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21 March 2017, 01:16 | Andy Ferguson
NCAA Tournament picks up steam just before Sweet 16
After scoring just 23 points in the first half, SC almost tripled that output in the second half, scoring 65 points on 71 percent shooting to topple the Blue Devils. Not only did they have the best records in the conference, but history was on their side. "I think that was the main thing, just walking off the floor like, we didn't attain our goal". SportsLine simulated the Sweet 16, Elite Eight, Final Four and title game 10,000-plus times, and No. 1 seed Gonzaga - a team that has never even made a Final Four - wins the title more often than all but one team.
The Tar Heels rolled in their NCAA opener and now get to play a Razorbacks team that likes to play fast, the opposite of what many teams try to do against Roy Williams' up-tempo bunch.
Despite the lows of the season that included numerous player injuries, the one-game suspension of their star player Grayson Allen, and the four-week absence of Krzyzewski, who was recovering from back surgery, the Blue Devils seemed to have put it all together at the right time.
"And score points", Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski interjected.
After an opening weekend with few stunning upsets but several close games, SC earned a program-defining win to join Kentucky and Florida remain as the only SEC teams left in the NCAA Tournament. "You all keep talking about expectations". A lot of brackets have been broken, but hopefully people still watch despite the likes of Villanova and Duke being knocked out. And they never used it as an excuse.
"I don't know if all the other regions went chalk, but it's 1, 2, 3, 4 in the South", Bruins coach Steve Alford said.
The second-seeded Blue Devils (28-9) lost to the seventh-seeded South Carolina Gamecocks 88-81, bringing an abrupt end to season that will be remembered for a relentless string of distractions and sideshows. They ended up winning the entire tournament for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. On went SC, a team that had not won an NCAA tournament game in the last 44 seasons, readying for the Sweet 16 at the Garden Friday night. "That's the toughest defense we've played against all year".
The Sun Devils were led by Brunner who finished with 20 points. This group was more talented than the 2014 team that lost to Mercer in the round of 64 and it was better than the 2012 team that was done in by C.J. McCollum and Lehigh in their first NCAA tournament game.
"They are a team that's probably much more deserving than an 8, 9 seed", SC coach Dawn Staley said. Let's just play. We're okay.
Duke, which averaged eight 3-pointers a game this season, hit 10 in the opening half to quickly pull away from the Trojans.
- SC had never advanced to the Sweet 16 under the tournament's current format.
"For a freshman point guard, he has been phenomenal", said Martin, "He's been a spark off the bench all year". But South Carolina continued to produce. You get the point, and we could do this all day long.
With South Carolina's victory over Duke on Sunday, those patriots are celebrating now. "Today, we just couldn't find the energy to muster up a late push". The Blue Devils also have a distinct coaching advantage.
The other what-just-happened moment came in the first-round game between Northwestern and Vanderbilt in Salt Lake City.
With the flurry of distractions, Duke rarely had consistency.
Welcome to the lone topsy-turvy bracket after losses by No. 1 overall seed Villanova and No. 2 seed Duke.
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