NCAA Tournament 2018: B/R Expert Predictions, Updated Results for Sweet 16

Bleacher Report College Basketball StaffFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2018

NCAA Tournament 2018: B/R Expert Predictions, Updated Results for Sweet 16

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    The first weekend of the 2018 men's NCAA tournament was arguably the greatest ever, but now we're getting down to the nitty-gritty with the Sweet 16.

    Friday's slate of games featured some of the best teams left in the field hoping to reach the Elite Eight, like four schools did Thursday.

    The East and Midwest Regionals are on the docket, with No. 1 seed Kansas downing No. 5 Clemson in the first Midwest game.

    Already moving on are No. 11 Loyola of Chicago and No. 9 Kansas State in the South Regional, while the West Regional has No. 9 Florida State and No. 3 Michigan still alive.

    This piece will be updated with results as each game goes final, so check back early and often.

                                         

    Any advanced stats, unless otherwise noted, are courtesy of KenPom.com.

No. 1 Kansas 80, No. 5 Clemson 76

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    The No. 1-seeded Kansas Jayhawks (30-7) advanced to their third consecutive Elite Eight with a wire-to-wire win over the No. 5 Clemson Tigers in the Midwest Regional semifinals in front of a partisan crown in Omaha, Nebraska.

    The Jayhawks made 10 three-pointers and held Clemson (25-10) to 30 percent shooting from outside. The Tigers had gone 16-of-40 from deep in their first two wins.

    Kansas led by 13 at halftime and then blew the game open with three straight three-pointers to start the second half. Clemson kept fighting, mostly behind guard Gabe DeVoe. It got within five points with 19.4 seconds left, but the Jayhawks made five of six free throws in the final 1:01 to seal the victory.

                                          

    Top Performers

    Sophomore guard Malik Newman had 17 points with four three-pointers and was one of four players to score in double figures for the Jayhawks. Senior Devonte' Graham added 16, while Udoka Azubuike had 14 with 11 rebounds. Lagerald Vick added 13 points.

    DeVoe had a career-high 31 points along with nine rebounds.

               

    X-Factor

    While DeVoe was hot, Clemson's other high-scoring guards were not. Kansas held juniors Shelton Mitchell and Marcquise Reed to a combined 25 points on 9-of-28 shooting. That duo averaged 32 points in the Tigers' first two tournament games.

                 

    Next Round

    Kansas will play the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils in the Midwest Regional final on Sunday.

          

    — Updated by Brian J. Pedersen

No. 1 Villanova 90, No. 5 West Virginia 78

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    No. 1 Villanova (33-4) used a 22-6 run over five-plus minutes in the second half to turn a six-point deficit into a 10-point lead and return to the Elite Eight for the second time in three years. The other trip, in 2016, ended with the Wildcats winning a national title.

    No. 5 West Virginia (26-11) led 60-54 with 11:08 left following a layup by senior guard Jevon Carter before Villanova went on a tear, taking care of the ball and hitting most of its shots. It was similar to early in the game when the Wildcats made their first six baskets before turnovers led the Mountaineers to stay close.

    A key to the Wildcats' run was the one-two punch of a block by Omari Spellman on one end and a putback dunk on the other.

             

    Top Performers

    Villanova junior guard Jalen Brunson scored 27 points on 8-of-15 shooting, making three of six three-pointers. The Wildcats were 13-of-24 from three-point range, with Spellman going 4-of-7 from deep en route to 18 points with eight rebounds.

    Carter had 12 points, two rebounds, eight assists and four steals in his final college game.

                   

    X-Factor

    West Virginia forced Villanova into 16 turnovers, its most since a Feb. 14 loss at Providence. Only two came in the final minute, though, and one was a deliberate shot-clock violation with less than a second remaining. The Wildcats outscored the Mountaineers 36-20 in the final 11:32.

                                  

    Next Round

    Villanova will play No. 3 Texas Tech in Sunday's regional final in Boston.

           

    — Updated by Brian J. Pedersen

No. 2 Duke 69, No. 11 Syracuse 65

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Despite a feisty effort from 11th-seeded Syracuse, the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils advanced to the Elite Eight with a 69-65 win over the Orange on Friday at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

    Duke entered the game as a massive favorite (minus-11, according to OddsShark), so Syracuse undoubtedly gave the Blue Devils everything they could handle.

    While the two blue-blood programs traded leads in the first half, Duke never trailed in the second.

                                                                       

    Top Performers

    Marvin Bagley III paced Duke with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting, while Grayson Allen added 15.

    Tyus Battle led the Orange with 19 points.

                      

    X-Factor

    Syracuse won plenty of statistical categories—rebounding (37-33), shooting percentage (49.0 to 39.3) and three-point percentage (30.8 to 19.2). But Syracuse also committed a damning 16 turnovers to Duke's seven.

                                

    Next Round

    Duke will face No. 1 seed Kansas in the Elite Eight on Sunday.

                        

    — Updated by Sean Frye

No. 3 Texas Tech 78, No. 2 Purdue 65

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    Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

    The Big 12 has its third team into the Elite Eight, as No. 3 Texas Tech upset No. 2 Purdue 78-65 in the East Regional. The Boilermakers led by as much as seven in the first half, but the Red Raiders never trailed in the final 20 minutes.

                                                  

    Top Performers

    Keenan Evans led Texas Tech with 16 points while adding four assists. Zhaire Smith was a difference-maker, dropping 13 points, five rebounds, two blocks and a steal.

    Purdue's Carsen Edwards led all scorers with 30 points while adding three rebounds and a steal.

                         

    X-Factor

    Texas Tech's aggressive reputation shone through against Purdue. The Red Raiders got to the foul line 18 times, making 17 free throws, while Purdue was 6-of-6 at the charity stripe.

                               

    Next Round

    Texas Tech will face the No. 1 Villanova Wildcats on Sunday in the Elite Eight.

                               

    — Updated by Sean Frye

Loyola-Chicago 69, Nevada 68

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago Ramblers are still alive.

    Marques Townes drained a game-sealing three-pointer in the closing seconds of the clash with the seventh-seeded Nevada Wolf Pack, which elected not to foul and instead rely on its defense. That decision proved costly, as Townes' triple put Loyola up 69-65 with 6.3 seconds remaining.

    The Wolf Pack managed to hit a three, but they needed to grab an improbable steal or commit three personal fouls in the waning seconds to put Ramblers on the free-throw line. And the latter simply wasn't possible.

        

    Top Performers

    Townes paced the Ramblers with 18 points and five assists, adding four rebounds in the win. Both Clayton Custer and Aundre Jackson scored 15 points for Loyola. Nevada's Caleb Martin tallied a team-high 21 points, and Jordan Caroline contributed 19.

        

    X-Factor

    Typically, Kendall Stephens has a positive impact on Nevada's perimeter shooting. This time, Nevada missed Stephens' three-point shot in the worst way. He entered the matchup with a 44.4 percentage from beyond the arc, but the senior misfired on all eight of his trifectas.

        

    Next Round

    Loyola will take on No. 9 Kansas State in the Elite Eight.

Michigan 99, Texas A&M 72

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    After seeing the Texas A&M Aggies dismantle the North Carolina Tar Heels in the second round, it seemed the Michigan Wolverines would have a 40-minute fight on their hands.

    Well, it was interesting for about four.

    Michigan built a 29-point advantage in the first half and took a 52-28 lead into the locker room. Texas A&M's offense played well after the break, but the Wolverines still outscored the SEC squad in the second half and won 99-72.

        

    Top Performers

    Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman recorded 24 points, seven assists and five rebounds, while Moritz Wagner notched 21 and Charles Matthews netted 18. Zavier Simpson posted an impressive line of 11 points, four boards, five assists and six steals. Tyler Davis scored 24 for A&M.

        

    X-Factor

    Not only did Michigan connect on 14-of-24 three-pointers, the team spread the wealth. Eight players hit at least one triple during the explosive, game-shaping first half. Abdur-Rahkman led the Wolverines with four, and Wagner buried trifecta.

        

    Next Round

    Elite Eight-bound Michigan awaits the winner of the showdown between No. 4 Gonzaga and No. 9 Florida State.

Kansas State 61, Kentucky 58

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Kansas State earned its first-ever win over Kentucky to move on to the Elite Eight.

    Although foul trouble hindered them, the Big 12 Wildcats prevailed thanks to a pair of key late baskets from Cartier Diarra and Barry Brown.

    Brown hit the game-winning shot with 18 seconds left, and Amaad Wainright sealed the three-point margin of victory with a free throw with seven seconds remaining.

    Kentucky had a chance to send the game to overtime, but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's shot at the buzzer fell short.

                    

    Top Performers

    Before he fouled out, Xavier Sneed scored 22 points to lead Kansas State, while Brown added 13 points.

    PJ Washington recorded a double-double in defeat, as he produced 18 points and 15 rebounds.

             

    X-Factor

    Brown made the night's biggest shot with Sneed on the bench to push Bruce Weber's team to the next round. Diarra also came up in a few big spots, as he contributed five points, three rebounds and two assists. 

       

    Next Round 

    The ninth-seeded Wildcats face No. 11 Loyola-Chicago in Saturday's South Regional final.

         

    —Updated by Joe Tansey

Florida State 75, Gonzaga 60

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    Jae Hong/Associated Press

    Florida State advanced to its first Elite Eight since 1993 with a double-digit victory over Gonzaga, 75-60.

    The ninth-seeded Seminoles pulled off their second straight major upset, as they used their amazing depth and took advantage of Killian Tillie's absence (hip).

    Leonard Hamilton's team used a 9-0 run at the end of the first half to create separation from the Bulldogs, who could never adjust to Florida State's defense, as they shot 33.9 percent from the field.

    Florida State is one of two No. 9 seeds to play for a spot in the Final Four on Saturday, as it joins Kansas State in that category.

               

    Top Performers

    Terance Mann was the only Florida State player to reach double digits, as he led all scorers with 18 points.

    Rui Hachimura and Zach Norvell Jr. contributed 16 and 14 points, respectively, for Gonzaga.

                     

    X-Factor

    Any one of Florida State's players could be considered for this honor, since 11 different players scored. 

    Trent Forrest played a role in a few different stat categories, as he recorded seven points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals.

                   

    Next Round

    Florida State takes on No. 3 Michigan in the Elite Eight on Saturday.

         

    —Updated by Joe Tansey