1. (1) Virginia VS (3) Purdue:
This is up for being a top 5 game of the decade. This game was a back and forth affair between the Cavilers and the Boilermakers, and future NBA draft picks Carsen Edwards, Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, and De’Andre Hunter all stared in the game. Edwards led all players with 42 points and shot 10 for 19 behind the arch. Edwards was named the regional’s most outstanding player, which was the first time that a player on a losing team earned this award since Stephen Curry did it at Davidson in 2008. Edwards finished the tournament with 139 points in four games, which averaged out to 34.7 points per game. The game’s unlikely hero, Mamadi Diakite, hit a fadeaway Mid-Range jumper over Matt Haarms to force an overtime period. Virginia triumphed over Purdue in OT, outscoring the Boilermakers ten points to five in the extra period, and winning 80 to 75. Virginia would go on to punch their ticket to the NCAA Championship game against Texas Tech, where they would take down the mighty Red Raiders 85 to 77 and cap off their magical tournament run.
2. (1) Duke VS (9) UCF:
Duke had the names and the star power in the form in Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and Cam Reddish. UCF had a former Duke alum roaming the sidelines in Johnny Dawkins and his son Aubrey leading the team. They also had 7’6″ Tacko Fall manning the middle. Few thought that would be enough to topple the mighty Blue Devils, but it almost was. And by almost, I mean inches. That's how close the Golden Knights came to the biggest win in school history. Williamson would lead Duke with 32 points, and none were bigger than they layup he hit to pull the Blue Devils within one point with just under 15 seconds left in the game. He would draw the fifth foul on Fall and would head to the line to tie the game. Instead of tying the game, he missed the free throw, but Barrett would grab the offensive rebound and would lay the ball in, giving Duke a one-point lead. UCF would get their chance to knock off Coach K's team, and what a chance it would be. B.J. Taylor would drive to his right and get a decent shot off, but it came off the rim. Aubrey Dawkins would be there for the tip-in and it rolled on almost every part of the rim before falling off, giving Duke the 1-point win. Dawkin's tip seemed designated to go into the bottom of the rim and give the Knights a program-defining win, but it was just not meant to be. Except for the last tip not falling, Dawkins did everything he could to help the Knights win as he scored 32 points and matched Williamson as the highest scorer for the game. The close loss would be a sign of things to come for the Blue Devils as they could never quite get on track in the tournament. UCF put themselves on the College Basketball map with this game and just missed a trip to the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history.
3. (1) Duke VS (2) Michigan State:
Duke had all the hyped-up draft prospects and Michigan State had all the injuries. This game should have been a cake-walk for Duke. Michigan State was considered a Final Four caliber team all year, but with the injury of Joshua Langford and Nick Ward, it looked like they wouldn’t have enough firepower to knock off the 5-time National Champions. The injuries to Langford and Ward didn't seem to matter for the Spartans in the regular season, as they still won the Big Ten regular-season and the Big Ten Tournament, but they still looked vulnerable in a closer than expected game against Bradley in the first round. They ran by Minnesota in the second round and crushed LSU in the Sweet 16, and were matched up with a Duke team coming off back-to-back close calls. Duke had escaped a last-second tip by UCF and a missed layup to tie against Virginia Tech to make it to the Elite Eight. It looked in the first half that Duke could take control of the game, but a 13-0 run by the Spartans to close out the half would send Michigan State to the locker room up by four points. The second half would remain close, as a four-point lead by Duke was the biggest lead of the half. It became the Williamson and Barrett show for the Blue Devils, but the lack of help from everyone else was too much for them to overcome. Even with that, they still had a one-point lead late when Kenny Goins hit a three-pointer with 39 seconds left to take the lead. A foul would send Barrett to the line, but he missed the first free throw and tried to miss the second on purpose, but it unexpectedly went in. The Spartans were able to get the ball to Cassius Winston and he dribbled out the clock to secure the win. Winston led the Spartans with 20 points, and more importantly, was the heart and soul for a Spartans team that just kept winning in the tournament.
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4. (3) LSU VS (6) Maryland:
This game may have flown under the radar in the second round, but turned out to be one of the best games of the second round. The way the game started though, it didn’t seem like it would be a good game at all. LSU jumped out to an early lead and led by as many as 15 points in the first half. Maryland was able to cut the lead to nine at halftime, but it still looked like LSU was going to cruise to victory and make it to the Sweet 16 with ease. The second half didn’t start much better for the Terrapins, as LSU would race back out to a 15 point lead again with 16 minutes left to go in the game. But this is when Maryland would slowly start to creep back into the game. The Tigers would hit a three with 10:20 left in the game to take a seven-point lead, but would score one point over the next five minutes. During that time, Maryland would score 12 points to take their first lead of the game. Over the last five minutes of the game, we finally got the game we all hoped for. LSU would hit a three with 20 seconds left, only for Jalen Smith to tie it again with a 3 of his own. It looked like the game would be headed to overtime, but Tremont Waters was able to drive past three defenders and get a great look at a layup that Maryland was unable to stop. The shot would fall and even though the Terrapins had a couple of seconds left, they were not able to get a good look at the basket, and LSU advanced to the Sweet 16 in a nail-biter, winning 69 to 67.
5. (5) Auburn VS (12) New Mexico State:
Auburn’s run to the Final Four was almost stopped before it even got started. The Tigers were almost bitten in the first round against New Mexico State. After being down briefly in the first half, the Tigers appeared to take control of the second half in what looked like an easy win. They even lead by eight points with just over two minutes left to go in the game, but then it got crazy. The Aggies would hit a layup with 50 seconds left in the game to cut the lead to five. A free throw made it four, and a three-pointer to cut it to one, and all of a sudden, Auburn was in danger of losing the game. After a few free throws made by both sides, the Aggies had the ball down two. A.J. Harris would drive the ball past the Tigers defense for a wide-open layup to tie the game, only for Terrell Lewis to attempt a wide-open three in the corner and miss it. However, Auburn was whistled for a foul, and Brown would get a second chance to win the game from the line. Unfortunately for the Aggies, he missed the first and the third of his free throws, but they would get another chance as Auburn knocked the ball out of bounds on the rebound attempt. This gave the Aggies one more shot to knock off the high-powered Tigers. They got a good look at a three, but it clanked off the rim and Auburn escaped unscathed. It was a crazy last minute that almost saw Auburn choke away their chance at advancing in the tournament. This game turned out to be a wake-up call for the Tigers, as they ended up blowing past the rest of their competition on their way to their first Final Four appearance ever. The Aggies went home thinking about what could have been as they were two missed free throws away from pulling off the biggest upset of the first round.