkelman

Sports Blogger

@tristanwink

 

 

Kansas State vs. Loyola-Chicago

In an unlikely matchup of the nine versus the 11 seed in the South Region, Loyola-Chicago defeated Kansas State 78-62 on Saturday night in Atlanta to advance to the Final Four. The South Region was the first region in tournament history in which none of the top-four seeds made the Sweet 16. The matchup between the Ramblers and Wildcats was the first matchup between a nine and 11 seed in NCAA Tournament history.

After three victories by a combined four points, the Ramblers rolled to an easy victory. Loyola led by as many as 23 points in its dominating performance. The Ramblers have done a great job of getting everybody involved. With five players averaging double figures, they’ve been a dangerous matchup for each team they’ve faced. It was Ben Richardson’s night to show up. After scoring 14 points in the team’s first three games, Richardson went off for 23 points and shot 6-of-7 from 3-point land.

K-State had been surrendering an average of 53.3 points per game in the NCAA Tournament. It was a rough night in all aspects of the game for the Wildcats. They shot 34 percent from the floor and struggled to defend the Ramblers, allowing them to reach a field-goal percentage of 57. The Elite Eight run was unlikely for the Wildcats, especially without a heavy contribution from Dean Wade, their usual leading scorer, throughout the tournament. Wade played only eight minutes in the tournament. Xavier Sneed led the Wildcats with 16 points.

K-State finished its season with a 25-12 record. The Wildcats should be excited about next season as their top seven scorers will return. The Elite Eight run could start the fire for another solid season next year in Manhattan. With the victory, Loyola became one of the lowest-seeded teams ever to reach the Final Four, matching 1986 LSU, 2006 George Mason and 2011 VCU. The Ramblers will face third-seeded Michigan in the Final Four on Saturday for a chance to play for their second national championship.

Texas Tech vs. Villanova

Villanova is headed back to the Final Four after it defeated Texas Tech 71-59 on Sunday at TD Garden in the East Region Final to advance to the Final Four. In a tournament that has been full of upsets, no one has touched the Wildcats. Each of Villanova’s victories have come by double digits. The Wildcats fell behind early with a quick 7-0 start by Tech. They trailed by eight at one point, the largest deficit of the tournament for them. Villanova stayed calm and proceeded to go on a 35-14 run to take a 13-point lead into halftime. Tech threatened the Wildcats in the second half, but it was too big of a deficit to climb out of.

The Wildcats typically find their success from behind the arc, as they are third in the nation, making 11.5 3s per game. They struggled from 3-point range against the Red Raiders, though. Nova made only four 3-pointers on the night, shooting an abysmal 16 percent from deep. The Wildcats made up for the poor shooting night with their efforts on the offensive glass. Tech did a solid job defending the 3, but Nova snagged 20 offensive rebounds to make up for it. Eric Paschall led the way for Nova with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Jalen Brunson added 15 points.

Keenan Evans was the story for the Red Raiders. Evans scored 12 points, but that isn’t the most notable thing about his effort. He revealed after the game he had been playing with a broken toe since injuring his foot in mid-February. Evans was key in Tech’s first Elite Eight appearance.

Tech finished its historic season with a 27-10 record. The future is bright for the Red Raiders under head coach Chris Beard. Keenan Evans is graduating, but a strong core of freshmen Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver return to Lubbock. The future is bright for the Red Raiders. Villanova advances to its second Final Four in three years. It will play fellow one seed Kansas in the Final Four on Saturday for a chance to win its second national championship in three seasons.

Kansas vs. Duke

Devin Lawrence Wilber/O’Colly

In one of the most entertaining games in this year’s tournament, Kansas defeated Duke in overtime 85-81 on Sunday in Omaha, Nebraska, to advance to the Final Four. In what was supposed to be a down year for the Jayhawks, KU silenced the doubters to head back to the Final Four. The game featured 18 lead changes and 11 ties. The Jayhawks did it in a way that they weren’t used to: succeeding on the boards. They outrebounded the Blue Devils by 15 en route to the victory. KU also knocked down 13 shots from beyond the arc as compared to Duke’s seven. Malik Newman has played a huge role for a confident Jayhawk bunch. Newman scored all 13 of the Jayhawks’ points in overtime and finished with a career-high 32 points.

Basketball is quite literally a game of inches, as Grayson Allen was inches away from sending Duke to the Final Four. His final shot at the buzzer rattled out, and the rest is history. Allen, a senior guard, finished with 12 points for the Blue Devils. Trevon Duval added 20 points. Duke hasn’t made the Final Four since winning it all in 2015.

Duke finished its season with a 29-8 record. The Blue Devils will welcome the next batch of one-and-done stars next season. They will be an early favorite to win next year’s national title behind the country’s best recruiting class. KU will play in the Final Four for the 15th time in program history. The Jayhawks will play Villanova in the Final Four on Saturday in San Antonio. They will look to win their first national championship since taking the title in 2008 in the familiar city of San Antonio.

ozone@ocolly.com

 

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