Sweet Sixteen Day One Recap

Thursday was not a good day to hold a top seed in the Sweet Sixteen. This year’s NCAA Tournament has had no shortage of big moments and the first leg of the round of sixteen continued to deliver on that front. Frontrunners Arizona and Gonzaga will be watching the Elite Eight with the rest of us this weekend, but how did the two seeds fair in last night’s matchups?

Sweet Sixteen Day One Recap

Gonzaga vs. Arkansas

Going into the evening, this was the matchup to watch in my opinion. The Zags were once again the number one overall seed in the tournament and the Razorbacks came in looking strong and ready for a second straight trip to the Elite Eight. This game featured lots of star power. Gonzaga, led by Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren, seemed to have a clear advantage in the frontcourt. Arkansas has a star and future NBA player JD Notae leading the way, aided in the frontcourt by promising sophomore Jaylin Williams. 

The story of this game will sadly be the officiating. Many fans don’t agree with as many as three of the fouls called against Holmgren. The final foul, which took the future lottery pick out of the game with over three minutes remaining, was a close call that certainly had an impact on the games’ final moments. 

The foul trouble also impacted Homgren’s game throughout, holding him to only 23 minutes on the court. He managed a double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds but it wasn’t enough to pull out the win. On the other side, while Notae was fantastic, leading the Razorbacks with 21 points, it was senior Au’Diese Toney who sealed the victory with a massive block in the game’s final seconds. 

Villanova vs. Michigan

It would be odd to consider the Michigan Wolverines a Cinderella story considering their tournament success in recent years, but they are an 11 seed this season. Despite that, Michigan still made their way to the Sweet Sixteen again this year. Led by sophomore center Hunter Dickinson, the Wolverines looked to have a clear advantage in the post. 

Villanova led most of this game, taking a 10-9 lead in the first few minutes of play. The Wolverines would take a quick lead late in the first half but quickly lost it. They found themselves chasing the Wildcats for the rest of the evening. Villanova was a three-headed monster, led in scoring by Jermaine Samuels, Justin Moore, and Collin Gillespie. This trio combined for all but 14 of the Wildcats’ points on Thursday night. 

A quick run to start the second half put the Wildcats in position, but Michigan battled back. Moussa Diabate had some huge plays down the stretch, but overall, the Wolverines couldn’t take down the Wildcats as Gillespie sealed it with a dagger from three in the game’s final minutes. 

Duke vs. Texas Tech

Now that your bracket is busted, you are likely either all-in for a Coach-K Final Four run, or you are all-in on anyone but Duke cutting down the nets. Either way, I respect it. The Coach K crowd are the winners this time around, as Paolo Banchero, Jeremy Roach, Mark Williams, and the Blue Devils somehow survived the Texas Tech Raiders. 

Texas Tech led for the majority of this game. Although it was a tightly contested affair and Duke did grab a few short-lived leads in the second half, it felt like the Raiders were in control for most of the game. Bryson Williams and Kevin McCullar led the Raiders in scoring with 21 and 17 points respectively. 

Duke ended this game on a 7-0 run, clinching Coach K’s 100th career tournament win from the free-throw line. The boys in blue will line up against Arkansas for a shot at the Final Four on Saturday, March 26th, at 8:49 pm est. 

Arizona vs. Houston

Another top-seed fell in Thursday night’s finale. The Houston Cougars enjoyed the biggest margin of victory for the evening, outlasting the Wildcats on their way to a 72-60 win. Arizona struggled from the floor, shooting only 33.3% for the game. Dalen Terry put up good numbers but the others starters failed to find their rhythm all night. 

Houston looked impressive in this one. The Cougars shot 45% from three and played well defensively. The team collectively had five steals and six blocks. Kyler Edwards and Jamal Shead combined for 40 points to pace the Cougars offensively. Clutch threes from Edwards put this game on ice. Houston will take on Villanova Saturday, March 26th, at 6:09 pm est.

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