Virginia was the No. 1 seed, the ACC champ and the team some thought could out-Michigan State Michigan State -- make a long tourney run with gritty veteran players and in-your-face defense. It turned out, like it usually does, with the Spartans advancing, 61-59. Virginia's defense was good; Michigan State's was better. The Cavs shot just 35.1 percent. This is Izzo's eighth Elite Eight in 17 seasons at Michigan State. And you never hear about the Spartans getting one-and-done studs or can't-miss McDonald's All-Americans. No, Izzo has his system with tough, blue-collar kids playing lockdown defense. Michigan State's best pro prospect is Gary Harris and he scored a whopping six points. Didn't matter. The Spartans won because they were tougher and played better defense. It's a formula that has worked for Izzo for almost two decades.
Kiichiro Sato/APKiichiro Sato
If DeAndre Daniels excels, UConn can win the whole thing
Connecticut was a No. 7 seed for a reason. The book on the Huskies is that they have great guard play, a solid defense and little else. All year UConn relied way too much on star point guard Shabazz Napier. The difference in the NCAA tournament has been DeAndre Daniels. A highly touted prospect coming out of high school, the junior swingman has been maddeningly inconsistent until now. Daniels, who averaged 12.6 points and 5.6 rebounds in the regular season, was an absolute monster in Friday's 81-76 win over No. 3 Iowa State in the East Regional semifinals. The 6-foot-9 forward dropped in 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. He was long, versatile, athletic and extremely hard to guard. If he can continue making shots from mid-range and beyond, UConn may even win the whole thing.
Michigan turned to mush in the final minute
The No. 2 Wolverines looked like the better team all night in their 73-71 win over No. 11 Tennessee on Friday night – at least until the final minute. It started with a Michigan turnover with 42 seconds left and the Wolverines up 72-67. After a Vols score with 23 seconds left to cut it to 72-69, Michigan's Glen Robinson Jr. threw the ball away, leading to a Vols layup with 13 seconds left, cutting it to 72-71. Michigan's Caris LeVert then stepped on the baseline while catching an inbounds pass for another turnover. Michigan then dodged a big bullet as Jarnell Stokes committed an offensive foul on the ensuing play and the Vols were forced to foul. Nik Stauskas missed the second of two free throws, but the Vols' desperation heave wasn't close.
APDavid J. Phillip
That’s why Nick Johnson’s the Pac-12 player of the year
Junior guard Nick Johnson willed top-seeded Arizona to a 70-64 win over San Diego State on Thursday night, scoring 15 points down the stretch after a 0-for-10 start to the game. By the end, 2 for 12 never looked so good. Rim-outs and bad bounces had Johnson almost convinced it wasn't going to be his night. But with 2:45 left and Arizona clinging to a three-point lead, the Pac-12 player of the year finally scored -- and then scored again and scored some more. Johnson said the team saw him "down and struggling, but they picked me up," and he returned the favor, scoring all of his team-high-tying 15 points in the final 2:43.
Florida’s the team to beat
All season, Florida proved itself just a smidge better than everyone else. Point-in-time arguments could be made for other teams, but make no mistake: Florida is this tournament's team to beat. No. 1 Florida controlled Thursday’s 79-69 victory over No. 4 UCLA for 40 minutes despite getting the Bruins’ very best shot. Four Gators scored 10-or-more points. Florida absolutely smothered UCLA's ball movement, allowing only 12 assists to one of the top assist teams in the nation. Florida dominated the boards, as well, in winning its 29th straight game. The advantage this year, as Coach Billy Donovan's men face a deep, upstart Cinderella Dayton team in Saturday's Elite Eight game, is this: They've been here before. This is their fourth straight season in the Elite Eight.
This Wisconsin team is better and tougher than it looks
"Our team kind of fails that eye test, if you know what I mean," Badgers center Frank Kaminsky said. "You look at our team and you look at their team on the court ... who do you think they're going to pick? They're going to say the tall, athletic guys." But Wisconsin showed that’s not the case in Thursday’s 69-52 win over No. 6 Baylor. Just four days earlier, Baylor destroyed Creighton by 30. But against Baylor the Badgers put on a clinic in the art of pump fakes, shot fakes and ball movement. Wisconsin's passing was so precise that it resembled a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition. "We're the type of team that wants to play the good teams,” the Badgers’ Sam Dekker said. “We're not going to back down.”
For a Cinderella, Dayton’s deep … real deep
Dayton showed its depth early in Thursday’s 82-72 victory over No. 10 Stanford, using a dozen players in the first half to wear down the Cardinal. The waves never seemed to stop coming, with 10, 11 and then 12 players giving them quality minutes. "We had 11 guys score in the game, and from top to bottom, we kept coming and coming," Dayton coach Archie Miller said. "The way they shared the ball and moved the ball . . . it was a true team effort. It's nice that on the biggest stage, we acted like ourselves." "They were relentless," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "That's the best way I can put it." The Flyers were good in just about every facet, shooting 48.3 percent (28 of 58) and dishing 19 assists on 28 field goals.