Mar 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs players from left Zach Collins (32) , Josh Perkins (13) , Nigel Williams-Goss (5) and Silas Melson (0) celebrate after defeating the West Virginia Mountaineers in the semifinals of the West Regional of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Four Teams Punch Their Tickets to the Elite Eight After Wild Night of Sweet 16 Action

The magic of March delivered Thursday night, with three of the four Sweet 16 games coming down to the final shot. Two of the regional finals are set now after Gonzaga and Xavier won their games in the West Region, while Kansas and Oregon advanced in the Midwest Region.

Gonzaga 61 – 58 West Virginia

The Zags came in as the most underrated of the No.1 seeds, and became the first No.1 seed in this tournament to make it to the Elite Eight.

Jordan Mathews’s go-ahead three-pointer with 57 seconds proved to be the clincher for Gonzaga, taking down Bob Huggins’s No.4 seed West Virginia. The win marks Gonzaga’s third ever trip to the Elite Eight.

Mathews, as well as Przemek Karnowski and Johnathan Williams, all scored 13 points, tying for the team lead. West Virginia junior guard Jevon Carter led all scorers with 21 points, but missed two potential game-tying three pointers in the final 30 seconds of the game. Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said the defense is what stepped up and has them on the doorstep of the Final Four.

Xavier 73 – 71 Arizona

The tournament’s last standing Cinderella lives to fight another day. Following in the footsteps of Syracuse’s run to the Final Four last year a 10th seed, Xavier is busting brackets this year as an 11 seed, upsetting popular Final Four pick Arizona to book their spot in the Elite Eight in one of the most entertaining games of the tournament..

Xavier was down 71-64 with 2:52 left after a layup from Arizona’s Kadeem Allen. From there, the Musketeers ripped off a 9-0 run down the stretch including the game winning layup from forward Sean O’Mara with 44 seconds left. Arizona had a chance to win it at the end, but star guard Allonzo Trier’s step-back three rattled out with four seconds left, and Xavier hung on for the upset.

Xavier head coach Chris Mack said his team has grown through this process and weren’t flustered even when down late in the game. That bodes well for a team with the pieces to continue their Cinderella run. They have a star guard who can score in bunches in junior Trevon Bluiett, who led all scorers with 25 points, and also have wins now over a 3-seed, FSU, and a 2-seed, Arizona, in their last two games.

Now they’ll take on No.1 seed Gonzaga on Saturday evening, with the winner booking their first ever trip to the Final Four.

Oregon 69 – 68 Michigan

The magical run for the Wolverines dating back to the B1G Tournament came to a heartbreaking end Thursday night when Derrick Walton Jr.’s potential game-winning shot clanked off the front of the rim.

After firing off six straight wins, Michigan fell to the Ducks, who hung on in a back-and-forth game to clinch a spot in the Elite Eight for the second straight year. Tyler Dorsey scored his 20th and biggest point of the game when his layup with 1:09 left gave Oregon the 69-68 lead they would eventually see out. Dorsey tied with Walton Jr. for the game high in points, but Jordan Bell was big factor for the Ducks as well, coming up with two huge offensive rebounds down the stretch to give Oregon some second chance buckets.

Despite the loss, Michigan head coach John Beilein still feels good about his team, saying they fought their “heart out these past six weeks” to be “more than a story.”

Kansas 98 – Purdue 66

The Jayhawks are flying right now, putting up their third 90-plus points game of the season en route to a blowout of No.4 seed Purdue.

In the only contest that wasn’t much of one on the night, Kansas’ backcourt dominated. Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham each scored 26 points as Kansas outscored Purdue 51-26 in the second half to pull away. Kansas head coach Bill Self said his team is “spoiled” to have two All-American caliber guards in Mason III and Graham.

But it was fellow guard Lagerald Vick who provided the highlight of the game, throwing down a 360 dunk to continue the Jayhawk frenzy.

Kansas will look to book their spot in the Final Four when they take on Oregon in Kansas City on Saturday night.

About Jonathan Acosta

Native New Englander. Follow me on Twitter: @jonacosta_10

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