NCAA Tournament 2019: B/R Expert Predictions, Updated Results for Elite 8

Bleacher Report College Basketball StaffFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2019

NCAA Tournament 2019: B/R Expert Predictions, Updated Results for Elite 8

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    Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

    The Elite Eight featured four close games and three upsets. The result is we'll see some fresh faces in Minneapolis next weekend.

    On Sunday, Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans finished off the action with a one-point win over Duke, while Auburn needed overtime to dispatch Kentucky. Saturday's games saw Virginia take down Purdue in overtime after Texas Tech surprised Gonzaga.

    Final Four action for the 2019 NCAA tournament will take place next Saturday, with the winners playing for the national championship on April 8. 

No. 2 Michigan State 68, No. 1 Duke 67

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    In a coaching duel between two of the greatest minds in college basketball history, Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 2015 with a one-point win over Mike Krzyzewski's Duke Blue Devils.

    Each side had a period of dominance in the opening 20 minutes. A 12-0 run gave Duke a 30-21 lead with 5:24 left in the opening frame before the Spartans stormed back with a 13-point run of their own to take a 34-30 lead into the locker room at halftime.

    The seesaw battle came down to the wire in the second half. Michigan State's Kenny Goins hit a three with 39 seconds left to give the Spartans a two-point lead. A missed free throw by Duke's RJ Barrett with six seconds left on the clock would ultimately prove to be the difference.

      

    Top Performers

    For Michigan State, Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston picked up a double-double with 20 points and 10 assists. Big man Zion Williamson finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds to lead Duke in both categories. 

               

    X-Factor

    The Spartans did a superior job of hanging onto the basketball, committing just seven turnovers in the game compared to 17 for the Blue Devils.

                     

    Next Round

    A blue blood will face a Final Four newcomer when Michigan State goes up against No. 3 Texas Tech on Saturday in Minneapolis.

              

    —Updated by Carol Schram

No. 5 Auburn 77, No. 2 Kentucky 71

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Kentucky jumped out to a 7-0 lead to start the game, and the Wildcats held on to that lead for the entirety of the first half, leading by five at the break.

    With just under 18 minutes left in the second half, Auburn finally took its first lead, 40-37, after a 10-0 run. The Wildcats didn't regain the lead for another five minutes. Neither team led by more than two possessions, as it was close from there on out.

    Only one thing could have possibly made this game better: overtime. Thankfully, the Tigers and Wildcats obliged, finishing the first 40 minutes tied at 60. We needed five more minutes to decide if Kentucky—a perennial blue-blood program with a storied tournament history—would return or if Auburn would earn its first-ever trip to the Final Four.

    The Wildcats took half of the overtime period to score but kept Auburn within arm's reach, and Auburn built its largest lead of the game to that point—six—with two minutes remaining.

    It turned into a free-throw contest, and that always benefits the team with the lead.

    A missed Samir Doughty free throw gave Kentucky an opening when a Keldon Johnson layup trimmed the deficit to four with 36 seconds to go.

    Jared Harper hit a pair for Auburn, but PJ Washington answered with a quick three, giving him 28, and cutting the Auburn lead to three with 16 seconds remaining. Doughty went 1-of-2 from the line, putting Auburn back up by four.

    Johnson's jumper with 10 seconds remaining was blocked by Anfernee McLemore, and Johnson was called for a foul in the ensuing scramble. Harper then drained a pair of free throws, and that was enough for Auburn to punch its ticket.

         

    Top Performers

    Jared Harper had 26 points for the Tigers and hit two clutch free throws late in overtime to seal Kentucky's fate. He also had five assists, four rebounds, three steals and a pair of blocks.

         

    X-Factor

    Kentucky was never able to create much separation; Auburn always hung around and eventually relied on scoring runs to pull ahead. The Tigers then fended off every charge from the Wildcats, and destiny sided with Auburn.

         

    Next Round

    Auburn will face Virginia in the Final Four next weekend.

         

    Updated by David Luther

No. 3 Texas Tech 75, No. 1 Gonzaga 69

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Can you say upset? Texas Tech is on its way to the Final Four for the first time in program history, and another top seed has fallen.

    A tough defensive performance in the second half gave the Red Raiders a six-point win over Gonzaga in Saturday's West Regional final in Anaheim, California.

    After a back-and-forth first half that saw both teams shooting well, the Bulldogs took a two-point lead into the locker room. But the Red Raiders tightened up their game after the break and took control for good with just under five minutes left on the clock.

    In his third year behind the bench for the Red Raiders, Chris Beard's record in NCAA tournament action has now improved to 8-2. He also took Texas Tech to the Elite Eight in 2018.

        

    Top Performers

    Big 12 player of the year Jarrett Culver was quiet in the first half, shooting just 3-of-10 for seven points. He finished the game as Texas Tech's leading scorer with 19 points. Rui Hachimura added 22 points and six boards for Gonzaga.

               

    X-Factor

    With 56 seconds left to go, Tariq Owens threw up his fifth block of the game on a three-point attempt by Hachimura to preserve the Red Raiders' six-point lead. Owens finished with nine points, seven boards and five blocks.

                     

    Next Round

    Texas Tech will face the winner of Sunday’s matchup between Duke and Michigan State in the program's first-ever Final Four appearance in Minneapolis next Saturday.

              

    —Updated by Carol Schram

No. 1 Virginia 80, No. 3 Purdue 75 (OT)

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    If you were looking for a game that was going to be slow, methodical and defensively minded, this probably wasn't your cup of tea right from the opening tip.

    Purdue continued to rain threes while Virginia did everything it could—somewhat successfully—to keep pace. The Boilermakers led from the start, but the Cavaliers were never far behind, nipping at the heels of the Big Ten regular-season co-champions.

    The ACC regular-season co-champions cut into a Purdue lead that once stood at 10 and trailed by just one at the half, 30-29. And after the first possession of the second half, the Cavs took their first lead of the game.

    And the Cavaliers kept right on going. But it was Purdue's turn to chase. How? The Boilers simply gave the ball to Carsen Edwards. Everything he touched seemed to turn to gold—or, more accurately, points.

    After a 7-0 Purdue run, the Boilermakers found themselves back in the lead with four minutes remaining.

    Back and forth, back and forth, and then, Edwards.

    And just when it looked as if Purdue had landed the knockout blow, leading by three with five seconds left and Virginia shooting a pair of free throws, a make and miss combined with an offensive rebound and a last-second prayer two-point shot from Mamadi Diakite sent the game to overtime—because this game was just too good to last only 40 minutes.

    Overtime provided more of the same: thrilling, late-March tournament basketball.

    More back-and-forth battling, and it came down to a three-point attempt for Edwards. And despite his 10 previous makes, this attempt rolled off the rim. A pair for Virginia free throws pushed the Cavs' lead to three with 5.7 seconds remaining.

    With one more chance, the Boilers didn't get a shot off. An errant pass from Edwards sailed out of bounds.

    One of the best games of the year was essentially decided by a turnover from the guy with one of the best individual performances in NCAA tournament history. Virginia advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 1984.

       

    Top Performers

    Carsen Edwards, enough said.

    Despite the loss, it's hard to look at a guy who scored 42 points, including 10 made threes, and name anyone else as the top performer.

    For Virginia, Kyle Guy had 25 points and 10 rebounds while Ty Jerome had 24

    X-Factor

    There were so many X-factors. Virginia couldn't contain Carsen Edwards, but Purdue didn't have enough firepower from the rest of the roster to pull out the win in the end.

    Virginia never let the game get out of reach and used a combination of calm skill, efficiency from the free-throw line (85.0 percent) and a little luck at just the right time to pull out a thrilling, regional-title-clinching victory. 

       

    Next Round

    The Virginia Cavaliers will face off in the Final Four against the Kentucky-Auburn winner.

       

    Updated by David Luther