2023 NCAA Tournament: Men’s Elite Eight play off Sunday
Paul Myerberg of USA TODAY Sports breaks down the Elite Eight on Sunday.
The Florida Atlantic men’s basketball team is in the Final Four for the first time in school history.
The Owls’ next opponent in the national semifinals at Houston’s NRG Stadium can say the same. After advancing out of the Sweet 16 for the first time in the Elite Eight Sunday (2:20 p.m. ET, CBS) No. 6 Creighton and play No. 5 San Diego State.
No. 5 Miami will be looking for its first Final Four appearance after reaching the Elite Eight for the second time. The Hurricanes face No. 2 Texas (5:05 p.m. ET, CBS), which last reached the Final Four in 2003. The winner will face UConn, which defeated Gonzaga 82-54.
Follow along for Sunday’s NCAA Men’s Tournament action:
No. 5 San Diego State ran the offense for much of the game with guard Lamond Butler pacing the Aztecs at the half with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting.
Still, there are some warning signs for San Diego State: It’s up by a 16-14 margin, and moments ago, it was 13-7. The Aztecs and have assisted on just two of their 13 field goals. Another concern? San Diego State made only one drive and missed that free throw.
Despite everything, the Aztecs rallied from a five-point deficit in the second half after Creighton went 3:20 without a field goal midway through the first half.
The Bluejays recovered from their cold spell and scored 72.7% of Creighton’s points thanks to Ryan Kalkbrenner (10 points), Baylor Schierman (seven points) and Ryan Nembhardt (seven points).
San Diego State’s bench outscored Creighton’s 8-0.
No. 5 San Diego State went nearly two and a half minutes without a field goal early in the first half, which allowed No. 6 Creighton to build a modest lead. The Bluejays move the ball well and get everyone involved; Midway through the first half, all five starters had scored. In fact, all starters combined for 9-of-17 (52.9%) shooting from the floor.
One area where the Aztecs do well is on perimeter defense. San Diego State held Creighton to 1-of-6 shooting from three-point range. The Aztecs, however, must play with more composure, committing four turnovers and four fumbles.
The Bluejays lead 22-16 with 7:40 left to play in the first half.
Not only are San Diego State and Creighton playing for a spot in the Final Four, but a pair of brothers are once again playing for bragging rights against another.
Creighton sophomore forward Arthur Kaluma and San Diego State senior guard Adam Sieko face each other in the Elite Eight, the second year in a row they have met in the tournament. Last year, Kaluma and Creighton won a first-round matchup against the Aztecs, 72-69.
Before Sweet 16, Seeko said It will be a “real feeling” if the two teams meet for a Final Four berth.
“Something I can’t even put into words, really,” Seago said.
The siblings’ mother, Saira Eva Arrigo, will attend the game in Louisville.
— Jordan Mendoza
Both teams’ perimeter shooting collapsed to start the game between No. 6 Creighton and No. 5 San Diego State, with both teams airballing three-point attempts on consecutive possessions. But the late-game emphasis and rebounding already showed its weight, as Creighton forward Arthur Kaluma’s offensive board led to Ryan Kalkbrenner’s flush on guard Trey Alexander’s alley-oop feed two minutes into the game.
Both teams should combine to go 5-for-1 from beyond the arc. Kalkbrenner led the way early with six points on 3-of-5 shooting. Creighton leads 8-7 with 14:05 left to play in the first half.
No. 5 San Diego State vs. no. 6 Creighton: San Diego State’s defense is unranked — just ask Alabama. The Aztecs were held to 32.4% shooting and future lottery pick Brandon Miller finished with just nine points on 3 of 19 shooting, including a record 10 attempts from deep. But Creighton could put this defense to the test. The Bluejays have scored at least 80 points in five of their last seven games and are shooting 50.6% from the field in the contest.
No. 2 Texas vs. no. 5 Miami: After some early struggles, Miami’s backcourt took over games to help the Hurricanes earn a second straight trip to the regional finals. The Nijel Pack has been on point since the start of the tournament, averaging 19.7 points per game and dropping 26 points to lead Miami in the Elite Eight. Texas went 22-7 after Rodney Terry replaced Chris Beard in December and is in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2008 and the second time since the tournament expanded from eight teams in 1951. Under Terry, the Longhorns struggled. – On-court drama and injuries peak at the right time.
– Paul Myerberg
While in different parts of the country, Creighton and San Diego State are no strangers to each other.
Several months ago, the Bluejays and Aztecs shared a charter flight to the Maui Invitational. Creighton coach Greg McDermott talked about wanting to sit across from San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher and face the championship because “one of us wins and one of us loses, we’ll be OK.”
Little did they know that their meeting this season would be on a bigger stage.
– Paul Myerberg
Dylan Tzu, Texas’ best player this postseason, played less than two minutes in the Longhorns’ Sweet 16 win over Xavier. He is officially day to day.
Spent most of the match on his left foot. He suffered the fracture in Saturday’s second-round game against Penn State, team officials said. He did some training but aggravated the injury later in the week.
— Thomas Jones, Austin American-Statesman
It’s become more common in recent years for an overlooked, out-of-nowhere rivalry team to heat up in time and march to the Final Four. Nine teams entered the national semifinals ranked No. 9 or higher, six since 2013.
The Owls’ run to Houston was one of the most unexpected Final Four appearances since the playoffs expanded that same season. Here are eight teams that really shocked the country by advancing from the radar to the national semifinals.
– Paul Myerberg
Equality in college basketball, right? UConn didn’t get the memo.
All those close calls, all those intervening years in the wilderness of the American Athletic Conference suddenly seem far away in the rearview mirror. In his fifth season at UConn, Don Hurley led the Huskies back to the Final Four, earning them the school’s fifth national title.
– Don Clouds
Florida Atlantic may have eliminated its Kansas State team, but Wildcats coach Jerome Tang had nothing but praise for the Owls — and delivered his classy message in person in a celebratory FAU locker room.
“Your toughness, your unity, your ability to make plays for each other, the way you communicate with each other — nobody can beat you,” the first-year K-State coach told the Owls. “Stay together, don’t get distracted between now and (the Final Four). Stay in, keep doing what you’re doing.
“Toughest son of the guns we’ve played all year,” Tang added. “Proud of who and rooting for you.”
Tang’s first year in Manhattan, Kansas, has been a huge success after being undrafted by the Wildcats in the preseason. They nearly made their first Final Four appearance since 1964, falling to Florida Atlantic 79-76. The Owls are making their first Final Four appearance and will play the winner of Sunday’s game between Creighton and San Diego State.
– Jace Evans
In a few minutes Friday night, two programs that had several good seasons but rarely looked like they were on the cusp of the remarkable ones, knocking the last two remaining No. 1 seeds out of this NCAA men’s tournament.
With back-to-back results, this is officially the worst March of them all.
– Don Clouds