NCAA Tournament 2019: B/R Expert Predictions, Updated Results for Sweet 16

Bleacher Report College Basketball StaffFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2019

NCAA Tournament 2019: B/R Expert Predictions, Updated Results for Sweet 16

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Elite Eight is set, and a top seed fell in Friday night's action at the NCAA tournament.

    No. 5 Auburn punched its ticket after a convincing 97-80 win over No. 1 North Carolina. In other action on Friday, higher-seeded Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State all prevailed.

    Buckle up! The next round kicks off on Saturday with Gonzaga facing Texas Tech and Virginia taking on Purdue.

No. 2 Michigan State 80, No. 3 LSU 63

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    No. 2 Michigan State shrugged off an early threat from No. 3 LSU in the second half and went on an 11-0 run to create separation from the Tigers. 

    Gabe Brown, Kenny Goins and Aaron Henry all knocked down three-point shots during the 11-0 run, which handed the Spartans a 15-point advantage with 14 minutes to go. 

    From that point on, Tom Izzo's team sustained a double-digit lead to become the second Big Ten team to advance to the Elite Eight. 

    The Spartans will be making their first appearance in the Elite Eight since 2015 under Izzo, who is attempting to lead them to their eighth Final Four since he took over the program. 

             

    Top Performers

    Aaron Henry produced a terrific all-around performance for the Spartans with 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Tremont Waters scored 23 points in defeat for LSU. 

               

    X-Factor

    Xavier Tillman came two rebounds short of a double-double for the Spartans, as he contributed 12 points and eight rebounds. 

             

    Next Round

    The Spartans face either No. 1 Duke or No. 4 Virginia Tech in Sunday's East Region final.

              

    —Updated by Joe Tansey

No. 5 Auburn 97, No. 1 North Carolina 80

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    No. 5 Auburn earned its first trip to the Elite Eight since 1986 by stunning No. 1 North Carolina with an offensive onslaught in the second half. 

    In total, Bruce Pearl's Tigers knocked down 17 three-pointers, and they outscored the Tar Heels by 15 points in the second half after going into the half with a two-point advantage. 

    Auburn broke the game open with a 14-0 run that spanned from the end of the first half into the first two minutes of the second half. 

    The closest North Carolina got to Auburn after the 14-0 run was six points with 13 minutes left, but right after the Tar Heels cut into their lane, the Tigers hit three straight three-pointers to regain a double-digit advantage. 

                     

    Top Performers

    Before he left the game with a leg injury, Chuma Okeke produced 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Tigers. Cameron Johnson and Coby White each scored 15 points for the Tar Heels.  

               

    X-Factor

    Danjel Purifoy came off the bench to hit four three-point shots and score 14 points for the victorious side from the SEC. 

               

    Next Round

    Auburn could face SEC foe No. 2 Kentucky, who plays No. 3 Houston on Friday night, in the Midwest Region final on Sunday.

                

    —Updated by Joe Tansey

No. 1 Duke 75, No. 4 Virginia Tech 73

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    After squeaking past hungry UCF in their second-round matchup at the 2019 NCAA tournament, the Duke Blue Devils faced another tough test as they advanced to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive year with a two-point win over Virginia Tech on Friday in Washington, D.C.

    The Hokies took a four-point lead into the locker room at halftime and were aggressive all night on the boards, outrebounding Duke 17-8 on the offensive glass. True to form, Virginia Tech was also strong from outside, hitting nine of 26 three-pointers. 

    Duke started to pull away midway through the second half, punctuated by a Zion Williamson slam that gave the Blue Devils a 58-52 lead. The Hokies didn't go away; in the last six seconds of the game they had two three-point chances for a possible win and a layup attempt to tie it, but none of them dropped.

    Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils last won the national championship in 2015. 

        

    Top Performers

    Zion Williamson delivered as advertised, getting better as the game went along and finishing with 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting. For Virginia Tech, Kerry Blackshear Jr. recorded a double-double with 18 points and 16 boards, including 11 on the offensive glass.

               

    X-Factor

    Duke freshman forward RJ Barrett had another strong game, delivering a double-double with 18 points and 11 assists.

                     

    Next Round

    Duke will face No. 2 Michigan State in the East Region final on Sunday at Capital One Arena.

              

    —Updated by Carol Schram

No. 2 Kentucky 62, No. 3 Houston 58

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Wofford was a handful and Houston was a bundle of trouble as the Kentucky Wildcats punched their ticket to the Elite Eight with a nail-biting two-point win in Friday's Midwest Regional action in Kansas City, Missouri.

    The Wildcats took an 11-point lead into the locker room at halftime, but Houston chipped away at the deficit, tying the game at 49 with 4:23 to go on a three-pointer from Armoni Brooks.

    From there, fans were treated to the back-and-forth action that March Madness is famous for. Kentucky's Tyler Herro put the Wildcats up for good with his first made three of the night with 25 seconds left to play, and then he added two free throws with 14 seconds left to seal the win. 

          

    Top Performers 

    Herro was Kentucky's leading scorer with 19. Brooks had 20 for the Cougars, including 6-of-12 from long range.

               

    X-Factor

    The Wildcats held the Cougars to just 39.6 percent shooting and were better on the boards with a 36-23 rebounding edge.

                     

    Next Round

    John Calipari's team now moves on to face No. 5 Auburn in the Midwest Regional final on Sunday in Kansas City after the Tigers' upset win over North Carolina earlier on Friday.

               

    —Updated by Carol Schram

No. 1 Gonzaga 72, No. 4 Florida State 58

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    No. 1 Gonzaga survived a flurry of second-half runs from No. 4 Florida State and become the first team to advance to the Elite Eight. 

    The Bulldogs led by 11 points at halftime, but the Seminoles, who beat Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 a year ago, stormed back to cut the deficit to four points with just over four minutes to go. 

    In those final minutes, Mark Few's team went on a 12-2 run to erase any possibility of a Florida State comeback.

    The victory moved the Zags into their third Elite Eight in the last five years—the last appearance coming in 2017 when they advanced to the Final Four and eventually lost to North Carolina in the national final. 

                  

    Top Performers

    Rui Hachimura led the Bulldogs with 17 points, while Brandon Clarke chipped in 15 points of his own. Florida State's Trent Forrest led all scorers with 20 points. 

             

    X-Factor 

    Josh Perkins did a little bit of everything for Gonzaga, as he produced 14 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals. 

               

    Next Round

    Gonzaga faces either No. 2 Michigan or No. 3 Texas Tech in the West Region final on Saturday. 

              

    --Updated by Joe Tansey.

No. 3 Purdue 99, No. 2 Tennessee 94

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    The No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers, co-champions of the Big Ten during the regular season, led the game by a large margin through the first half and into the second, but the No. 2 Tennessee Volunteers battled back to push the contest to overtime.

    In the extra period, Purdue again mustered a lead and forced Tennessee to play catch-up.

    With 2:18 remaining in overtime, Purdue led by three when Carsen Edwards drove to the hoop for a bucket. From there on out, the Boilermakers didn't look back. Tennessee fell into desperation mode, unable to even convert free throws that might have helped it stay in the game.

                  

    Top Performers

    Purdue's Carsen Edwards led all scorers with 29, and Ryan Cline added 27 more. Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield led Tennessee with 21 apiece.

             

    X-Factor 

    Despite watching its lead dwindle—and eventually disappear during a game in which they missed 16 free throws—the Boilermakers never hung their heads. They never let the situation overwhelm them. Somehow, they were able to find yet another gear in the extra frame.

    Once in the lead, Purdue applied nothing but continued pressure to knock out Tennessee once and for all.

               

    Next Round

    Purdue will face off against the winner of the Oregon-Virginia game in the South Region final on Saturday. It is Purdue's first trip to the Elite Eight since 2000.

              

    --Updated by David Luther

No. 3 Texas Tech 63, No. 2 Michigan 44

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    If you're a fan of high-scoring, quick, up-and-down-the-court basketball, this game probably lost your interest early. Both teams came out cold as can be, combining to make just eight of their first 37 shots from the field. It almost seemed as if the first team to find some shooting success would pull away quickly—possibly for good.

    That team was Texas Tech.

    The No. 3 Red Raiders held the No. 2 Wolverines to just 16 points in the first half, and the second half didn't start much better. During the first four minutes of the second half, Michigan turned the ball over three times, attempted three shots and scored a grand total of two points from the foul stripe.

    But what really killed the Wolverines? Starting 0-of-18 from behind the arc. They finished 1-of-19 after a meaningless bucket with 0:24 left in the blowout. Between that and shooting 32.7 percent from the floor, they were in trouble against stiff defensive competition. 

    Halfway through the second half, Texas Tech built a 21-point lead. It was over after that.

    Per the CBS broadcast, Michigan's previous low in an NCAA tournament game was 45 points. That occurred in 1945—before the shot clock and three-point existed. The Wolverines also tied the all-time tournament record for low score by a No. 2 seed with 44.

                  

    Top Performers

    Jarrett Culver led all scorers by pouring in 22 for Texas Tech, while Ignas Brazdeikis had a double-double (somewhat shockingly) for Michigan with 17 points and 13 rebounds.

             

    X-Factor 

    Only one thing qualifies as an X-factor in this game: Michigan's complete and utter inability to make a basket whenever it mattered—and often when it didn't matter. Sure, Texas Tech is one of the top defenses in the nation, but Michigan didn't do itself any favors for most of the 40 minutes on the floor.

               

    Next Round

    Texas Tech will face West No. 1 seed Gonzaga on Saturday in the regional final for a trip to the Final Four.

              

    --Updated by David Luther

No. 1 Virginia 53, No. 12 Oregon 49

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Let's be honest: Most people didn't give No. 12 Oregon much of a chance against No. 1 Virginia in this game. The Cavaliers built an eight-point lead at halftime, and it looked like the Ducks' valiant efforts would finally come to an end—admittedly later than expected.

    But with four minutes remaining in the second half, a quick check of the scoreboard showed the game tied at 45.

    It's hard to call any team from a power conference a true Cinderella in March—especially a team that was a Final Four participant just two seasons ago—but a No. 12 seed battling a No. 1 seed in the Sweet 16 certainly made for compelling television.

    Virginia, holding the ball and a three-point lead with a minute to go, slowly developed a play, taking as much time off the clock as possible. A missed three resulted in an offensive rebound for the Cavaliers. Because of Oregon's clean game to that point, the Ducks had several fouls to give, and that gave Virginia plenty of opportunity to run more clock.

                  

    Top Performers

    Louis King led the Ducks with 16 points, while Ty Jerome paced the Cavs with 13. Virginia's Mamadi Diakite led all rebounders with 11.

             

    X-Factor 

    A great game down the stretch with solid back-and-forth action ended as it started: with the starters on the floor for both teams and each side battling for every single point. Virginia's small lead forced Oregon to chase late, which usually doesn't turn out well for the underdog.

    Also worth noting: Virginia shot just five free throws all night.

               

    Next Round

    Virginia will meet No. 3 Purdue in the South Region final.

              

    --Updated by David Luther