The Elite Eight started off with a bang Saturday. After a second round and Sweet Sixteen filled with mostly chalk results, we got some surprising wins in the regional finals, with both No. 1 seeds going down.
It's perhaps not shocking that No. 2 Oklahoma made the Final Four -- it's been one of the nation's best teams all season and have the tournament's best player. But it was harder to predict the Sooners running No. 1 Oregon out of the building, making 50 percent of their three-point shots compared to just 19 percent for the Ducks. Oklahoma is going to the Final Four for the first time since 2002.
The second game of the night was the far more entertaining one. No. 2 Villanova appeared to have No. 1 Kansas' number early on, but the Jayhawks crawled back to make it a tight back-and-forth affair down the stretch. The Wildcats eventually triumphed, taking out the tournament's No. 1 overall seed in the process and exorcising the demons of last year's thudding second-round exit.
The Sooners and Wildcats will meet in Houston next weekend.
3 things we learned
Buddy Hield, y'all. Hield is awesome, in case you haven't been paying attention lately. He was a one-man wrecking crew for Oklahoma Saturday, scoring 37 points on 13-of-20 shooting in an 80-68 win over Oregon. Honestly, the game wasn't even as close as the final score. Hield was hitting just about every shot he could and the Ducks' defense had no answer.
The Sooners move on to face Villanova in Houston next week, which is sure to be a great matchup. But no matter what happens in that game, the real winners are the fans, because we get to watch Buddy Hield for at least one more game.
On the flip side, this result was the final insult to the Pac-12. After six of the conference's seven teams were knocked out in the first two rounds, Oregon gained the ignominy of being the first No. 1 seed eliminated. Better luck next year!
2. Villanova redeems itself. After three straight disappointing early exits from the NCAA Tournament, Jay Wright's squad has gained something of a reputation -- overrated, March chokers, you name it. Even after the Wildcats dominated the Big East and climbed up to No. 1 in the AP rankings this season, they had plenty of doubters heading into the postseason.
Well, Villanova finally silenced its critics by beating the No. 1 overall seed, holding off Kansas, 64-59. It's a big monkey off the back of the Wildcats, who are heading to the Final Four for the first time since 2009. They will have their hands full with Hield and Oklahoma next weekend, but Villanova fans have to be satisfied with their tournament performance after the past few heartbreaks.
3. Now the No. 1 seeds are losing. All four No. 1 seeds made it to the Elite Eight, giving us a real chance of seeing an all-chalk Final Four for just the second time in tournament history. The last time it happened was 2008, when Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina and UCLA all duked it out in the national finals.
We can forget about that after Saturday's games. Oregon was convincingly thumped by No. 2 Oklahoma, while Kansas had early mistakes that cost it in a close loss to No. 2 Villanova. The Ducks should be proud of their season, but the way it ended will probably give more fuel to people who felt they didn't deserve a No. 1 seed. As for Kansas, missing the Final Four in a year when you're one of the favorites to win it all is kind of Bill Self's MO at this point, so maybe that result wasn't too surprising. Still, it's a tough way for Perry Ellis' college career to end.
Grab our new printable bracket here.
No. 2 Oklahoma 80, No. 1 Oregon 68
No. 2 Villanova 64, No. 1 Kansas 59
Sunday's schedule (all times Eastern)
No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 10 Syracuse (6:09 p.m., TBS)
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 6 Notre Dame (8:49 p.m., TBS)
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March Madness: Does 10-seed Syracuse qualify as a Cinderella story?
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