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The Madness Continues!

Sharon Thorsland
March 23, 2018 - 7:52 am

The Sweet 16 tipped off Thursday night in thrilling fashion, with 11th seeded Loyola-Chicago beating Nevada 69-68 to continue their Cinderella run through the NCAA tournament.  Then Kentucky “drank the poison” of over confidence and got ousted by Kansas State.  And I'm happy to report that Texas A&M got routed by Michigan, getting a taste of their own medicine after they whipped defending champ North Carolina in similar fashion in the round of 32.  With my Tar Heels out of the tournament, I'm moving on to the other ACC teams to carry the torch – except Duke, that is!

Florida State is already in the Elite 8 after an impressive win over Gonazaga last night, and we've got three more ACC teams in action on Friday. Somehow it's worked out that Duke, Syracuse and Clemson are all in the Midwest region, playing in Omaha.  The first game pits the 5th seed Tigers taking on top seed Kansas.  It's a basketball blue blood versus a football school in what's basically a home game for the Jayhawks.  While the Sweet 16 is nothing new for Kansas, this is just the fourth time in school history Clemson has made it this far in the tournament and the first time since 1997.  The Tigers are a physical team and have an excellent defense but slowing down Jayhawks and star Devonte' Graham wont' be easy.  They average over 81 points a game and Graham accounts for 17 of those.  The Tigers have turned into a high scoring team in the tournament, but can they out-duel the Jayhawks?  I think they've got a shot.

If the Tigers manage to upset the Jayhawks, a familiar foe will stand in the way of a Final Four berth.  It's Duke and Syracuse, who meet for just the second time this season.  The Blue Devils won the first match-up in ugly fashion, 60-44.  Duke cruised into the tournament as a number two seed, while Syracuse squeaked in to the Big Dance as the last team chosen, and has busted plenty of brackets, including mine.  They've had to win three games to make it this far, and they've done it with their outstanding defense, allowing just 56, 52 and 58 points in those games.  But as good as the defense has been, the offense has been awful – the Orange hasn't scored more than 60 points in any of those games.  'Cuse will need more scoring than that to compete against a very talented Duke team that features freshman Marvin Bagley, Jr.  The Blue Devils also play a zone defense, so points could be hard to come by in this one.

Whatever happens, we know an ACC school will be in the Elite 8.  While Duke seems like the most likely team to advance, anything can happen – it's March!   

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