NCAA Tournament: Sweet Sixteen & Elite Eight Recap

Another magical four days of tournament basketball. Some hope was crushed while other dreams live on. Here's what happened.

Inevitability of Gonzaga

Since opening night, Gonzaga making a championship run has felt inevitable. Not only have they stayed undefeated, but their closest win was five points, and every other victory was by at least ten points. This Gonzaga team will go down as one of the best college teams of all time. They can win with any style of play and have an elite offense and defense.

Unlike most experienced college teams, this Gonzaga team has multiple players who will play in the NBA. Jalen Suggs is a sure-fire top-five pick who wows with his playmaking, athleticism, and open court play on a nightly basis. He is the highest-rated recruit Gonzaga has ever signed, and he lived up to the hype. Corey Kispert is the best shooter in the country and could be a lottery pick. His game not only dominates college basketball but will also seamlessly translate to the NBA. Even Joel Ayayi and Drew Timme have NBA potential with their versatility and willingness to do the little things.

Gonzaga's tournament run has been a breeze. There hasn't been a game where they felt legitimately threatened. They'll likely face their toughest tests in their next game or two, but an undefeated season and the program's first title seems inevitable at this point.

Good for Baylor

For years, Baylor has been the good team who could never win anything. This season, Baylor finally broke through and made their first Final Four since 1950. Baylor has had an incredible season from start to finish, and regardless of how it ends, they will be remembered as one of the best college teams of the decade.

This team is experienced, versatile, deep, and entertaining. Gonzaga's role players find a way to make meaningful impacts every game, and they have one of the best college backcourts of all time. Jared Butler is a quality defender, passer, and shooter. He is a finalist for National Player of the Year and could easily be a first-round pick.

Davion Mitchell, however, exploded this season and is a lottery talent, at least in my view. Mitchell is the best perimeter defender in the country. His athleticism and footwork allow him to defend anyone on the perimeter. He is competitive and frequently anticipates his opponent's drives before they even make a move. Mitchell has also emerged as a legitimate offensive threat. He led the Big 12 in assists, has the quickest first step in the country, and improved his three-point percentage to 45 percent (a 13 percent improvement from last season) on 4.7 attempts per game. Mitchell is one of the best guards in the country and could easily lead Baylor to a National Championship.

Is Houston Any Good?

I haven't been much of a believer in Houston all season, but here we are with them in the Final Four. It is the school's first Final Four since the historically great Phi Slama Jama team. This year's Houston team plays good defense and is led by former five-star recruit Quinten Grimes. Yet, I still can't buy into this Houston team actually being good.

Why? Well, they've had the easiest run to the Final Four in the history of the tournament. That statement isn't me slandering their opponents; it is an actual fact. Houston is the first team in the tournament's history to face four double-digit seeds in one tournament.

Besides that, Houston only had three wins in the regular season against tournament teams. They beat Texas Tech, a six-seed, and Wichita State (twice), an 11 seed in a play-in game. Houston shouldn't apologize for their wins, and they should absolutely celebrate the crap out of this achievement. I'm just not convinced they aren't going to get slaughtered by Baylor.

Invincible No More

Every tournament has incredible runs from the unlikeliest of heroes. This year's tournament blessed us with the lights-out shooting of Buddy Boeheim and Max Abbas's scoring dominance. Like all stories, their runs came to an end. Unfortunately for them, though, there was no happily-ever-after ending.

After shooting 13-23 from three while averaging 27.5 points in Syracuse's first two tournament games, Boeheim came crashing back to Earth. With 3-13 shooting and 12 points, Boeheim's magic shooting touch ran out, and Syracuse's tournament run ends as it usually does. Their gimmick defense gives teams a lot of issues in the first weekend, and they have a role player get ungodly hot from outside who carries their offense. By the second weekend, though, teams have figured out the zone, and the hot shooting has faded. While it may have been a short-lived run, Boeheim's incredible shooting will at least earn him away onto the One Shining Moment montage.

Unlike Syracuse, Oral Roberts was a legitimate Cinderella story. Led by their unassuming guard Max Abmas, Oral Roberts' run came to an end as Abmas missed a three at the buzzer. Abbas was one of the most electric scorers in this tournament averaging 26.7 points per game. He knocked down step-back threes, beat defenders off the dribble, and scored in the mid-range. Abmas' performance spearheaded Oral Roberts' unlikely run and put him in legitimate draft consideration.

Upsets Suck

Fine, that may be a bit extreme, but I generally stand by it. One or two runs can be fun, but when we have multiple, especially in the same region, we end up with some genuinely awful basketball. Oregon State had no business being in the tournament this year before they won their conference tournament. However, they got extraordinarily hot at the right time and had some enjoyable games—however, the Oregon State vs. Loyola game was one of the worst games of the season. It was a rock fight in which I hoped both teams lost. That match-up could have been Cade Cunningham vs. Illinois, which, at least on paper, would have been exponentially more entertaining.

Leonard Hamilton

Leonard Hamilton is an iconic college basketball coach and a wonderful human being. Unfortunately, he failed to reach the Final Four yet again despite having a very good team. To make things worse for him, it was a loss to Michigan again. It seems to be an emerging trend in recent years. While Hamilton failed to reach the Final Four, what he did yet again with this Florida State team must be applauded.

At 71, Hamilton had yet another team enter the tournament as a high seed. Hamilton has propelled a school traditionally known as a football school to be one of the best basketball programs in one of the most storied college basketball conferences. His teams are always competitive, athletic, and more players are in the rotation than aren't. Hamilton may never reach a Final Four, but that doesn't mean that he isn't one of the country's best coaches.

Pain

For nearly every fan base, the result of the tournament is pain. Sure, there are upsets, and teams will exceed expectations, but only one team wins in the end. Sixty-seven other teams and fanbases experience nothing but heartbreak. Personally, Michigan just finished ripping my soul to pieces. After an extraordinary season, hopes were incredibly high. Once the Isaiah Livers news came out, I knew a title wasn't going to happen, but to lose like that is heartbreaking. It was easily the worst game Michigan played all season. They diverted from who they were all season by turning the ball over, avoiding the three, and not finishing at the rim. Livers ending his college career like that feels wrong. It feels empty. It's pain. I appreciate you staying with my therapy session because I know you can relate. Insert your own there; it'll help.

While pain and disappointment are a common and inevitable theme of the tournament, that's not what it's truly about. Sixty-four teams have been eliminated, but four teams remain, which means they are overflowing with hope. So, let's wrap up with that thought. Vent and expel the pain of your program's loss, but then embrace the hope and joy that the remaining teams play with. Enter each game hoping for an incredible contest with a thrilling ending. Hope that history gets made in an unforgettable way. I may be torn up about this Michigan team losing because there are players I've watched grow up for the last few years, but I'm incredibly excited for the remaining three games.

Like what you've read? Share it with your friends on      or  

Go ad-free by supporing Hashtag Basketball on Patreon for $2/mo

More Information

Premium Fantasy Basketball Tools

Import Yahoo & Fantrax leagues and analyze them with our free tools.

More information

2021 NBA Draft Prospects

Meet the top 45 prospects of the 2021 NBA Draft.

More information

© 2014-2021 Hashtag Basketball