This is a guest post from Terence Blackburn. A former academic leader at Michigan State and long time basketball fan. Terence will add his own, specifically annotated takes on the NCAA Tournaments. (He’s a lawyer, so of course he uses footnotes) He is also the father of Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer, who writes here (that guy with the “BBD’s” thing). You can read his Round 1, Day 1 recap HERE, the Recap of Round 1, Day 2 HERE, and the Recap of Round 2, Days 1 and 2 HERE and Sweet 16 Recap HERE.
The Elite 8, AKA The Round of 4 into the Final Four
The BIG 10
Oh, Never mind. They all went home.
Two of the 4 games resulted in upsets – normal(?) for this year.
I’ll take these in the order in which they were played
#9 Florida Atlantic University vs #3 Kansas State
The FAU Owls didn’t give a hoot that they were playing WAY above their seeding. They matched the KSU Wildcats point for point, drive for drive. Their scoring statistics were almost equal – 26/54 for the Owls, 27/58 for the Wildcats; 9 Owl 3PTs, 10 Wildcat 3PTs. FAU’s largest lead was 8 and KSU’s was 7. However, due to the frenetic pace of the entire game, the Owls had an incredible 22 turnovers, 10 more than the Wildcats. But they also had 22 more rebounds than the Wildcats, and 18/22 FTs, compared to 12/18 for the Wildcats. And that made the difference in the game. KSU just couldn’t counteract the dominance of 7’1” Goldin on rebounding and on points under the basket.
KSU’s miracle man Markquis Nowell still shone brightly – he played all 40 minutes, scored 30 points including 5/11 3PTs and 9/10 FTs, had 12 assists and 5 steals. I heard one announcer report that Nowell had been ‘responsible’ for 57 of the KSU 79 points. But the Wildcats couldn’t put together the kind of back door cuts and lobs to the basket that were so devastating to Michigan State. And for the last 5:30 minutes of the game with the Wildcats trailing 65-63, it appeared that Nowell, and the entire rest of the KSU team believed that their only hope of success was in the hands of Nowell. He made 2 steals, took 3 shots (made a 3PT, missed a 3PT and a 2PT). had a rebound, and made 3/4 FTs. But it wasn’t enough.
FAU showed that it was tough when it counted. Down by 6 points 63-57 with 8:39 to go, they took less than two and a half minutes to score 7 straight points and take the lead at 64-63. They then outscored KSU 8 to 1 over the next 4 minutes, building a 72-64 lead, and it was effectively game over.
Note: The FAU Owls have won their 4 games by a TOTAL of 19 points. No dominant performances, but they are flying high. And their next flight is to Houston.
#4 University of Connecticut vs #3 Gonzaga
Yes, the second upset of the night. But this one had no resemblance to the first game between FAU and KSU. This was an absolute stomp-down, a dominance by the UConn Huskies that was totally unexpected. Gonzaga was the highest scoring team in the country (86.1 per game), and had forward Drew Timme, a 3-time All-American, with a CAREER scoring percentage of over 61%. But UConn had had a great early and late season, and brought their best basketball of the year to the game. The Huskies led for virtually the entire game – the Bulldogs (AKA the Zags) led for only 19 seconds 25-24 in the first half, and the half ended with UConn up by 39-32, a gap that certainly seemed manageable to Gonzaga, with its vaunted offensive prowess.
What can one say about Gonzaga in the second half? Nothing worked. Over the first 10 minutes of the second half, The Huskies’ defense drove the Zags nuts. UConn outscored Gonzaga 31-8, building an incredible 70-44 lead. The Huskies continued to extend their lead to 80-47 with just under 4 minutes remaining. At that point UConn started substituting players in, so the final score of 82 -54 is misleading – the game wasn’t nearly that close.
Gonzaga’s 3 point efforts were futile – they made only 2 of 20 shots. And in the second half they only made 4 FGs in the first 17 minutes (and 3 more after UConn started clearing its bench).
In an earlier summary I reported on the bracket picks of the ChatBot, including its picks based on mascots. Since the ChatBot has taken on a human role in making picks of winners and losers, it’s now my turn to take on the role of the ChatBot and make an analysis in the voice of the ChatBot:
Make an analysis on the UConn Huskies against the Gonzaga Bulldogs based on the mascots:
Huskies are fairly large dogs, known for their strength and stamina. A Bulldog is a smaller dog known primarily for its ability to hold on with its powerful jaws and teeth. If the Bulldog loses its teeth a stronger and more agile dog like a Husky could easily slip away.
And that is what happened – the Huskies are trotting off to Houston and the Bulldogs
are now Gone-zaga.
A quick note (by me and nearly every other commentator – none of whom were predicting this 2 weeks ago): UConn looks dominant in a field that only had one of the top 8 seeds coming to the Elite 8 (Texas). They won their four games by margins of 24 (13 seed Iona), 15 (5 seed St. Mary’s), 23 (8 seed Arkansas) and 28 (3 seed Gonzaga).
# 5 Miami vs #2 Texas
OK – this was going to be the game that saved a small amount of honor for the Seed-gurus who set up the tournament. The last of the top 8 seeds was facing a team not expected to be still playing. The first half of the game went according to the script – the Hurricanes blew past the Longhorns for the first few minutes 7-0, but the Longhorns then found their feet and scored the next 11 points. From that point through the 5 minute mark the Longhorns usually held a small but confident lead. But the Hurricanes then seemed to run out of air, and the Longhorns stampeded, going from a 27-26 lead to finish the half up 45-37. The second half looked like more of the same, with Texas extending its lead to 13 points, 62-49. However, starting with under 9 minutes remaining, the Hurricanes huffed and puffed and blew out the hopes of the Longhorns. Miami put together a 13-2 run in 3-1/2 half minutes and tied the game at 72 with 5:26 remaining. An untimely foul by Texas at the one minute mark resulted in FTs for Miami and a 81-79 lead, and Texas was never able to catch up. Texas made 2 more FGs in the last minute while Miami hit 9 of 10 FTs to win 88-81. The Longhorns are headed for their last roundup while the Hurricanes are storming into Houston. One remarkable performance to note – The Hurricanes’ Miller had a perfect day - 7 for 7 FGs and 13 for 13 FTs.
#5 San Diego State vs # 6 Creighton
This game was expected to demonstrate what happens when the irresistible force of an offense meets an immovable defense. The Creighton Bluejays had scored an average of 81 points per game and shot 56% in the Tournament. The San Diego State Aztecs had held opponents to 58 points and 32% FGs per game. The result was that defense won – but barely. The Aztecs’ defense did the job again – they held the Bluejays to 56 points and 40%. The Bluejays could not find the 3 point range – they went 2/17 (11.8%).
Could we really see 2 #5 seeds in the Final?
 Any allusion here to a red-wrappered peanut and coconut candy bar is purely unintentional.
 Most of the Gonzaga collapse took place starting at 17:39 of the second half when Timme went to the bench with his 4th foul.
 One 2-seed (Texas), two 3-seeds (Gonzaga and Kansas State), one 4 seed (UConn), two 5 seeds (Miami and San Diego State), one 6 seed (Creighton) and one 9 seed (Florida Atlantic).
 Does it seem a little strange that a university would choose as a mascot the name of an ancient culture that was never present anywhere near the university? Would it make sense to call a team the Los Angeles Romans? Or a team in Boston the Celtics?….oh, never mind.
 It’s hard to score 81 points when you miss that many 3s.
RELATED: The Rest of the Thoroughly Annotated NCAA Recaps