UCLA, Kansas on Elite Eight collision course in West Region?

On paper, the West Region was all the time set to be probably the most troublesome path to the Final Four. 

The backside proper part of the bracket was suffering from NCAA Tournament stalwarts, together with three of the highest six title favorites, which is acceptable for a regional set to be hosted in Las Vegas. 

[View the full NCAA Tournament bracket here]

Perhaps it wasn’t all that shocking then that regardless of the opening Thursday of March Madness being stuffed with shockers throughout the nation, the 4 video games out West have been nothing however chalk throughout the board.

The path to slicing down the nets might need one silver lining, because it stays on observe to provide us a handful of blue bloods on a collision course for the second weekend of the match.

While No. 1 seed Houston struggled to place away Northern Kentucky down in Birmingham, a Kansas staff that felt miffed they’d not be heading to Kansas City subsequent week as the highest seed within the Midwest, appeared to take it out on poor No. 16 seed Howard, throttling the Bison with probably the most full sport of the day in a 96-68 win. 

“We like to play fast,” appearing head coach Norm Roberts mentioned. “They got up and down and we knew if we could rebound the ball — which we didn’t do a great job of that today — but if we rebounded the ball we could get out and have some opportunities. That happened today.”

The Jayhawks pulled down 9 extra rebounds than their opponent, regardless of the subpar effort on the boards. Jalen Wilson had a team-high 20 factors, whereas freshman Gradey Dick picked an excellent time to have his first profession double-double with 19 factors and 11 rebounds. 

Who is aware of, had Vice President Kamala Harris not been in Des Moines to observe her alma mater or had head coach Bill Self been roaming the sidelines, the ultimate rating might need been much more one-sided contemplating the Jayhawks cleared their bench late within the second half and nonetheless outscored the Bison by 15 within the ultimate 20 minutes. 

Read also  Kyle Kuzma hits the bottom operating in return as Wizards rout Portland

Self, who underwent a process to deal with blocked arteries in his coronary heart previous to the Big 12 Tournament final week, is with the staff away from the court docket and indicated in an interview with a pupil reporter that he’s trending towards a return for the Round of 32. Kansas gamers, who discovered Thursday morning that the coach wouldn’t be on the sidelines, barely broke a sweat with out him, however are nonetheless more likely to get just a few reminders about crashing the glass on Saturday.

“He’s doing doctor’s wishes, and hopefully we get back and hear from him first thing what he liked out there and what he didn’t like,” Dick added.

Regardless, the spectacular effort in transferring on to the second spherical for the sixteenth consecutive 12 months underscores that the group has nearly as good an opportunity at repeating as nationwide champions within the sport as any within the decade and a half because it’s been achieved.

A matchup in opposition to No. 8 Arkansas will nearly assuredly show to be a a lot stiffer take a look at. The Razorbacks have handled accidents all through their marketing campaign however have no less than three gamers who draw severe curiosity from NBA scouts and confirmed a powerful quantity of resolve in outlasting No. 9 Illinois 73-63 later within the afternoon. 

“This is a team that is still growing, and I said even before the tournament that I feel like this is a team that continues to improve,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman remarked. “I mean, we talk about improvement daily. We work on things daily to try to get better. There have been other teams that have plateaued. Maybe a couple of our teams at Nevada, we were old veteran guys and maybe at some point we were just trying to save legs. But this is a team that’s of continuous improvement.”

Read also  Miguel Rojas embraces Dodgers alternative with {custom} cleats

That steady enchancment must turn out to be speedy enchancment if the ‘Hogs want to pull off a shocker in two days for the program’s third straight berth within the Sweet 16. Ricky Council IV recorded an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double in opposition to the Illini, however he missed just a few straightforward baskets that might have given his staff extra respiratory room. Fellow guard Nick Smith Jr. mustered simply six factors on 2-of-10 taking pictures, whereas the uber-talented Anthony Black was solely reasonably higher with 12 factors on a equally robust outing from the sector. 

Still, there’s a purpose why the Jayhawks’ path is a troublesome one, now drawing a staff that has the expertise to reside as much as their top-10 preseason rating — however haven’t proven it constantly.

Elsewhere within the West Region, No. 7 Northwestern reaffirmed why Chris Collins’ veteran-laden crew can be a troublesome matchup transferring ahead. The Wildcats outlasted No. 11 seed Boise State, 75-67. 

“It’s all about survive and advance, right? That’s what they talk about in March Madness,” Collins mentioned following this system’s second-ever opening-round win. “It’s really hard to get here, especially when you play in the Big Ten. What we compete against in our conference, the 14 teams, night in and night out, the games you have to win to just get here. There’s no relief at all. It’s joy. I’m so proud of this team. I’ve said it all year long.”

Boo Buie led the best way with 22 factors, whereas backcourt mate Chase Audige chipped in with one other 20. 

The Wildcats, within the Big Dance for simply the second time in class historical past, will transfer on to face a future convention rival in second-seeded UCLA. The Bruins appeared to take out various frustrations from shedding within the Pac-12 Tournament Final on poor UNC-Asheville in an 86-53 thumping in Sacramento. The 33-point win confirmed why UCLA was a classy choose to win all of it this 12 months, regardless of the absence of high defender Jaylen Clark. 

Read also  Angels title Shohei Ohtani their opening-day beginning pitcher

Jaime Jaquez Jr. regarded well-rested in getting 17 factors in simply half-hour of motion, whereas freshman Amari Bailey chipped in with an identical 17 and 4 boards. The Bruins have been stellar from the tip, opening the sport on a 14-0 run and totaling the identical variety of area targets made as UNC-Asheville had makes an attempt on the beneath 4 timeout within the first half. 

“We don’t really look at the score,” Bruins head coach Mick Cronin mentioned on the published afterward. “We try to come out in every game the same way. Our defense was excellent and we got out to a really good start.”

Such is life out West although, which reaffirmed that the eventual regional champion can be extra battle-tested than some other staff this March, with each high seed advancing into Saturday’s second spherical. 

It’s not usually you allow the primary style of motion and get the sense that two of the bluest of blue bloods are on a collision course, however that’s precisely what it regarded like after what performed out in a really chalky opening spherical for one area and one area solely.

Bryan Fischer is a university soccer author for FOX Sports. He has been masking faculty athletics for almost 20 years at shops similar to NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and NFL.com amongst others. Follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

Read extra:

FOLLOW Follow your favorites to personalize your FOX Sports expertise

College Basketball

UCLA Bruins

Kansas Jayhawks

Get extra from College Basketball Follow your favorites to get details about video games, information and extra