March Madness 2016: Top Social Media Highlights for Sunday's Elite 8

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2016

Welcome to the ACC tournament.

All right, technically Sunday's games were part of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, but it was easy to confuse the two, considering the Virginia Cavaliers faced the Syracuse Orange and the North Carolina Tar Heels squared off with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Elite Eight. Two spots in the Final Four in Houston were up for grabs, and social media was there throughout the showdowns to keep fans connected.

With that in mind, here is a look at the scores from Sunday's Elite Eight action as well as social reactions from each contest: 

Sunday's NCAA Tournament Scores
No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 10 Syracuse68-62, Syracuse
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 6 Notre Dame88-74, North Carolina



Syracuse 68, Virginia 62

Virginia dominated the majority of Sunday's game against Syracuse—until it didn't. The Cavaliers held a double-digit lead throughout most of the contest but watched the Orange come charging from behind to take a 68-62 victory.

Malachi Richardson led the way for the victors with 23 points and seven rebounds, but Syracuse's press in the closing stretch proved to be the difference. The Cavaliers turned it over 13 times, while star Malcolm Brogdon shot a disappointing 2-of-14 from the field.

Nicole Auerbach of USA Today went with a bold pick as the first game tipped off:

The two defenses looked familiar with how to stop the offenses early as both teams struggled from the field. Sam Vecenie of CBS Sports summarized the opening few minutes:

Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated had some advice for the No. 1 seed:

Brad Evans of Yahoo Sports had an apt comparison for the Virginia offense:

Virginia eventually snapped out of its initial funk and took the lead in the first half. Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press had a message of consolation for the Orange:

Syracuse even put the ball through the basket from underneath instead of over, as Jerry Palm of CBS Sports noted, and Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports reacted to the amusing play:

Social media was complaining about Syracuse's offense, but the Virginia defense deserved some credit:

Peter Bukowski of Sports Illustrated noticed the Cavaliers had more than their defense going for them:

Virginia took a 35-21 lead into the locker room at halftime, and Hamilton braved the box score:

It was safe to say things weren't going particularly well for the Orange:

On the offensive side, Virginia's London Perrantes drilled five three-pointers and had Whitelaw Reid of the Daily Progress making lofty comparisons: 

Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports didn't seem to be excited for the second half:

Virginia maintained its double-digit lead in the opening minutes of the second half, and Tony Gerdeman of was impressed by the entire team's commitment:

However, Syracuse made the inevitable run to trim the deficit to single digits, and Matt Brown of SB Nation noted Virginia's slow pace wasn't helping it build an insurmountable lead:

Orange fans apparently thought the officials were preventing them from further cutting into the Virginia advantage, as Palm pointed out:

Perhaps they were right, because the Cavaliers again created some separation after the Syracuse spurt. Andrew Ramspacher of the Daily Progress realized it was business as usual for Virginia:

Still, Syracuse continued to stay within striking distance during the middle portion of the second half and quickly closed the gap to 58-55 with less than seven minutes remaining. Ben Baskin of Sports Illustrated had his own theories on why the Orange suddenly had momentum:

Somehow, someway, the Orange seized the lead during the run:

Auerbach said what many were thinking:

Ryan Nanni of SB Nation added a Virginia spin to the collapse:

Zach Harper of CBS Sports had an appropriate question for the Orange:

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports didn't give Cavaliers fans much respite heading into the stretch run:

Syracuse parlayed that momentum into a victory at the end of the game, and B/R Insights put the incredible run into historical perspective:

Eric Seger of Eleven Warriors reacted to the Orange's berth in college basketball's final weekend after they arguably shouldn't have even been in the Big Dance in the first place:

Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports didn't mince words for Cavaliers supporters:

Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report had some fun at Virginia's expense:

Virginia will have the entire offseason to figure out what happened on Sunday.


North Carolina 88, Notre Dame 74

North Carolina looked the part of a No. 1 seed on Sunday with a 14-point victory against Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish made a run in the second half, but it was not enough to overcome the formidable Tar Heels.

Brice Johnson led the way with 25 points and 12 rebounds as part of a potent front line that out-rebounded Notre Dame 32-15.

The matchup was a highly anticipated showdown, but David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune was wondering about the Fighting Irish's shoes in front of a national audience:

Notre Dame basketball had one prominent team behind it against the mighty Tar Heels:

At least North Carolina had Villanova's Kris Jenkins (who is still alive in the tournament) as a supporter on Sunday. Auerbach said he is brothers with the Tar Heels' Nate Britt, and Jenkins let his allegiance be known on Twitter:

V.J. Beachem had an answer for North Carolina supporters that even left his own bench nearly fainting:

Pete Sampson of Irish Illustrated was pleased with what he saw from the Fighting Irish early:

However, North Carolina took a 43-38 advantage into the halftime locker rooms in an offensive battle that felt like the opposite of the first half of the Syracuse-Virginia game. Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star responded to the back-and-forth:

Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports had other thoughts:

North Carolina extended its lead to double digits early in the second half, and one person in the audience was pleased with what he saw:

However, Notre Dame came roaring back and actually took a lead with about 13 minutes remaining. Tom Noie of the South Bend Tribune pointed to one reason why:

Auerbach wasn't surprised the Fighting Irish made a run:

Palm reacted to the change of momentum:

Andrew Carter of the Charlotte Observer noted that Johnson picked up a critical technical foul during the spurt:

Just like that, North Carolina responded with a run of its own to open a double-digit lead with just more than nine minutes left. Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports described one important strength for the Tar Heels:

Chip Patterson of CBS Sports noticed Notre Dame's distraction efforts:

All the distractions in the world weren't going to stop plays like this:

Not only did North Carolina have the lead, but Notre Dame was out of timeouts with about eight minutes left. CJ Fogler of The Cauldron responded to the situation:

Notre Dame was doing its best to remain within striking distance down the stretch, but it simply couldn't pick up enough critical stops. Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press commented on the offensive battle:

The Fighting Irish couldn't make a significant dent in the closing minutes, which seemed to have their fans frustrated:

North Carolina held on for the victory and clinched its spot as the only No. 1 seed in the Final Four. SB Nation made sure North Carolina's most famous basketball player got involved in the social reaction:

Another former Tar Heel actually did react to the win:

Next up for North Carolina is a showdown with fellow ACC school Syracuse. The Tar Heels already beat the Orange twice this season and will likely have something of a mental advantage because of that, but Jim Boeheim's team is living a charmed life right now. 

Syracuse went from borderline bubble team to Final Four representative and has plenty of momentum on its side as well.

Still, the Orange will need to figure out a way to deal with North Carolina's strong front line that controlled the glass on Sunday if they hope to spring the upset. 

The coaches will likely immediately turn their attention to the upcoming Final Four showdowns, but the fans will be in celebration mode after Sunday's victories.


Check out Bleacher Report's live updating bracket to track your picks along the road to the Final Four.


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