NCAA Tournament: Two More Teams Qualify for Final Four in Imaginary Elite Eight
The last two participants of the Final Four in Atlanta will be determined on Sunday, March 29. At least that's the way our imaginary NCAA tournament will proceed.
At this point, the best players of each team take center stage, as our remaining field does not include any Cinderella stories.
We have already gone through the first nine days of the event, providing scenarios of how games might have gone on the days the games were scheduled. Our alternative NCAA tournament started March 17 with the preliminary-round games on Tuesday and Wednesday.
That was followed by our results for the first-round games on the first Thursday of the tournament, then came results for first-round games scheduled for that Friday. Last Saturday we suggested how the first eight games of the second round might have played out, then on Sunday we offered results for the remaining second-round games.
On Thursday, March 26, we gave possible results for the first four Sweet 16 games. On Friday, March 27, we offered scenarios on the Sweet 16 games that would have been played that day.
The first two games of the Elite Eight were presented on Saturday, March 28, and Sunday we give you the last two games of the Elite Eight on the day those games were scheduled to be played:
Day 10, Game 1
No. 1 Dayton (32-2) vs. No. 3 Michigan State (25-9) at New York
***Dayton's Obi Toppin had a big first half against Michigan State
Earlier tournament results: Dayton beat Winthrop 82-67, Saint Mary's 78-66 and Louisville 81-76; Michigan State eliminated North Texas 79-59, Rutgers 76-68 and USC 60-56
The game: Dayton enters the game having won 23 straight games, and has shown no signs of a letdown during the postseason. But Michigan State, which was No. 1 in the preseason polls, is playing its best basketball of the season, having won eight games in a row, including four against ranked teams.
Toppin begins the game with a flurry, collecting 15 points and seven rebounds in the first half for Dayton, which averages 80.0 points per game. Michigan State's 6-foot-8 Xavier Tillman Sr. can't contain the agile, active 6-foot-9 Tobbin, who leads the Flyers to a 39-33 halftime advantage.
Michigan coach Tom Izzo screams at his players at halftime for their lack of defensive intensity, and the Spartans, who rank fourth in the nation in field-goal percentage defense, turn things around in the second half.
Dayton scores just three points in the first six minutes of the second half, and Toppin is shut out in that stretch, as the Spartans pull even.
The teams are still tied with a minute left,at which point Winston takes over. He scores on a driving layup under pressure with 48.5 seconds left and adds a three-point shot with 15.7 seconds remaining to give Michigan State a five-point lead.
Jalen Crutcher hits a three-point shot with 6.5 seconds left to pull the Flyers within two, and they foul Winston with 4.9 seconds left. An 85.2 percent foul shooter, Winston makes the first free throw but misses the second.
Dayton's Rodney Chapman gets off a hurried 30-foot three-pointer at the buzzer that hits the backboard and the front rim, but bounds away.
Toppin falls to the ground and pounds the floor after scoring 22 points, his ninth straight game scoring 19 points or more. Meanwhile, Winston breathes a sigh of relief as he punches the air with his fist.
Final score: Michigan State 74, Dayton 71
Toppin has announced he will enter this year's NBA draft. In this video, Villanova coach Jay Wright talks about the advice he gives his players about whether to turn pro.
Day 10, Game 2
No. 1 Baylor (29-4) vs. No. 6 Virginia (26-7) at Houston
Earlier tournament results: Baylor beat Boston University 75-57, Arizona 61-52 and Yale 69-56; Virginia defeated Richmond 52-47, Maryland 58-49 and Florida State 55-54.
The game: Baylor was ranked No. 1 for a large portion of the season as it started the season 24-1, but the Bears were just 2-3 over their final five regular-season games and benefited from a favorable draw in the NCAA tournament. Virginia was just 12-6 at one point, including 4-4 in the ACC, and seemed to be in danger of not making the NCAA tournament the year after it won it. But the Cavaliers enter this game on a 12-game winning streak, and none of its last eight opponents has scored more than 56 points.
Neither team can do much offensively in the first half as Virginia, which leads the nation in scoring defense and is second in field-goal percentage defense, holds the Bears to 31 percent shooting the first half, But Baylor plays pretty good defense too, limiting Virginia to 38 percent shooting. The half ends with Virginia holding a 25-22 lead, and Baylor's Jared Butler is the game's leading scorer with seven points.
The teams continue to slog it out in the second half as Virginia, which is not much of an offensive team, struggles to score, and Baylor is unable to get good shots.
MaCio Teague hits a three-point shot that puts Baylor ahead by a point with two minutes left, but Mamadi Diakite scores on an inside move to put Virginia back on top with 1:14 to go. A driving layup by Kihei Clark makes it a three-point Virginia lead with 32.1 seconds remaining.
Baylor tries to find an open look for a three-point shot, but Virginia simply will not allow it. Butler's forced shot from beyond the arc is an airball, and Clark hits two free throws with 14.2 seconds left to clinch the win.
Baylor's players are devastated, while Virginia coach Tony Bennett raises both arms in victory as the Cavaliers get to the Final Four for the second straight season after being eliminated in the first round as a No. 1 seed in 2018.
Final score: Virginia 51, Baylor 46
***Baylor's Mark Vital displays the disppointment of defeat
So the Final Four will have one team from Big 12 (Kansas), one from the ACC (Virginia), one from the West Coast Conference (Gonzaga) and one from the Big Ten (Michigan State). Sorry, the Pac-12 is not represented.