Here’s a look at matchups set for the Elite Eight.
Texas Tech could reach its first Final Four, while Gonzaga’s a win from its second in three seasons
A showdown of two No. 1s determines the West Regional’s bid to the 2019 Final Four, as the top-ranked Texas Tech defense faces the nation’s best offense in Gonzaga.
The third-seeded Red Raiders and top seed Bulldogs advanced to Saturday’s Elite Eight at Honda Center with double-digit-point margins of victory in the Sweet 16, but the nature of their victories differed dramatically. Gonzaga used a balanced offense to overcome Florida State’s length and defensive prowess, ultimately pulling away from a four-point deficit late in the game.
Texas Tech physically battered Michigan and stymied every look the Wolverines had at the hoop. The Red Raiders’ overwhelming defense turned into offense in the second half, as star Jarrett Culver spread the wealth en route to a lopsided win.
The clash in styles sets the tone for this Elite Eight showdown.
Expect plenty of offense as one of these teams will break a lengthy Final Four drought
The Purdue Boilermakers and the Virginia Cavaliers do have some things in common. They both won their respective conference regular-season championship this year, they both received top-three seeds in this year’s NCAA Tournament, they’re looking to end their Final Four droughts (1980 for Purdue, 1984 for Virginia) and they’re both looking for their first-ever national championship. But that’s where the similarities end. Both teams thus far have surpassed Tournament expectations.
Purdue (26-9) has had a reputation of reaching the NCAA Tournament on a somewhat regular basis but struggles when trying to advance past the second round. Virginia (32-3), on the other hand, is still haunted by last year’s shocking upset loss in the first round to No. 16 UMBC. Now they must face one another in order to write the next chapter and continue to make history for their programs. Very few expected both of these teams to reach the Elite Eight, but here we are and this game will be fun to watch with a trip to the Final Four hanging in the balance.
The Boilermakers easily defeated Old Dominion and defending national champion Villanova in the first two rounds, but they needed overtime to defeat Tennessee in the Sweet 16 on Thursday after blowing an 18-point lead. The Cavaliers, however, have been shooting at will in this Tournament as they easily dispatched Gardner-Webb in round one, edged Oklahoma in round two, and staved off a pesky Oregon team in the Sweet 16. These are two of the best offensive teams in this Tournament and they’ll likely have to outshoot the other in order to advance.
Top two seeds in East Region meet in heavyweight battle for spot in Final Four
Two legendary coaches in Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski will meet each other with a Final Four berth on the line Sunday.
The Michigan State Spartans (31-6) and the Duke Blue Devils (32-5) will face off in Washington, D.C. on Sunday to determine the winner of the East Region and which team moves on to the Final Four in Minneapolis. On Friday night, No. 2 seed Michigan State handled No. 3 LSU 80-63. Hours later, No. 1 overall seed Duke escaped with a 75-73 win over ACC rival and No. 4 Virginia Tech.
Izzo and Krzyzewski have a combined 19 Final Four appearances between them but only one will be able to add to their career total this year.
SEC rivals meet for the third time this season with a Final Four berth on the line
One SEC team is guaranteed a Final Four berth in 2019.
Auburn and Kentucky will clash for a third time this season in the Midwest Regional Final on Sunday. The Tigers are playing in the Elite Eight for the first time since 1986 and have never advanced to the Final Four. The Wildcats, on the other hand, are seeking their first Final Four appearance since 2015.
It’s safe to say that Auburn faces long odds to get past Kentucky. The Wildcats swept the Tigers in the regular season and are the last team to hand Auburn a defeat. It certainly isn’t impossible though with how Auburn has played up to this point.
Auburn has won 11 straight games. The two most recent victories were convincing blowout wins over No. 4 seed Kansas and No. 1 North Carolina. The Tigers are on a roll offensively, averaging 88.0 points per game in the NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky has used defense to get to this point. The Wildcats are allowing 52.6 points per game to offset some average offensive performances. They scored just 62 points in wins over Wofford and Houston.