I told you last night's Elite 8 games would come through in entertainment value, and boy did they.
Both were played at an extremely high level and contained contrasting styles that ebbed and flowed through the 40 minutes. Arizona made a living by attacking Wisconsin's interior and were an outstanding 28 of 30 from the free throw line as a result. The Badgers had everything going through Frank Kaminsky (29 pts, 6 rebs) early, but it was Sam Dekker who absolutely stole the show late in the second half. He hit big three after big three set a new career high of 27 pts (5 of 6 from 3pt). The Badgers shot 12 of 18 from three overall, many of which were well-worked good looks in the second half, ultimately crippling Arizona in the Elite 8 for the second year in a row.
In the most-watched college basketball game in TV history, Kentucky beat Notre Dame in a thriller. The Irish were on the front foot for most of the game with Zach Auguste (20 pts, 9 rebs) and Karl-Anthony Towns (25 pts) surfacing as a major battle in the paint. Notre Dame was able allow Towns to go 1-on-1 with Auguste while they closely defended the rest of the Wildcats to great success. In the end, UK shut down a usually potent Notre Dame on their final three possessions in a late come from behind win.
Elite 8 Previews
(7) Michigan State vs (4) Louisville - 2:20et, CBS
Do we bet against Tom Izzo yet? Michigan State are 2.5-point favorites with the winner of this game inheriting the role of highest seeded team in this year's Final Four.
The trio of Branden Dawson, Gavin Schilling and Matt Costello will need to shut down Montrezl Harrell, who ran rampant with 24 points against NC State. If that happens, I think Sparty can advance, as Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine get the nod over Terry Rozier and Wayne Blackshear in the backcourt. Both teams rely on their top-six players for the most part and any bonus points off the bench can tip the scales in this one.
(2) Gonzaga vs (1) Duke - 5:05et, CBS
Michigan State - Louisville will be fun, but this is the bigger game in which the winner will be a favorite to advance to the NCAA final. Jakob Poeltl shut down Jahlil Okafor in Duke's Elite 8 game, but the Blue Devils still advanced. This time around, Okafor faces what I think is an even tougher test, especially if Przemek Karnowski, Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis can draw a few fouls and dictate the battle of the paint on the offensive end. Justise Winslow was huge against the Utes, but I think Gonzaga has the depth to match both.
Gonzaga will need to shoot better from the perimeter than they did against UCLA (3 of 19), including Kevin Pangos' 1 of 7 showing and Gary Bell's 0 of 5 mark. I like the Zags in this one and hope to see Mark Few and the Bulldogs advance to their first Final Four.