UCLA, Kansas on Elite Eight collision course in West Area?

Bryan Fischer

College Football Writer

On paper, the West Area was generally set to be the most complicated path to the Final 4. 

The bottom proper section of the bracket was littered with NCAA Tournament stalwarts, like 3 of the top rated six title favorites, which is acceptable for a regional set to be hosted in Las Vegas. 

[View the full NCAA Tournament bracket here]

Probably it wasn’t all that surprising then that regardless of the opening Thursday of March Madness getting filled with shockers across the nation, the 4 games out West have been practically nothing but chalk across the board.

The path to cutting down the nets may well have one particular silver lining, as it remains on track to give us a handful of blue bloods on a collision course for the second weekend of the tournament.

When No. 1 seed Houston struggled to place away Northern Kentucky down in Birmingham, a Kansas group that felt miffed they would not be heading to Kansas City subsequent week as the top rated seed in the Midwest, seemed to take it out on poor No. 16 seed Howard, throttling the Bison with the most full game of the day in a 96-68 win. 

“We like to play quickly,” acting head coach Norm Roberts mentioned. “They got up and down and we knew if we could rebound the ball — which we did not do a wonderful job of that these days — but if we rebounded the ball we could get out and have some possibilities. That occurred these days.”

The Jayhawks pulled down nine additional rebounds than their opponent, regardless of the subpar work on the boards. Jalen Wilson had a group-higher 20 points, even though freshman Gradey Dick picked a great time to have his very first profession double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. 

Who knows, had Vice President Kamala Harris not been in Des Moines to watch her alma mater or had head coach Bill Self been roaming the sidelines, the final score may well have been even additional one particular-sided taking into consideration the Jayhawks cleared their bench late in the second half and nonetheless outscored the Bison by 15 in the final 20 minutes. 

Self, who underwent a process to treat blocked arteries in his heart prior to the Large 12 Tournament final week, is with the group away from the court and indicated in an interview with a student reporter that he is trending toward a return for the Round of 32. Kansas players, who discovered out Thursday morning that the coach would not be on the sidelines, barely broke a sweat with no him, but are nonetheless probably to get a couple of reminders about crashing the glass on Saturday.

“He’s carrying out doctor’s wishes, and hopefully we get back and hear from him very first issue what he liked out there and what he did not like,” Dick added.

Regardless, the impressive work in moving on to the second round for the 16th consecutive year underscores that the group has as great a likelihood at repeating as national champions in the sport as any in the decade and a half due to the fact it is been achieved.

A matchup against No. eight Arkansas will pretty much assuredly prove to be a considerably stiffer test. The Razorbacks have dealt with injuries all through their campaign but have at least 3 players who draw critical interest from NBA scouts and showed an impressive quantity of resolve in outlasting No. 9 Illinois 73-63 later in the afternoon. 

“This is a group that is nonetheless expanding, and I mentioned even just before the tournament that I really feel like this is a group that continues to enhance,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman remarked. “I imply, we speak about improvement every day. We perform on items every day to attempt to get far better. There have been other teams that have plateaued. Possibly a couple of our teams at Nevada, we have been old veteran guys and possibly at some point we have been just attempting to save legs. But this is a group that is of continuous improvement.”

That continuous improvement desires to turn out to be fast improvement if the ‘Hogs want to pull off a shocker in two days for the program’s third straight berth in the Sweet 16. Ricky Council IV recorded an 18-point, ten-rebound double-double against the Illini, but he missed a couple of effortless baskets that could have provided his group additional breathing area. Fellow guard Nick Smith Jr. mustered just six points on two-of-ten shooting, even though the uber-talented Anthony Black was only moderately far better with 12 points on a similarly difficult outing from the field. 

Nevertheless, there’s a explanation why the Jayhawks’ path is a complicated one particular, now drawing a group that has the talent to reside up to their top rated-ten preseason ranking — but haven’t shown it regularly.

Elsewhere in the West Area, No. 7 Northwestern reaffirmed why Chris Collins’ veteran-laden crew will be a difficult matchup moving forward. The Wildcats outlasted No. 11 seed Boise State, 75-67. 

“It is all about survive and advance, proper? That is what they speak about in March Madness,” Collins mentioned following the program’s second-ever opening-round win. “It is seriously tough to get right here, specially when you play in the Large Ten. What we compete against in our conference, the 14 teams, evening in and evening out, the games you have to win to just get right here. There is no relief at all. It is joy. I am so proud of this group. I’ve mentioned it all year lengthy.”

Boo Buie led the way with 22 points, even though backcourt mate Chase Audige chipped in with yet another 20. 

The Wildcats, in the Large Dance for just the second time in college history, will move on to face a future conference rival in second-seeded UCLA. The Bruins appeared to take out additional than a couple of frustrations from losing in the Pac-12 Tournament Final on poor UNC-Asheville in an 86-53 thumping in Sacramento. The 33-point win showed why UCLA was a trendy choose to win it all this year, regardless of the absence of top rated defender Jaylen Clark. 

Jaime Jaquez Jr. looked nicely-rested in finding 17 points in just 30 minutes of action, even though freshman Amari Bailey chipped in with a matching 17 and 4 boards. The Bruins have been stellar from the tip, opening the game on a 14- run and totaling the identical quantity of field targets produced as UNC-Asheville had attempts at the beneath 4 timeout in the very first half. 

“We do not seriously appear at the score,” Bruins head coach Mick Cronin mentioned on the broadcast afterward. “We attempt to come out in every single game the identical way. Our defense was superb and we got out to a seriously great start out.”

Such is life out West even though, which reaffirmed that the eventual regional champion will be additional battle-tested than any other group this March, with every single top rated seed advancing into Saturday’s second round. 

It is not generally you leave the very first taste of action and get the sense that two of the bluest of blue bloods are on a collision course, but that is specifically what it looked like immediately after what played out in a incredibly chalky opening round for one particular area and one particular area only.

Bryan Fischer is a college football writer for FOX Sports. He has been covering college athletics for almost two decades at outlets such as NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and NFL.com amongst other individuals. Adhere to him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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