Eight Questions For The Elite Eight

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 30th, 2019

The Road to the Final Four has one final stop for the eight remaining teams in this year’s NCAA Tournament. As the weekend advances, here are the eight questions I have for the match-ups ahead.

The Zags Push For Their Second Final Four Appearance in History (USA Today Images)

Gonzaga vs. Texas Tech

Gonzaga: Will Gonzaga’s offense solve a Texas Tech defense that dominated Michigan for 40 minutes? Mark Few’s Bulldogs rank first in the nation in offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage and two-point field goal percentage. According to Hoop-Math, Gonzaga also owns the fifth-best shooting percentage on attempts at the rim, an area that could be tested by a Red Raiders defense that blocks a lot of shots inside.

Texas Tech: Do the Red Raiders have enough size to compete against the large Gonzaga front line? Gonzaga’s bigs of Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke and Killian Tillie will be up against a Texas Tech squad that will play just two players 6’8″ or taller in Tarriq Owens and Norense Odiase. Texas Tech’s ability to stay out of foul trouble on its front line will be imperative in attempting to slow the Bulldogs’ interior game.

Virginia vs. Purdue

Virginia: Can the Cavaliers snap out of their shooting woes? Over Virginia’s last four games, the Cavaliers are shooting a woeful 26.9 percent on 104 three-point attempts. In the five games prior to that stretch they converted 54.2 percent on 107 attempts. Kyle Guy has most notably found himself in a staggering slump, having made just five of his last 31 attempts after shooting 42.7 percent on the season.

Purdue: Will Purdue’s recent struggles at the free throw line keep it from reaching the Final Four? While the Boilermakers have shot 71.9 percent from the line on the season, they have made just 63.4 percent from the stripe in seven March games. Purdue survived in its win on Thursday night against Tennessee despite missing 17 of its 33 attempts. And remember, points always come at a premium against Virginia.

Michigan State vs. Duke

The Zion Show Moves to the Elite Eight (USA Today Images)

Michigan State: Will Michigan State’s stout two-point defense make Duke feel uncomfortable? While the Spartans have the second-best two-point defensive field goal percentage in college basketball, they have not played a team with a top 50 offensive two point field percentage. That will change on Sunday as Duke’s does very well inside the arc, led, of course, by the transcendental Zion Williamson. Michigan State’s defense especially excels at the rim thanks to the protection it gets there from Xavier Tillman and Nick Ward.

Duke: Was Tre Jones’ big night against Virginia Tech a mirage that covered up the season long shooting deficiencies of Duke? After shooting 5-of-28 from beyond the arc in Duke’s six games prior, Tre Jones responded by knocking down five-of-seven from distance last night. Outside of Jones, Duke went just 1-of-13 from deep. While the Blue Devils can go into any game expecting big performances from Zion Williamson and R.j. Barrett, they will continue to need someone like Jones to step up, especially if Cam Reddish is forced to miss another game.

Auburn vs. Kentucky

Auburn: Will Auburn continue to torch the nets from beyond the arc? Since a 7-of-25 performance from beyond the arc against Alabama on March 5, the Tigers have shot a sterling 40.1 percent from beyond the arc in making 40 more threes than their opponents. Auburn has been able to get many of those looks in transition, having already forced 46 turnovers through three NCAA Tournament games.

Kentucky: While Auburn might dominate the the three-point battle, will Kentucky once again be too much for Auburn’s interior defense? In Kentucky’s two games against Auburn earlier this season, the Wildcats made 60.1 percent of their two-point attempts. With Chuma Okeke’s status unclear after what looked like a serious knee injury, the Tigers’ defense will have one fewer big body to bang with PJ Washington and Reid Travis in the post.

Matthew Eisenberg (143 Posts)

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