Saturday, March 24, 2018

Kansas or Duke to the Final Four?

Photo credits to New York Post
Some have said that the Midwest Regional is one of the toughest brackets in the tournament. Traditional names like Kansas and Duke, along with Michigan State, Syracuse and Auburn were among the names in the Midwest regional.

Duke upended a scrappy eleven seeded Syracuse 69-65, while Kansas found a way to win against Clemson 80-76, after the Tigers stormed back, cutting into a 20-point deficit.

Only two could compete for a berth in the Final Four, and a variation of great Elite Eight games could have come from this bracket, but Coach K vs Bill Self was among the most glamorous and most realistic.

“We just got to come out ready to play from the beginning,” Duke Freshman Marvin Bagley said of the matchup against Kansas. “We were kind of slacking this game. I think we’ll be ready for that game. Everybody’s going to be up. We should be coming out strong.”

Duke started slow, trying to force its way down the floor before the Syracuse zone set up, and it turned into more turnovers than points. But Duke settled down and put together a 10-0 run right before the half and never gave the lead back.

Kansas used a terrific three point shooting game to push the lead to 20 points to open the second half, and played like the No. 1 seed for most of the game. But the scrappy Clemson team that came off a blowout win against No. 4 Auburn, wouldn’t go away. The Tigers got the lead down to six with just under three left but Kansas hit clutch free throws and set up the matchup that every pundit wanted to see.

The inside matchup of Udoka Azubuike and Bagley will be a good one to watch. Bagley finished 8-of-12, knocking down 6-of-8 from the line, with 22 points and seven rebounds.

Azubuike controlled the paint for Kansas against Clemson and his presence was certainly felt in the post. Azubuike posted another double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds to pace the Jayhawks to victory. Azubuike has easily become the most important asset for the surging Jayhawks who hasn’t seen much from its senior guard Devonte Graham thus far in the tournament.

“He makes everything easier for us,” Graham said. “You know, we get to play off of him. We always say throw the ball inside, play around Doke because it’s hard to guard him inside and he can get angles easily.”This is familiar territory for the Jayhawks as they’ve been in the Elite Eight for the last two years. In both instances, they were sent home and found their Final Four dreams crushed. This time around with a healthy Azubuike and a great outside shooting team, who just made 10 three-pointers, want to finally push themselves over the hump and make their first Final Four since 2012.

“I mean I think about it all the time. I just told the guys in the locker room, I’ve been here the last two years and this year we gotta get over that hump,” Graham said. “So Udoka is going to make a huge difference. When he’s in there, like I said, his presence is, you can’t duplicate it, and he’s a big factor to our team.”

Find me on Twitter @MitchellDeAnte


Post a Comment

Keep the comments clean folks!