North Carolina has packed their bags and headed west to Kansas City, Missouri, for the Sweet Sixteen starting on Friday. They’ll need to take on the three-point barrage of Auburn for the right to advance to the Elite Eight where one of Kentucky or Houston will await them.
Here is a look at how the final four teams in the Midwest region made it to the Sweet Sixteen.
#1 North Carolina Tar Heels
Round of 64: Defeated Iona 88-73
Cameron Johnson scored 21 points as the Tar Heels rallied back from a halftime deficit. The Gaels were deadly from beyond the arc in the first half, but the tide shifted as UNC’s seniors took over the game in the second half. Carolina had five players in double figures, including Nassir Little off the bench.
Round of 32: Defeated Washington 81-59
Little and Luke Maye teamed up to drop nearly half of Carolina’s total points with 20 each in what was a much more comfortable game for the Heels. Coby White was on fire from downtown in the first half before getting locked up defensively after halftime. His teammates definitely picked up the slack, though. RIP to two of Garrison Brooks’ teeth.
#2 Kentucky Wildcats
Round of 64: Defeated Abilene Christian 79-44
It was all Wildcats in Kentucky’s first game of the NCAA Tournament. Keldon Johnson scored 25 points and UK shot 60% in the first half while holding their opponent to just 13 points before halftime. Kentucky, even a man down while playing without PJ Washington, was just too much for Abilene Christian to handle.
Round of 32: Defeated Wofford 62-56
0-12. Fletcher Magee, who has probably never gone 0-12 from beyond the arc in even his worst basketball nightmares, couldn’t connect at all for 40 minutes against the Wildcats. The Terriers had a lead in the first half before their cold shooting from distance seemed to wear at them down the stretch. On any normal shooting night for Wofford, they probably upset Kentucky. It wasn’t to be, though.
#3 Houston Cougars
Round of 64: Defeated Georgia State 84-55
The Cougars were more than Georgia State could handle from the opening tip in their first game of the tournament. Their defense kept the Panthers from being able to do much of anything all night, holding them to 30% shooting from the field for the game. Corey Davis Jr., THE GUY for Houston, scored 26 points in the effort.
Round of 32: Defeated Ohio State 74-59
The Buckeyes were able to make 10 of their three-pointers, including four from CJ Jackson, but they could not overcome Houston having four starters in double figures. The Cougars’ defense was once again very tough on the opponent, holding Ohio State to just 59 points. Davis Jr. made three three-pointers and nabbed three steals in the win.
#5 Auburn Tigers
Round of 64: Defeated New Mexico State 78-77
Did you see this game? The final minute was some of the most bizarre basketball I’ve seen in 29 years on this Earth. New Mexico State, touched by a free throw angel, raced down the court just down two points with an open layup right in front of them. Instead of going for the tie, AJ Harris kicked the ball out for a missed three-pointer by Terrell Brown that was bailed out by a terrible foul by the Tigers. Brown missed two of the three free throws, yet the Aggies somehow managed to retain the ball, and still air-balled a three as time expired. Atrocious.
Round of 32: Defeated Kansas 89-75
Still finding luck from beyond the arc, Auburn hit 13 three-pointers on their way to routing the Jayhawks. Four starters for the Tigers scored in double figures, including Bryce Brown’s 25-point effort. He made an astounding seven of his 11 shots from downtown. Auburn held a 51-25 advantage at halftime which allowed them to withstand Kansas out-scoring them 50-38 down the stretch.
Can UNC’s stout defense hold Auburn’s three-point shooting in check? Will Kentucky get PJ Washington back? Does Houston have the ability to defense their way to the Elite Eight?
How are you feeling about Carolina’s chances of making it through?