NCAA Midwest Region – On to the Elite 8
The winner of the Midwest region will be decided in an All-ACC matchup between Virginia and Syracuse. How fitting, because I think just about everyone saw this coming, right? What started out as one of the sexiest and most dramatic regions of the bracket has turned into boredom and agony. I mean, I hate to put it like that, but where’s the drama? Where’s the close games? The drama is now gone for all of us, because I spoiled the Elite 8 matchup at the top just like this bracket was spoiled for me. You’re welcome. So let me justify all of this negativity by running you through these projective headlines. Virginia shot 73 percent in the second half to silence the Butler Bulldogs. Arkansas-Little Rock shot cold from the field to the tune of 37 percent, and lost by 17 to Iowa State. Super Cinderella Middle Tennessee gave us a four point game at the half, but Syracuse rolled in the second half, winning by 25. And Gonzaga made the selection committee look foolish as they demolished Utah by a score of 82-59. “Wait, Gonzaga beat Utah?!” Yes, person who only sees seeds. The 11 seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs beat down the 3 seeded Utah Utes. Bet you didn’t see that coming, huh? When the brackets first came out, I thought Utah was a bit over-seeded, and Gonzaga was a bit under-seeded. This matchup was a pick-em in Vegas, and Gonzaga showed they were a force to be reckoned with in this tournament despite being a double digit seed. Now, the good news is that because all of these teams won in blowout fashion in the round of 32, it would set up good Sweet 16 matchups, right? Not exactly. You know that feeling you get when you think a game is over after the first 5 minutes or so? That’s exactly how I felt about these two matchups on Friday night. Virginia came out extremely hot against Iowa State. How hot, you ask? How about a 17-3 start? Or a 26-9 start? The Virginia Cavaliers had both of those. Iowa State tried to fight back, but with Georges Niang in foul trouble, the complimentary players for the Cyclones just had no answer. The night cap started out the same way, except it was Gonzaga dominating early and to a much lesser degree. Syracuse was only down by one point at the half despite playing like garbage for the majority of it. I’m still confused as to how Gonzaga lost this one. I can tell you that Syracuse went on a game changing 15-3 run in the final six minutes of the game though (that probably had something to do with the loss). Seriously, how does a team as good as Gonzaga get limited to three points down the stretch of the game? Simple answer: Syracuse’s defense is legit. Take a look at this last defensive stand. With 11 seconds to go, Gonzaga had one last shot to take the lead. Did you see a single guy who was open on that play? You can make an argument that Draginis was open at the top of the screen, but by the time he was open, Perkins was already driving to the hoop. And kudos to Lydon for making that block look effortless. I don’t know how Jim Boeheim continues to do it, but he can make these kids play defense in their sleep by the time they’re done at Syracuse. Which sets up a defensive struggle (in theory) for Sunday night’s Elite 8 matchup. Virginia won the only meeting this year between the teams by a score of 73-65, though they were at home. I think Virginia will have a repeat performance on their way to the Final Four, and come away with the win. Mainly because I picked them to come out of this region, and they’re the better team offensively. Can they be the better team on Sunday though? That remains to be seen. Did I mention that I had Virginia in my final four? I’ve got to get something right, right?