NCAA Men's Tournament 2021: Tuesday's Elite Eight Winners and Losers

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 31, 2021

NCAA Men's Tournament 2021: Tuesday's Elite Eight Winners and Losers

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    The Final Four field is officially set.

    The Houston Cougars and Baylor Bears both punched their ticket to the men's NCAA tournament's third weekend on Monday, and they will be joined by the Gonzaga Bulldogs and UCLA Bruins after their victories on Tuesday night.

    After sending their first three opponents packing by a combined 77 points, Gonzaga rolled once again with a 85-66 victory over the USC Trojans. The Bulldogs are in the Final Four for just the second time in school history.

    The unlikely tournament run continued for No. 11 seed UCLA in the second game, as it became the second team in history to reach the Final Four after starting the tournament with a First Four game. The Bruins held on for a 51-49 victory over No. 1 seed Michigan, sending the final Big Ten team packing in the process.

    Let's take a quick run through the biggest winners and losers of the day, beyond just what the scoreboard showed after the final buzzer sounded.

Winner: Drew Timme's NBA Draft Stock

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    Drew Timme
    Drew TimmeDarron Cummings/Associated Press

    There is no doubt Drew Timme is a standout college basketball player.

    The 6'10" sophomore entered Tuesday's game averaging 18.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game while shooting an extremely efficient 65.7 percent from the floor.

    However, there is some question about his NBA future.

    He is not an explosive athlete, and while he has a smooth stroke, he is not yet a threat from beyond the arc with just six made threes on the year.

    Tearing up West Coast Conference opponents this year did little to prove he could be an effective player against high-level competition, but squaring off against presumptive lottery pick and defensive force Evan Mobley and an imposing USC frontcourt gave him a golden opportunity to boost his stock.

    He did just that with 23 points on 10-of-19 shooting, helping the Bulldogs build another big early lead with 15 points in the first half.

    Expect NBA scouts to give him a closer look after Tuesday night's performance.

Loser: USC's Guard Play

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    For all the hype surrounding freshman center Evan Mobley, and to a lesser extent his older brother, Isaiah, stellar guard play is a big reason the USC Trojans reached the Elite Eight.

    Seniors Tahj Eaddy and Isaiah White both performed above their season averages in lopsided wins over Kansas and Oregon.

    • Eaddy vs. Kansas: 12 points, 5/12 FG, 2/5 3PT
    • White vs. Kansas: 13 points, 5/7 FG, 3/4 3PT
    • Eaddy vs. Oregon: 20 points, 7/11 FG, 3/6 3PT
    • White vs. Oregon: 22 points, 8/10 FG, 4/5 3PT

    That pair was simply overmatched by Jalen Suggs, Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi and Co. in Tuesday's matchup with Gonzaga:

    • Eaddy: 11 points, 4/13 FG, 2/6 3PT
    • White: 2 points, 1/4 FG, 0/0 3PT

    Tip of the cap to both players on a stellar tournament. The Zags were just too much.

Winner: The Gonzaga Defense Leads the Way

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    It's no secret Gonzaga can pile up points.

    The Bulldogs were the highest-scoring offense in the nation entering play on Tuesday, averaging 91.8 points per game, and their 89.3 points per contest through three NCAA tournament wins was right in line with that number.

    By no means did they have a down night on the offensive end against USC, tallying 85 points while shooting 50 percent from the floor to score another lopsided win.

    However, the Zags defense was the story of the night.

    The Trojans entered the game averaging nearly 80 points through their three NCAA tournament games, and on paper they looked like they matched up as well as anyone with Gonzaga.

    Instead, they were limited to 38.7 percent from the floor and 26.7 percent from beyond the arc, finishing with 66 points.

    A handful of early steals set the tone, and the Trojans were simply never allowed to settle in on the offensive end thanks to a pesky Gonzaga defense.

    Is anyone going to be able to even slow down the Bulldogs?

Winner: Johnny Juzang's Continued Brilliance

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    Johnny Juzang
    Johnny JuzangMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    Johnny Juzang was forced to watch from the sidelines when UCLA went to overtime against Alabama in the Sweet 16 after fouling out down the stretch in regulation.

    He finished that game 5-of-18 from the floor with 13 points.

    In the three games prior, he had been one the stars of the NCAA tournament, averaging 22.3 points including the First Four matchup with Michigan State.

    How would he respond against Michigan's tough defense?

    Well. Really well.

    The Kentucky transfer poured in a game-high 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting, accounting for more than half his team's points.

    The 6'6" sophomore entered the NCAA tournament averaging 14.0 points per game, and without his emergence as their go-to scorer, the Bruins wouldn't have reached the Final Four.

Loser: Well-Represented Big Ten Gets Shut Out of the Final Four

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    Juwan Howard
    Juwan HowardMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Big Ten was widely regarded as the best conference in the nation this year, sending a conference-record nine teams into the NCAA tournament field.

    With Illinois and Michigan as No. 1 seeds, Ohio State and Iowa as No. 2 seeds and Purdue as a No. 4 seed, its chances of getting a team into the Final Four were higher than any conference in the country.

    Yet here we are.

    Ohio State and Purdue both lost in the first round; Illinois and Iowa fell in the second round; and by the time the Sweet 16 rolled around, Michigan was the only Big Ten team left standing.

    That said, after a convincing 18-point win over Florida State on Sunday, the Wolverines were once again looking like legitimate title contenders.

    In the end, they couldn't capitalize on multiple opportunities.

    Michigan missed four shots in the final 12 seconds, including a pair of good looks from three-point range and a layup off an offensive rebound. When Franz Wagner's last-second heave from three clanged off the rim, it officially marked the end of a wildly disappointing March for the Big Ten.

Winner: UCLA Earns Bragging Rights for the Pac-12

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Pac-12 was largely an afterthought when the NCAA tournament began.

    After going 5-0 in the first round, the college basketball world quickly began to take notice of what the Conference of Champions was doing.

    Four of those teams reached the Sweet 16 and three advanced on to the Elite Eight, including No. 12 seed Oregon State in a wild Midwest Region.

    However, all of that would have been quickly forgotten if they had failed to advance a team to the Final Four.

    It was fitting that to earn a spot, UCLA had to take down the last team standing from the Big Ten, the conference that sent the most teams to the tournament and was talked about all year as the nation's premier college basketball conference.

    It wasn't pretty, but the Bruins got the win, and now the Pac-12 has bragging rights over the ACC and Big Ten, who will both be watching the Final Four from home.

    Can they continue their underdog story against juggernaut Gonzaga?