Elite Eight Matchups Are Set
Four ACC teams claimed spots in the Elite Eight, there's a chance all the top seeds could advance, and we have a deep darkhorse still alive. Having fun yet?
The #1 seeds (Kansas, Oregon, UNC, Virginia) are all still kicking, and they have a chance to reach the Final Four for the first time since 2008. Do you really think they're all safe from the insanity of this year's tournament though? I didn't think so.
The left side of your bracket is straight chalk, with all four top seeds advancing to the Elite Eight. Meanwhile, the right side might as well just be called the ACC Tournament: Part Two. To add the perfect topper to a table full of delicious basketball, Syracuse and Jim Boeheim waltz in as the #10 seed.
There are only seven college basketball games left in the season. Let's soak them all in while they last.
#1 Kansas vs #2 Villanova
It's always safe to put your money on Kansas. Under Bill Self, trips to the Final Four are almost planned vacations for Jayhawks fans. Even though they're playing a #2 seed, they're going to be the favorite.
You could almost assume Villanova comes in with a chip on their shoulder. They were one of the best teams in the country, but their conference didn't have an agreement with ESPN. The best team in the Big East probably isn't getting the respect they deserve, especially with Ryan Arcidiacono (one of the best names in the tournament) running the point.
Senior leadership is something these two teams have in common. Arcidiacano (12.3 ppg, 4.4 apg) is battled tested, while Kansas' Perry Ellis (17.2 ppg, 53.5% FG, 43.8% 3-pt) poses a versatile, dependable threat in the post and on the perimeter. There are nine seniors on the two combined rosters, which means we could be in for a clutch finish to the South bracket.
I'll give Kansas the edge, only because they have at least five NBA players on their roster. The Jayhawks can come at you in waves, and their experiences this season in the Big 12 prepared them for all types of drama. The next team up was responsible for taking them to a couple overtimes...
#`1 Oregon vs #2 Oklahoma
Oklahoma might be the two seed, but they have the best scorer in the country in Buddy Hield (25.1 ppg). This might be the best game left on the bracket.
Oregon is about as athletic and intimidating as they come...when they're on. They survived a scare against St. Joes in the second round to handle up on Duke in their Sweet 16 matchup, and their star, Dillon Brooks (17.0 ppg), is stepping up and knocking down huge shots for the Ducks. Elgin Cook (14.6 ppg), Tyler Dorsey (13.5 ppg) and Chris Boucher (12.0 ppg, 3.0 bpg) round out the list of usual suspects for the monsters of the West Coast, but they better expect to play every minute, and then some, against the Sooners.
Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler are all seniors for the Sooners, and they always seem to step up when the lights get brightest.
Something else to consider, if Oklahoma gets past Oregon, they could have a rematch with Kansas, who beat them twice this season in dramatic fashion.
NBA scouts and draft experts will be drooling watching this game. Hield is a professional scorer, Boucher has insane upside (can hit 3's, block shots, and he's played basketball less than five years), and Dorsey could leave after only one year in Eugene. There's a reason both of these teams earned top seeds, it's just a shame one of them has to lose.
#1 UNC vs #6 Notre Dame
Searching for the hottest team left in the tournament? Look no further than the North Carolina Tar Heels, who torched Indiana in the Sweet 16.
Sure, Kansas is the top overall seed in the tournament, but UNC dropped 101 points on the Hoosiers to punch their ticket to the Elite Eight. Roy Williams has a seasoned group of assassins, and they have familiar foes in between them and a trip to the championship. Their Elite Eight matchup is with a fellow ACC opponent, Notre Dame, and if they win, their Final Four opponent will come from the ACC as well. Think the folks on the East Coast are pounding their chests?
Buddy Hield is the best scorer in the NCAA, but Marcus Paige might be the best shooter. The Tar Heels' senior leader broke the career mark at UNC for made three's this year, and he splashed home six treys against Indiana to warn the rest of the bracket: don't leave me open.
Now that I've hyped Carolina up, let's not forget about their opponent.
Notre Dame gritted through a game against Wisconsin to get here, and they're playing with house money after surviving against Stephen F. Austin and Michigan as well.
The Irish are led by big man Zach Auguste (22 double-doubles), who will be asked to take on Brice Johnson, the ACC's best forward, in the post. Both players have NBA futures, and two of the top rebounders in the ACC (and country) will be trying to box each other out on the block. To make things even sweeter, Notre Dame's second best player, Demetrius Jackson, will be guarding Paige. Talent versus talent, strength versus strength.
No matter what, the ACC will have two teams in the Final Four. One will come from the East, and the other will ride out of the Midwest.
#1 Virginia vs #10 Syracuse
Jim Boeheim, you lucky dog. How do you take a team that was lucky to get into the tournament and ride them all the way into the Elite Eight? With one more win, the Orange could turn the tournament on its head.
Syracuse is the highest seed left in the tournament (#10), and they barely squeezed past Gonzaga to get here. Patrick Cooney, another senior leader making things happen in the big dance, stole a pass in the final seconds of the game to get them here, and they have a chance to steal the show against a Virginia team that is trying to prove their worth.
It almost feels like Virginia has more adversity to battle. Syracuse is an underdog, nobody expected them to be here, so it's almost like the pressure is off. Tony Bennett's Cavaliers want to let everybody know they earned their #1 seed, they just have to set the tone.
Virginia plays half-court offense like Auntie Anne makes pretzels. It's what they do. Syracuse plays half-court zone defense about as consistently as a church will give service on Sunday. See how this will be fun?
Guess what Virginia has too? Senior leaders. Malcom Brogdon is going to be a lottery pick at the guard position, Anthony Gill can do any and everything on the basketball court, and Mike Tobey is a beast on the boards. Throw in Logan Perrantes, a wily junior with the potential to take over a game, and you get a team that has been waiting on their chance for the past few seasons.
Who will hit the shot that gets played in "One Shining Moment?" Could we be in store for one of the greatest games in the history of the tournament? Having this much basketball at once feels so good it should be illegal, so let's enjoy it before it goes away and leaves us all wanting more.