NCAA Tournament, Sweet 16 Rewind: All hail the 1-seeds, press offense struggles

Mar 25, 2016, 10:18 PM | Updated: 10:21 pm
Notre Dame players celebrate with Demetrius Jackson during the final seconds of an NCAA college bas...

Notre Dame players celebrate with Demetrius Jackson during the final seconds of an NCAA college basketball game against Wisconsin in the regional semifinals of the men's NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 25, 2016, in Philadelphia. Notre Dame won 61-56. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Felt guilty about picking too few upsets and going, mostly, chalk on your 2016 NCAA Tournament brackets?

Fear not, the field isn’t letting you down. Aside from No. 2 seeds Michigan State and Xavier, the seeding has held up well heading into the Elite Eight of the Big Dance.

On Friday, North Carolina and Virginia closed the Sweet 16 with a sweep for the No. 1 seeds in each region. They joined Kansas and Oregon, who advanced in the NCAA Tournament’s Thursday action and will each face No. 2 seeds, Villanova and Oklahoma, respectively.

The other winners Friday night were No. 6 seed Notre Dame, which beat No. 7 seed Wisconsin, and No. 10 seed Syracuse, which dropped No. 11 seed Gonzaga.

The Orange remain the most surprising of the remaining bunch. They arguably weren’t tournament material but behind 20 points from Michael Gbinije beat Gonzaga 63-60.

Half of the Elite Eight is represented by the ACC and wouldn’t you know it, they’re all on the same side of the bracket.

The Tar Heels will face the Fighting Irish, and the Cavaliers square off against Syracuse on Sunday.

Things have changed since then, but whatever it’s worth, Virginia beat the Orange 73-65 back on Jan. 24. UNC split the season series against Notre Dame, losing by four on Feb. 6 and then drubbing the Irish 78-47 on March 11.

Breaking the press is hard

A confounding theme to the tourney of confounding play against defensive presses late in games continued Friday.

Notre Dame came out on top because of it.

Point guard Demetrius Jackson’s two late steals made up for his struggles on the offensive end. First with 16 seconds left in the Fightin Irish victory, Jackson’s steal in the Zags backcourt and layup put the Irish ahead, 56-55.

After Notre Dame survived a possession of defense and hit two free throws for a three-point lead, Wisconsin’s final shot at redemption ended with Jackson simply doing Badger Bronson Koenig dirty, taking the ball out of his hands with a couple seconds remaining as the point guard attempted to bring the ball up the court.

Gonzaga, in its loss to Syracuse, also struggled mightily against a trapping press put on by the Orange.

Ingram’s (likely) farewell goes well

Duke freshman Brandon Ingram, the potential first-overall NBA Draft pick, played his farewell game in a Duke uniform with positive results against an Oregon team seemingly structured to stop such a perimeter threat.

On Thursday, Ingram scored 24 points on 9-of-20 shooting and got to the foul stripe six times. He added five boards, three assists, two steals and a block.

While Ingram and his Blue Devil teammates many times struggled finishing at the rim against the Ducks’ matchup zone, ability to switch and center Jordan Bell, who patrolled the paint well with three blocks, Ingram did show the touch to provide promise that he will succeed at the next level with added strength.

Moreover, Ingram didn’t let a few of his shots getting blocked take him out of the game. He remained aggressive and showed more of the alpha-dog mentality that should be promising for whichever NBA squad earns the first pick.

Following Ingram’s lead, sophomore forward Domantas Sabonis of Gonzaga likely closed his collegiate career with a 19-point, 17-rebound, 5-block performance in a loss to Syracuse.

Other notable NBA prospects who bowed out the last two days: Maryland’s Melo Trimble and Diamond Stone, Iowa State’s Monte Morris and Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell.

Referees don’t please

We leave you with a final screen shot of an important play. With the shot clock off, an over-penetration and kickout by Gonzaga was perfectly read by Trevor Cooney of Syracuse, who grabbed the pass in the corner for a steal.

But an official, to Cooney’s back and down the sideline, called out of bounds with 12 seconds left.

It was not.

The play was not reviewable, but the Zags, off an inbound, couldn’t score thanks to a Tyler Lydon block. Lydon grabbed the ball, was immediately fouled and hit two free throws to seal the win for the Orange.

Penguin Air

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