The thrilling and exciting games of March Madness in the men’s college basketball tournament have yet to slow down after the three-day rest period. The Sweet 16 took place on Thursday, March 23 and Friday, March 24, while the Elite Eight happened over the weekend on Saturday, March 25 and Sunday, March 26.
It has set the stage for the final four teams that remain, which are Florida Atlantic University (FAU), University of Connecticut (UConn), San Diego State and Miami University. Who would have predicted that?
The first matchup of the Sweet 16 between No. 3 Kansas State and No. 7 Michigan State set up the feeling of how the weekend was going to go, as the game went into an overtime thriller. Kansas State prevailed over the Spartans 98-93, but their storybook season came to an end with a 79-76 loss to No. 9 FAU in the Elite Eight.
FAU made it to the Elite Eight after upsetting No. 4 Tennessee, 62-55. It was a disappointing loss for the Volunteers, but the Owls are taking full advantage of a nice tournament run as prior to last Friday, Florida Atlantic had never even won an NCAA tournament game as a program.
In another close game that night, No. 3 Gonzaga won over No. 2 UCLA, 79-76. The game swayed back and forth heavily with neither team coming close until the very end. At one point, UCLA led by 13 points only to find themselves down by 10 with two minutes left. UCLA freshman Amari Bailey put the Bruins ahead 76-75 on a three-pointer with 13 seconds left to play. But Gonzaga’s Julian Strawther hit a buzzer beater game-winning shot to keep the Zags alive.
The Zags went on to face No. 4 UConn, but were demolished 82-54, which was the biggest margin of defeat in the round of the Elite Eight. It will be UConn’s first Final Four since 2014 when they won a national title under Kevin Ollie. Danny Hurley will be looking for his first.
This was the second opponent in a row that UConn crushed. In the Sweet 16, they took on No. 8 Arkansas and beat them 88-65. The game was never close as the UConn offense flowed effortlessly.
The first No. 1 seed remaining that went down was the University of Alabama against No. 5 San Diego State, 64-71. The Crimson Tide had the lead for the majority of the game until the Aztecs took over in the final few minutes.
San Diego State then matched up against No. 6 seeded Creighton in the Elite Eight. Creighton had ended No. 15 Princeton’s
Cinderella run 86-75, but endured a tough fight from the Tigers all night.
In the matchup San Diego State took down the Blue Jays, 57-56, as the two teams traded baskets until the very end. The Aztecs just escaped to stay alive after a wild finish with Darrion Trammell making his second free throw.
The other, No. 1 Houston, took the fall to No. 5 Miami, 89-75, in the Sweet 16. This was the first time in tournament history not a single No. 1-seeded team had advanced past the Sweet 16.
Miami continued their hot-streak when they took down No. 2 Texas, 88-81. At times during the game, it seemed Miami was not going to be able to pull through being down double digits. But they stayed close enough in striking distance and pulled out all the stops in the end to win. Prior to playing Miami, Texas had beaten No. 3 Xavier, 83-71, in the Sweet 16.
The Final Four is set to be FAU vs. San Diego State and Miami vs. UConn. Neither FAU, San Diego State nor Miami have ever been to the Final Four. If someone other than UConn cuts down the nets, three of the past four national champions will have been first-time winners. Miami’s Jim Larrañaga is the only coach that has been to the Final Four before.
On Saturday, April 1, FAU and San Diego State will play at 6:09 p.m. Following them will be UConn and Miami who take the stage at 8:49 p.m. The National Championship game will take place on Monday, April 3 at 9 p.m. No matter who wins, one way or another, history will be made.
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