Styles clash in Elite Eight

Mar 30, 2019 6:07 AM

The West Region comes down to No. 1 vs. No. 1. 

Top-seeded Gonzaga and the nation’s best offense will be challenged by 3-seed Texas Tech, owner of the top defense in the land, in the West Regional final. The twist: In three tournament games the Zags’ defense (allowing 85 points per 100 possessions) has been just as good as the Red Raiders’ (87 per). 

The South Region comes down to another 1-vs.-3 matchup, and it will be another battle of offense and defense. Top-seeded Virginia will try to contend with No. 3 Purdue’s sharpshooters, led by Carsen Edwards, who has scored 97 points in three tournament games. 

Here’s a look at Saturday’s Elite Eight games. 

West Region: No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (-4.5, Total: 137.5), 3:09 p.m. PT

The Red Raiders are the latest defensive test for the Zags. 

The Bulldogs overcame long-and-deep Florida State and its top-10 defense 72-58 in the Sweet 16 and now face the nation’s No. 1 unit in Texas Tech, which shut down Michigan, 63-44, on Thursday. 

Against the Seminoles, the Zags exercised their own defense, limiting Florida State to 3-for-20 from long range and holding Seminoles stars Terrance Mann and Mfiondu Kabengele to a combined 13 points. Gonzaga managed to get Florida State’s 7-foot-4 center, Christ Koumadje, into foul trouble. Koumadje’s absence opened the inside, allowing the Zags to grab 13 offensive rebounds. 

In a battle of the nation’s top two defenses, Texas Tech hounded Michigan into a 1-for-19 shooting night from behind the 3-point line. The Wolverines managed just 16 points in the first half and finished with their lowest total ever in a tournament game. (In the second round, the Red Raiders held high-scoring Buffalo to a season-low 58 points.) 

Texas Tech does not, however, have Florida State’s size. 

Tariq Owens, a 6-foot-10 rim protector, is one of just two Red Raiders rotation players taller than 6-7. Gonzaga, which doesn’t live by the 3-point shot, will counter with 6-foot-8 forwards Brandon Clarke, one of the country’s best shot-blockers, and Rui Hachimura and 6-10 stretch-four Killian Tillie. 

Michigan shot 50 percent from 2-point range, where the Zags do most of their damage (Clarke shoots around 70 percent). 

Texas Tech, which had eight steals against Michigan, will pressure Gonzaga point guard Josh Perkins, who settled down after three early turnovers against the Seminoles. Earlier in his career, Perkins was known to make some questionable decisions, but, as a senior, he has been one of the nation’s leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio. 

The pick: Perkins, a true quarterback on the court, and backup point guard Geno Crandall will be key. If they limit turnovers and are efficient in the halfcourt, the Gonzaga front line can score. GONZAGA 

East Region: No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 1 Virginia (-4.5, Total: 126) 

Boilermakers opponents have wondered whether sometimes-streaky shooter Carsen Edwards would have an off-night. Those opponents are now home — and still wondering — and the Purdue guard is the tournament’s top scorer. 

In wins over Old Dominion, Villanova and Tennessee, Edwards has made 18 of 42 from deep and averaged 32.3 points per game. 

Edwards needed help on Thursday after the Volunteers erased an 18-point Boilermakers lead in the second half. Senior Ryan Cline made 7 of 10 from deep for Purdue, which has made 31 of 61 from deep in the past two games. 

The Boilermakers’ long-range prowess will be severely tested against the Cavaliers, who are second in the nation in defending 3-pointers, holding opponents to 28 percent. Virginia doesn’t force teams off the 3-point line, but the Cavaliers don’t allow many open looks. 

By contrast, Purdue is No. 169 nationally in defending from deep, and that might be welcome news for Virginia’s leading scorer, Kyle Guy. 

Guy has just 22 points in three tournament games and is 3-for-26 from distance. In his final four ACC regular season games, Guy made 23 of 35. 

Virginia, which is third in the country at both ends of the court, per KenPom.com, has been mostly workmanlike since coming back from a 28-14 first-half deficit against 16-seed Gardner-Webb in the first round. 

The Cavaliers held both Oklahoma and Sweet 16 opponent Oregon below 40 percent from the field. 

The pick: Virginia gets a complete game from its No. 3 defense and, courtesy of a Gray turnaround, its No. 3 offense, and head coach Tony Bennett advances to his first Final Four. VIRGINIA

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