Night Court: Florida, Dayton, Zona, Bucky: Half the Elite Eight set
Wrapping up the first half of the Sweet 16 with analysis on each game.
Wisconsin 69, Baylor 52: An absolute coaching clinic by Bo Ryan in the West Region semis. Ryan gets to his second Elite Eight ever, doing it out in Anaheim, Calif. The No. 2 Badgers (29-7) never trailed and knocked out Baylor (26-12), making its third Sweet 16 appearance in five years. Wisconsin will be a fear for whatever team it faces in the Elite Eight, Arizona or San Diego State. The offense was smooth. The passing: gorgeous. Bucky might not have played five better games this season. Frank Kaminsky had a game-high 19. It was methodical to see how Ryan's team broke down Baylor's zone so efficiently.
Senior Cory Jefferson had a team-high 15 for Baylor. Scott Drew doesn't get back to another Elite Eight, but had you told Bears fans when their team was 2-8 in the Big 12 that they'd be playing in the Sweet 16, they would have taken it. It's a sour end for Baylor, but Drew did a really good job in getting the Bears to a six seed to begin with. This wasn't Baylor's most talented team, by any means. You make a Sweet 16, the rest is usually gravy.
Wisconsin's been waiting and hungry for another shot at a Final Four. Now it gets it. Can Sam Dekker, a surefire future NBA pick, lead the charge to get Ryan to the ultimate stage? Can't wait to see what this team brings on Saturday night. -- Matt Norlander
Dayton (26-10) was barely challenged. The Flyers jumped out to an early lead, going on a 16-4 run midway through the first half. They made six straight field goals to get some separation early, and Stanford couldn't really get over the hump the rest of the game. Dayton had an answer for each of Stanford's runs, spreading the floor with at least four shooters and beating the Cardinal down the court in transition.
Moreover, the Flyers' depth had a huge edge on Stanford. When the Cardinal's frontline got into foul trouble, there was a major dropoff to the bench. Dayton, though, went 12 deep and got production from its bench. Kendall Pollard had 12 points off the pine.
Chasson Randle collected 21 for the Cardinal (23-13).
Dayton will face Florida in the regional final. -- Jeff Borzello
Florida 79, UCLA 68: It was one of the nation's best defenses vs. one of the nation's best offenses -- and defense won out in the East Regional. Florida always seemed to be in control of this one, getting out to an early lead and keeping the cushion between five and eight points for most of the second half. UCLA made a few runs after halftime, but Florida would get big shots from Michael Frazier (19 points) or Scottie Wilbekin (13 points) to hold off the Bruins. Chris Walker also provided a big boost for the Gators, as he had seven points and three rebounds off the bench while Patric Young was in foul trouble.
UCLA couldn't get its transition game going, as Florida would throw its token press at the Bruins and then get back in the half-court and pack in the arc. The Bruins were forced to settle for a lot of shots from the perimeter, shooting just 3 of 18 from behind the 3-point line. Because Florida took care of the ball -- and shared it, with 22 assists on 29 shots -- UCLA had to play much slower than it wanted.
In what was likely his last college game, Kyle Anderson had 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists for UCLA.
Florida will face Dayton in the regional final. -- Jeff Borzello
Arizona 70, San Diego State 64: What a prideful season the Aztecs leave behind. The No. 4 seed in the West region was felled by No. 1 Arizona Thursday night, meaning we'll have the only No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the Elite Eight this year coming out of this quadrant of the bracket. Before we get to Arizona, some love for Steve Fisher's 31-5 Aztecs, who had the lead for a large portion of this game. Xavier Thames, the Mountain West Player of the Year, is a senior who leaves behind one of the strongest legacies of any Aztecs player -- ever. He had stones and guts made of titanium. Hit dozens of huge shots for his team this year, and even tonight, wherein he put up a game-high 25 points. The good news for SDSU fans: A No. 4 seed will be the floor for this team next season. The group Fisher has coming in will make the Aztecs a preseason top 25 team. This was supposed to be the "down" year.
As for the game tonight, Sean Miller's probably not had 10 wins he's more proud of in his entire career. His team was down but rallied, thanks to 15 points from Nick Johnson in the final three minutes of the game. Johnson hadn't scored previous to that. What composure from the team's most valuable player. Johnson and Aaron Gordon each had 15 points. Gordon provided one of the highlights of the season in college basketball when he threw down this alley-oop.
Miller's now 11-0 in his career when playing a lower-seeded team. And now, you know what's great about Saturday? Either Miller or Bo Ryan will make their first Final Four. -- Matt Norlander
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