The Final Four of the NCAA Tournament has been decided: Virginia, Texas Tech, Michigan State and Auburn punched their tickets to Minneapolis, Minnesota on Saturday. The Spartans were able to pull off the upset, knocking off the number one overall seed in the tournament in Duke. The Auburn Tigers continued their magical run as they beat another top program in Kentucky.
On day one of the Elite 8, it was No. 3 Texas Tech who pulled off the upset, knocking off No. 1 Gonzaga, 75-69. It was a defensive performance by the Red Raiders as they gutted out a win to earn their first trip to the Final Four in program history. They held the nation’s top scoring team to 20 points below their season average and forced a costly 16 turnovers. It was the Red Raiders top-ranked defense that has gotten them thus far, but their shooting late in the game helped secure the victory. Jarrett Culver, who has been the Raider’s leading scorer in all four games of the NCAA Tournament this year led the way once again with 19 points. For Gonzaga, it was NBA Draft prospect Hachimura who led the way for the Zags, with 22 points along with six rebounds. The Bulldogs finish the season with a record of 33-4, while Texas Tech earns their 30th victory of the season, as they punch their ticket to the Final Four.
The second game on Friday was wild from start to finish, with impressive performances on display, in an overtime thriller between Virginia and Purdue. Purdue’s Carsen Edwards put on one of the best NCAA Tournament performances in history, but ultimately the Boilermakers fell in heartbreaking fashion, 75-80 to the Cavaliers. The game was an instant classic, as Purdue took the best defensive team in the nation to their absolute limit, shooting just under 50 percent and 44 percent from three. Edwards had one of, if not the best, game of his career, scoring 42 points. With his 42-point performance, the junior finished with 139 points in this year’s NCAA Tournament, the most points through four tournament games since 2000, according to the NCAA. The roof almost came off the arena when Edwards banked home a three to put Purdue ahead 69-67 with a minute remaining. Edwards traded baskets down the stretch with the Virginia duo of Guy and Jerome, but the Cavaliers were finally able to contain Edwards in overtime, to secure the win. Guy led the way for Virginia with 25 points and 10 rebounds while Jerome finished with 24 points and seven assists. Virginia’s Final Four appearance will be the program’s first since 1984. The Cavaliers punching their ticket to the Final Four comes as redemption, as they are making up for their upset loss to 16 seed UMBC in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament.
Day 2 of Elite 8 action did not disappoint, as Michigan State showed up big time and came away with a huge upset over the top seed of the Tournament in Duke. The Blue Devils had it going their way all tournament long, as Zion Williamson has been absolutely incredible and R.J. Barrett has been great in his own right. The loss most likely marks the end of both Williamson’s and Barrett’s collegiate careers, as they are both projected to go in the top five of the 2019 NBA Draft. Williamson led Duke with 24 points, 14 rebounds, three steals and three blocks. It was Michigan State who came roaring out of the gate, however, locking down Duke in transition, while converting on the other end as they grabbed a 68-67 win over the top seeded Blue Devils. Cassius Winston led the way once again for the Spartans as the junior guard finished with 20 points, 10 assists and four steals. This was a big win for Coach Tom Izzo as he leads his team back to the Final Four for the first time since 2015. The Spartans will face off against Texas Tech on Saturday night for a shot to go to the national championship game.
The 5th seeded Auburn Tigers shocked the nation as they made history, clinching the program’s very first trip to the Final Four with a 77-71 overtime win over the Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky beat the Tigers twice during the regular season, but Auburn’s resilience pushed them over the hump with an incredible victory. Jared Harper led Auburn with 26 points to go with five assists, four rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Kentucky led by five at halftime, but Auburn would not go away as the game remained close, with neither team able to pull away. Once the game got to overtime, Harper scored the first four points and the Tigers never looked back. Washington came off the bench to lead Kentucky with 28 points and 13 rebounds. Not only did the Tigers punch their first ever ticket to the Final Four, but they have beaten some impressive competition in Kansas, North Carolina, and now Kentucky to earn a trip to Minneapolis. The Tigers will take on top seeded Virginia in the Final Four.