March Madness 2017: Kansas rolls, Oregon survives
The Kansas Jayhawks won the Big 12 regular-season title once again under head coach Bill Self, looking like a dominant squad heading into the NCAA Tournament. To this point, they have not disappointed.
After breezing through the first two rounds of March Madness, Kansas went home to play in the Sprint Center in Kansas City, and did they ever enjoy some home cooking. In front of a raucous, sellout crowd, the Jayhawks took apart the Purdue Boilermakers in embarrassing fashion. Kansas won 98-66, scoring 51 points in the second half en route to an Elite Eight appearance.
With Kansas, an opponent genuinely has to have its best game, and hope the Jayhawks are having a tough night. Frank Mason Jr. is a terrific senior guard and he showed why on Thursday night, tallying a game-high 26 points on 9-of-11 shooting. Mason’s 26 points were matched by unsung teammate Devonte Graham, a 6-foot-2 junior. On the wing, Josh Jackson was his typically dynamic self, racking up 15 points and 12 rebounds.
It was a tour de force by one of the three remaining No. 1 seeds. Kansas appears to be the best of them all, though. The Jayhawks might have the best player in the tournament with Jackson, despite already having a Naismith Award finalist in Mason. It’s a loaded roster to say the least.
Meanwhile, the Oregon Ducks earned their chance to take down the Jayhawks in a much more heartstopping fashion. The No. 3 seed was able to hold on in the final moments against the No. 7 Michigan Wolverines, a team that has been knocking off one contender after the next since the start of the Big Ten Tournament. Oregon is without one of its best players in Chris Boucher (torn ACL – out for season) but was able to put an end to Michigan’s Cinderella story, 69-68.
Four players finished in double figures for the Ducks, who are onto the Elite Eight. Oregon got huge performances out of Tyler Dorsey and junior forward Jordan Bell. Dorsey totaled a team-high 20 points on the night, continuing to drive the ball and hit from outside in the final minutes. Meanwhile, Bell was able to grab two critical offensive rebounds in the final minute, giving him a double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds for the victors.
Lastly, we have the final in the West region with the Xavier Musketeers and Gonzaga Bulldogs matching up. Xavier came into the tourney as the 11th seed out of the Big East, but has pulled off a trio of upsets over the Maryland Terrapins, Florida State Seminoles and Arizona Wildcats. On the other side, the top-seeded Bulldogs took care of the West Virginia Mountaineers. Neither of these programs have ever been to the Final Four, something that will change for one of them on Saturday night.