Two #1 Seeds Fall as Final Four is Set

The NCAA Tournament has always left the door opened to ‘expect the unexpected’, but it’s a proven fact that no one expected events in the Big Dance to happen like this. Two weeks ago, there were 68 teams, now there are 4, and not the 4 that you think.

Many expected they #1 overall-seeded Duke Blue Devils to win it all, and after overcoming 2 near-upsets they ran into #2 Michigan State and were beaten Sunday evening. And on Saturday, #1 seeds Gonzaga fell to #3 Texas Tech.

So the Final Four teams are: Michigan State, Texas Tech, Auburn and the remaining #1 seed, Virginia. Next weekend’s matchups are Virginia vs. Auburn and Michigan State vs. Texas Tech at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Here is a recap of the Elite Eight games:

Texas Tech 75, Gonzaga 69-It was expected that this would be the year that Gonzaga would have a shot at a National Championship after finishing runner-up last year, but the Red Raiders would have none of that as they advance to their first-ever Final Four after beating the Bulldogs 75-69.

Davide Moretti of Bologna, Italy, made the two most important 3-pointers of his life to open a sliver of a cushion, then defense sealed the deal – and wrapped up a trip to college basketball’s biggest stage for the first time in the 94-year history of the program.

Anyone who has caught even a glimpse of this team’s nation-leading defense wouldn’t have been surprised. It was typical of the Red Raiders (30-6) – in this case, an inch-by-inch takedown of the nation’s most prolific offense, punctuated by Tariq Owens’ major rejection of Rui Hachimura with 56 seconds left – one of Texas Tech’s seven blocked shots, to go with nine steals and 16 forced turnovers.

Jarrett Culver, an NBA prospect who chose his hometown college over several other suitors, led the Red Raiders with 19 points. Matt Mooney, out of Wauconda, Illinois, and playing as a graduate transfer from South Dakota, had 17.

Virginia 80, Purdue 75- Virginia, the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed a year ago, survived overtime and Carsen Edwards’ staggering 3-point show Saturday night to make it to the Final Four for the first time since 1984.

The top-seeded Cavaliers needed a last-ditch buzzer-beater to send the game to overtime and finally contained Edwards in the extra period to hang on for an 80-75 victory over Purdue in the South Region final.

The Cavaliers (33-3) redeemed themselves from last year’s loss to UMBC by relying on veterans, sound defense, poise, controlling the ball and a failure to be rattled even when the Boilermakers had the chance to ice the game in regulation at the foul line.

Their balance and experience allowed them to overcome a brilliant performance by Edwards, whose 10 3-pointers were one shy of the NCAA Tournament record. Edwards finished with 42 points for third-seeded Purdue (26-10) and none of his teammates scored more than seven each.

Edwards was named the Most Outstanding Player of the South regional, becoming the first player to win the honor from a losing team since Stephen Curry in 2008. Fitting, too, since Edwards scored the most points (139) through four NCAA Tournament game since 2000; Curry had the previous most with 128 points for Davidson.

Auburn 77, Kentucky 71- Drawing inspiration from injured forward Chuma Okeke, the No. 5 seed Tigers finished off a joyful romp through college basketball royalty by bringing down the winningest program of all. Their 77-71 overtime win over second-seeded seed Kentucky in the finals of the Midwest Region on Sunday came after blowouts of Kansas and North Carolina that served notice: Auburn is more than a football school.

Jared Harper led the way with 26 points, including the tying basket in regulation and a crucial series of layups in overtime. Bryce Brown added 24 points and Anfernee McLemore came up big in the extra session, helping Auburn (30-9) set a school record for wins with its 12th straight overall.

PJ Washington came off the bench and had 28 points and 13 rebounds for the Wildcats, but he also had a shot blocked that could have given his team the lead in the final seconds of regulation. Johnson added 14 points and Hagans finished with 10, though he also committed seven turnovers.

Michigan State 68, Duke 67- The biggest moment for Michigan State is still to come after Winston led the Spartans back to the Final Four for the first time since 2015. Michigan State beat Duke 68-67 on Sunday to knock the overall top seed out of the NCAA Tournament in what likely was the end of Zion Williamson’s college career. Winston took over the game when his team faced its biggest deficit, stealing the show from Williamson with 20 points and 10 assists in a do-it-all performance fittingly with Magic Johnson there to see it.

Winston didn’t know how many shots he took but never hesitated to put the ball up. He was 9 of 23 and never shied away from taking it at Duke and shooting at nearly every opportunity in the East Region final. The Big Ten Player of the Year and East Region Most Outstanding Player made or assisted on 19 of Michigan State’s 30 field goals.

Williamson, the presumptive top pick in the NBA Draft and biggest star of this NCAA Tournament, had a game-high 24 points and 14 rebounds. He said it was a ”high possibility” this was his final game at Duke.

Please e-mail Ray at ray@urbanmediatoday.comFollow him @urbanmediaRay on twitter

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