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Friday, May 27, 2022

Elite Eight winners, losers: Villanova returns to Final Four; AAC was underrated

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Our first Final Four team heads to New Orleans.

Veteran-laden Villanova leaned on his experience to fend off Houston and now we have a blue blood comeback in the final weekend of the NCAA Men’s Tournament.

Coach Jay Wright has a chance at another national title after winning championships in 2016 and 2018. Collin Gillespie was part of that 2018 team and is still dressing for the Wildcats thanks to a fifth year of eligibility due to the extra year of COVID. of the NCAA. .

A look at the biggest winners and losers from Saturday’s Elite Eight games:



The Wildcats (30-7) responded in the final five minutes as Houston cut the deficit to 42-40 on an 11-2 run, and that came on a fifth-year Gillespie jump shot as Villanova escaped with a score of 50-44. victory by making key plays at the decisive moment. ‘Nova showed one of his key strengths in this NCAA Tournament: playing with poise down the stretch when another team is on the mend. Making big shots wasn’t easy against a stifling Houston defense, but the Wildcats’ mix of key players up front and back got the job done. An underrated stat: Villanova leading the nation in free throw percentage, on display Saturday with a 15-for-15 clip from the charity strip.

American Athletic Conference

The AAC didn’t really get much love from the NCAA committee on Selection Sunday, meaning it left SMU out of the projected field when the Mustangs were clearly a worthy team, having beaten Houston. Memphis also beat Houston and outscored Gonzaga by double figures in the second round before faltering. Factoring all that in with Houston’s impressive Elite Eight finish speaks volumes about how good this league was. Even though the committee says it doesn’t pay attention to conference records for team profiles, it does say how underrated Houston and the top teams in the conference were. The Cougars weren’t a team that just sped up at the right time. They had favorable matchups in these NCAAs because their defense earned them those advantages.

Villanova guard Collin Gillespie drives to the basket against Houston forward Fabian White Jr. (35).



The Cougars (32-6) gave Villanova all he could handle in the Elite Eight, finishing close to a trip to the Final Four. Houston’s defense was the team’s calling card and kept the Cougars in this one, but it was the offense that doomed this group. The Cougars shot just 1-for-19 (5%) from 3-point range and elite scorer Kyler Edwards was just 1-for-11 from the floor. That’s not a recipe for moving forward, especially against an experienced team like Villanova. Taze Moore led this team with 15 points, but his missed layup with 30 seconds left was indicative that the shots just weren’t falling.

Justin Moore of Villanova

The junior guard was in tears and using crutches after injuring what appeared to be his Achilles tendon late in Villanova’s win over Houston. His leg seemed to explode on one play with 35 seconds remaining. He has averaged 15 points for the Wildcats and assuming he misses the Final Four, it will be a huge loss for Villanova.

Two other No. 2 seeds

While Villanova was able to play great basketball and take advantage of favorable matchups in this tournament to make it all the way to New Orleans, fellow No. 2 seeds Kentucky and Auburn weren’t so lucky. Instead, the SEC kingpins became victims of two of the best March Madness stories: No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s and No. 10 seed Miami (Fla.). All it takes is poor play in this single elimination tournament to get out early. But Villanova is a good example of a No. 2 seed who delivered, illustrating how the two SEC No. 2s didn’t. Duke, the remaining No. 2 seed, plays No. 4 seed Arkansas on Saturday night.

Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Elite Eight Winners, Losers: Villanova Final Four Bound; CAA undervalued

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