March Madness: Elite Eight picture complete after night of big wins

March Madness

Sweet Sixteen of the 2017 NCAA March Madness season tipped off on Thursday. As we reported yesterday, while the top seeds sailed through to the Elite Eight, the four contests also showed why Sweet Sixteen is such a minefield. 11th seed Xavier took out second seed Arizona in one of the shocks of the Big Dance so far.

On Friday, the remaining Sweet Sixteen games of this season’s March Madness took place. There were big victories carved out by North Carolina, Kentucky, and South Carolina. Florida, however, was made to work harder and needed a buzzer beater in OT to progress.

North Carolina (1) passes Butler (4)


North Carolina looked classy as the Tar Heels eased passed the Butler Bulldogs 80-92 to make the Elite Eight. NC put in a strong offensive display that was driven by the scoring exploits of Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson.

Berry drained 26 points to lead the win, while Jackson connected with 24 points. Also worthy of mention is Luke Maye, who produced his first career double-double (16 points and 12 rebounds) to pace the Tar Heels in the early stages. North Carolina got much of the work done through a commanding 36-52 first half. Butler made a go of it in the second, but the result rarely looked in doubt.

The Tar Heels will now lock horns with Kentucky in the last eight stage of March Madness.

UCLA (3) dropped by Kentucky (2)


Kentucky booked its place in Elite Eight against North Carolina with a 75-86 success of the UCLA Bruins. The Wildcats were made to work hard in a close first half that saw Kentucky lead 33-36 at the long break. However, the second half was another story as the second seed found some offensive momentum and poured in 50 points to overwhelm UCLA.

De’Aaron Fox had a game to remember has he netted a career-high 39 points in the victory. Fox’s exploits gained notoriety as he became the highest scoring freshman in NCAA history and the highest score from anybody since Tayshaun Prince dropped 41 against Tulsa in 2002.

Kentucky heads into the Elite Eight nursing a 14-game winning run, the longest current streak in the division.

South Carolina (7) crushes Baylor (3)


Baylor suffered is worst ever NCAA tournament defeat as the South Carolina Gamecocks turned it on for a 70-50 win. Without being too spectacular, SC stayed consistent at the bucket and claimed 46% from two points distance and 40% from beyond the arc. It was enough to sweep aside a Baylor team that simply got stuck in first gear.

The story of the Gamecock’s tournament is their impressive end of drought form. The team had not won a tournament game since 1973 before this season, but has now won three on the spin.

Despite Jonathan Motley securing a double-double of 18 points and 12 boards, the Bears made just 30.4% of its field efforts. The team started with a torrid touch at the basket, claiming just one of its first 13 attempts from open play.

Florida (4) edges Wisconsin (8)


Florida will meet South Carolina after the Gators defeated the Wisconsin Badger 83-84 to make Elite Eight. While the other games tonight were generally one-sided, this contest went to the wire and was decided in overtime.

The teams were locked 72-72 at the end of regulation, meaning the fans were treated to some bonus hoops. Buckets were traded through the added frame before Chris Chiozza stepped up sent on in from downtown with 3 second remaining.

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