NCAA Tournament 2017: B/R Expert Predictions, Updated Results for Sweet 16

Bleacher Report College Basketball StaffFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2017

NCAA Tournament 2017: B/R Expert Predictions, Updated Results for Sweet 16

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    We had to wait 59 games to get our first meaningful buzzer-beater of the 2017 NCAA tournament, but it was worth the wait. 

    The No. 4 Florida Gators wrapped up an incredible day for the SEC with a game-winner from the hands of Chris Chiozza in overtime. In addition to the Gators' victory Friday night over the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers, the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats and No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks are also off to the Elite Eight. 

    Chiozza's three-pointer closed out a Sweet 16 full of intriguing matchups that produced plenty of intense games on the hardwood across the country. 

    The No. 11 Xavier Musketeers stole the headlines Thursday night, as they continued their Cinderella story with an upset of the No. 2 Arizona Wildcats at SAP Center.

    The favorite No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels and No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks cruised into the final eight, while the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats faced some resistance from the No. 3 UCLA Bruins but fended off every run. 

    Continue reading for recaps of all eight Sweet 16 matchups that took place over the last two days.

No. 1 North Carolina 92, No. 4 Butler 80

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    North Carolina started hot and stayed warm throughout, scoring 52 first-half points to knock out the Bulldogs and move on to a second consecutive Elite Eight.

    The Tar Heels (30-7) shot 54.4 percent and made eight of 17 three-pointers in the first half, their perimeter scoring complementing their dominance on the inside. UNC was 22-of-33 on twos and had 10 offensive boards, out-rebounding Butler (25-9) by 12 overall.

    The Bulldogs shot 43.5 percent and got 21 points from Andrew Chrabascz, but their defense wasn't able to get many stops. With 7:46 remaining in the game, they pulled within 11 on a three from Kelan Martin, who scored 16 off the bench, but they could never get any closer.

             

    Top Performers

    UNC juniors Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson combined for 50 points, with Berry scoring 26 on 8-of-13 shooting, while Jackson was 9-of-18 for 24 points along with five rebounds and five assists.

    X-Factor

    Tar Heels sophomore Luke Maye had 14 of his career-high 16 points in the first half, getting plenty of playing time when Isaiah Hicks got into early foul trouble. He added 12 rebounds for his first career double-double and was the first UNC player to do that in an NCAA tourney game since football standout Julius Peppers in 2001.

             

    Up Next

    The Heels take on No. 2 Kentucky on Sunday in the South Region final in Memphis, Tennessee at FedExForum.

    —Updated by Brian J. Pedersen

No. 7 South Carolina 70, No. 3 Baylor 50

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    The Gamecocks continued their historic run by blowing out another high seed, this time turning back to the defense that got them into the NCAA tournament to make their first Elite Eight in school history.

    South Carolina (25-10) held the Bears to 30.4 percent shooting at Madison Square Garden, using an 18-0 run over a 7:45 span in the first half to build a 37-22 lead. It never led by fewer than 11 in the second half. Baylor (27-8) went on a 10-0 run to get within 49-38 with 10:41 to go, but South Carolina got three-pointers from Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice to regain a sizable margin.

    Baylor had its fewest points of the season and its fewest since scoring 44 in January 2013, making 17 of 56 field goals while turning it over 16 times.

             

    Top Performers

    Sindarius Thornwell, the SEC Player of the Year, scored 24 points for South Carolina on 6-of-14 shooting, surpassing the 1,900-point mark for his career. The senior is averaging 25.7 points per game in the NCAA tournament.

    X-Factor

    The Gamecocks defense rarely gave Baylor an open look and strongly contested every shot in the paint. The Bears entered the game shooting 53.2 percent on two-pointers but was just 14-of-43 inside the three-point line.

    Up Next

    South Carolina will play for its first trip to the Final Four on Sunday in the East Region final against either No. 4 Florida or No. 8 Wisconsin.

    —Updated by Brian J. Pedersen

No. 2 Kentucky 86, No. 3 UCLA 75

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    A back-and-forth contest between blue bloods turned into a showcase for one of the game's top freshmen. 

    De'Aaron Fox broke the overall freshman scoring record in the NCAA tournament, per ESPN Stats and Info, with a career-high 39 points in the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats' runaway 86-75 victory over the No. 3 UCLA Bruins on Friday night at the FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. 

    After Fox's strong start, fellow freshman Malik Monk joined the party in the second half, ending the night with 21 points after failing to score in the first 12 minutes. 

    UCLA remained within striking distance in the second half but never conjured up a run that matched the offensive production of the Wildcats. The fact Thomas Welsh fouled out with just under six minutes to go also hurt UCLA's ability to spread around the ball on offense. 

    Top Performers

    On a floor filled with NBA-caliber talent, Fox was the standout star. Monk was the game's second-leading scorer, and TJ Leaf and Isaac Hamilton had 17 points each for the Bruins. 

    X-Factor

    Fox and Monk will get all the credit—and deservedly so—but Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis made a few big shots when called upon as well. During a six-minute span in the first half with Monk struggling to find a rhythm, the two knocked down a trio of three-pointers. Hawkins and Willis ended with a combined 19 points. 

    Next Round

    The Wildcats will partake in a showdown of the sport's elite programs once again Sunday, as they face No. 1 North Carolina for a spot in the Final Four. 

    —Updated by Joe Tansey

No. 4 Florida 84, No. 8 Wisconsin 83 (Final/Overtime)

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Anything you can do, I can do better. 

    After being sent into overtime by the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers' Zak Showalter on a three-point shot that saw the guard hang in the air after leaping from behind the arc, Chris Chiozza did the same to send No. 4 Florida into the Elite Eight. 

    The Gators appeared to have control of the contest with three minutes to go in regulation, but like they have so many times before, the Badgers rallied and forced an extra five minutes of basketball. 

    Wisconsin had a chance to close out the game at the line in overtime, but it missed five free throws. Nigel Hayes made a pair with four seconds left, but he failed to make four earlier in the period. 

    With the seconds ticking down, Chiozza drove right up to three-point line, jumped and sunk the most memorable shot of the 2017 NCAA tournament to date. 

    Top Performers 

    KeVaughn Allen was the only Florida player in double digits with 35 points. Chiozza only had eight points, but he made the winning shot. Five Badgers were in double figures, led by Hayes' 22.

    X-Factor

    Canyon Barry knocked down a pair of free throws with 37 seconds remaining and then chased down an open Khalil Iverson on the ensuing Wisconsin possession, blocking the shot to set up a game-tying layup by Chiozza with 24 seconds to go. 

    Next Round

    The Gators will take on South Carolina in an all-SEC matchup Sunday at Madison Square Garden. 

No. 3 Oregon 69, No. 7 Michigan 68

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Oregon's Tyler Dorsey hit the go-ahead basket with 1:09 left to send the Ducks to the Elite Eight for the second year in a row, ending Michigan's spirited postseason run.

    Derrick Walton Jr. missed a jump shot in the final seconds for the Wolverines (26-12), who led 68-65 with 2:04 left after making six consecutive shots, but they missed their last three field goals. Oregon (32-5) pulled within one on a layup by Jordan Bell before Dorsey gave it the lead for good.

    Neither team led by more than five points in a game that saw poor shooting early, with Michigan shooting 43.1 percent overall and Oregon hitting 44.8 percent. The Wolverines were 11-of-31 from three-point range, while the Ducks were 8-of-17.

    Top Performers

    Dorsey had 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting, making five of seven threes, while Bell had a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds, including four of Oregon's six offensive rebounds. Walton had 20 points, five rebounds and eight assists for Michigan in his final college game, while Zak Irvin added 19 points.

    X-Factor

    Oregon's defensive switching forced Michigan to settle for far too many outside shots and not go inside, where it was more accurate. The Wolverines took 31 of their 58 shots from three-point range, the sixth time this season they've been that unbalanced, with a record of 4-2 in those games.

    Up Next

    Oregon will play for a spot in the Final Four on Saturday in the Midwest Region final against No. 1 seed Kansas.

    — Updated by Brian J. Pedersen

No. 1 Gonzaga 61, No. 4 West Virginia 58

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    In an ugly game filled with fouls, turnovers and missed shots, a swished three-pointer by Jordan Mathews sent Gonzaga to the Elite Eight.

    Mathews, who battled foul trouble all game and had just come off the bench after sitting for more than four minutes, drained a three with 57.3 seconds left to give the Bulldogs (35-1) a 60-58 lead. That came after Josh Perkins blocked a West Virginia shot on the other end, with Nigel Williams-Goss getting the ball to Mathews for the go-ahead basket.

    After Silas Melson made one of two free throws to give Gonzaga a three-point lead, West Virginia (28-9) had multiple chances to win in the final seconds. Jevon Carter missed on a pair of three-pointers, both of which were rebounded by the Mountaineers, and he had the ball for the last 18 seconds. But Gonzaga swarmed him and didn't let him get off another shot.

    The game featured 11 ties as well as 29 turnovers, 51 fouls and 61 free throws. Gonzaga and West Virginia shot a combined 32.7 percent.

             

    Top Performers

    Mathews was one of three Gonzaga players with 13 points, along with Przemek Karnowski and Johnathan Williams. Williams scored 11 of those in the first half. Carter had 21 points for West Virginia, but he was just 6-of-17 from the field.

            

    X-Factor

    Despite a massive rebounding disadvantage—West Virginia had 21 offensive boards—the Bulldogs defense rarely gave the Mountaineers a clean look. Gonzaga held WV to 26.7 percent shooting, including just 5-of-23 on threes.

            

    Up Next

    Top-seeded Gonzaga will seek its first-ever Final Four bid when it takes on No. 11 Xavier in Saturday's West Region final.

           

    —Updated by Brian J. Pedersen

No. 1 Kansas 98, No. 4 Purdue 66

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    It was close in the early going, but the No. 1-seeded Kanas Jayhawks went on a 22-7 run in the last 6:50 of the first half to set the stage for their 32-point win over the Purdue Boilermakers on Thursday night in Kansas City, Missouri.

    The Jayhawks took complete control over a good Purdue team in the second half, outscoring the Boilermakers 51-26 in the final 20 minutes while shooting 54.8 percent from the field for the game.

    With the win, Kansas becomes the first team since UConn in 1995 to score at least 90 points in its first three NCAA tournament games in a season.

          

    Top Performers


    Frank Mason III and Devonte' Graham each dropped 26 points for the Jayhawks, while Mason added seven rebounds and seven assists. Josh Jackson had a double-double with 15 points and 12 boards for Kansas.

    Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan was his team's leading scorer with 18 points, but the Jayhawks did an excellent job of containing him until the midpoint of the second half, when the game was already out of reach.

          

    
X-Factor


    Kansas is a confident group that has systematically dismantled its opposition so far in this tournament, with a 100-62 win over UC Davis in the first round and a solid 90-70 thrashing of Michigan State in the second round. Mason and Graham offer a two-pronged attack from the backcourt that has proved to be hard to beat so far.

               

    Next Round

    The Jayhawks will meet the No. 3 Oregon Ducks in the Elite Eight in Kansas City this Saturday.

             

     
—Updated by Carol Schram

No. 11 Xavier 73, No. 2 Arizona 71

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The storybook run continues for the No. 11 Xavier Musketeers as they advance to the Elite Eight after a 73-71 win over the No. 2 Arizona Wildcats.

    After falling behind 10-2 early in the first half, Xavier hung around in a game that featured multiple lead changes throughout. The Wildcats led 37-35 at halftime, while Trevon Bluiett shot 7-of-8 for 18 points to keep Xavier believing there was still a chance to win.

    A 15-point run by Allonzo Trier helped the Wildcats build another eight-point lead with 3:45 to play in the second half, but it was Xavier that outscored the favorites 9-2 in the dying minutes to punch its ticket to the West Region final on Saturday.

    Top Performers


    Bluiett finished the night with 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting. He was backed up by 15 points from Malcolm Bernard and 14 from J.P. Macura.

    Trier’s 19 points were tops for Arizona. Big man Dusan Ristic added 17, but foul trouble kept him on the sidelines for most of the second half.

    
X-Factor 


    The Wildcats were hurt by poor shooting, going just 27-of-62 from the field for 43.5 percent. At the other end, Xavier shot an impressive 52.8 percent.

    The Musketeers’ battle level was also strong in the tense final minutes—it was the underdogs from the smaller school who stayed loose and kept their attention focused on completing the task at hand.

    
Next Round

    
The Musketeers’ first appearance in the Elite Eight since 2008 will be against the No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs on Saturday. Xavier has never reached the Final Four.

    —Updated by Carol Schram