Kansas City, MO – The Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds of the Midwest Regional will take place in the T-Mobile Center this weekend. Four teams will be competing with a chance to secure a trip to the Final Four in Houston.
All four teams came up big when it mattered most to advance to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. Here is a look what’s at stake for each team coming into this weekend.
Jim Larranaga is looking to lead fifth seeded Miami to its first Final Four appearance ever after guiding the Hurricanes to the Elite Eight for the first time a season ago.
Miami defeated No. 12 Drake and No. 4 Indiana to get to Kansas City. The Hurricanes ended the game on a 12-1 run to get past the Bulldogs 63-56 in the Round of 64. Miami shined off of hot shooting and offensive rebounding against the Hoosiers to run away with a 85-69 victory in its second game of the tournament.
Guard play is going to be key for the Hurricanes against Houston on Friday.
Starting point guard Isiah Wong scored 27 points on Sunday against Indiana. Jordan Miller averaged 15.1 points per game this season, and Nijel Pack averaged 13.4.
However, a big storyline coming into Friday’s matchup is Wooga Poplar’s health status. Poplar averaged 10.5 points per game in Miami’s first two games of the NCAA tournament and recorded four rebounds against the Hoosiers in their Round of 32 Matchup. The guard has not practiced since suffering a back injury on Sunday and his status is to be determined.
The Atlantic Coast Conference regular season champions are the last team remaining in the ACC. The Hurricanes will look to continue representing the ACC against the No. 1 Houston Cougars on Friday.
Houston will look to secure its second Final Four Appearance in three years, and its third straight Elite Eight appearance this weekend. If Kelvin Sampson leads the first seeded Cougars back to the Final Four, it will be their seventh appearance ever and they would be playing in their hometown.
The Cougars survived a scare in the Round of 64 against No. 16 Northern Kentucky in large part due to big performances from forward Jarace Walker and guard Jamal Shead. Walker scored 16 points, and Shead scored 13 to lead Houston to a 63-52 victory over Northern Kentucky.
Sampson’s team used a strong second half to get past No. 8 Auburn after trailing by 10 at halftime. The Cougars outscored the Tigers 50-23 in the second half to make it to the second weekend in Kansas City.
A big story regarding Houston is the health status of Marcus Sasser and Shaed. Sasser has been playing through a groin injury the past two weeks, and Shaed played through a knee injury. Both players are expected to be ready to go on Friday against Miami.
Both players are key factors for Houston. Sasser averaged 16.9 points per game and Shaed averaged 10.4 this season. The Cougars also get major contributions from forward J'Wan Roberts who leads the team in rebounds and blocks.
Expect Houston to be ready on Friday.
Rodney Terry will look to remove the interim tag and become Texas’s permanent head coach this weekend by leading the second seeded Longhorns to their first Final Four since 2003, and fourth appearance ever. A win on Friday would also be just the eighth Elite Eight appearance in program history.
Texas rolled past No. 15 Colgate in the opening round of the NCAA tournament with an 81-61 victory over the Raiders. On Saturday, The Longhorns finished the game on a 16-8 run to survive No. 10 Penn State’s upset bid in the Round of 32.
The backcourt is going to need a big game if the Longhorns want to advance on Friday. Guards Marcus Carr and Sir’Jabari Rice have been Texas’s leading scorers this season. Carr averaged 15.8 points per game, and Rice recorded 13 points against the Nittany Lions on Saturday.
Forwards Dylan Disu and Timmy Allen will need strong performances in the paint for Texas to advance. Throughout the season, Disu averaged 9.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, and Allen put up 5.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
The Big 12 conference champions are one of two teams remaining in the Conference heading into Friday, and the Longhorns will be ready to roll this weekend.
This weekend, Sean Miller will look to bring the third seeded Xavier Musketeers to their first Final four appearance ever, and just their fourth Elite Eight appearance in school history. A trip to Houston would also be Miller’s first Final Four appearance of his coaching career.
In the Round of 64, the Musketeers escaped No. 14 Kennesaw State’s upset bid by ending the game on a 24-6 run in the final nine minutes of the game to win 72-67. Xavier then controlled the following matchup against No. 11 Pittsburgh in the next round to secure a spot in Kansas City.
The Musketeers will need to be well-rounded if they want to defeat the Longhorns on Friday. Souley Boum and Colby Jones will both be key names to keep an eye out for Xavier. Boum led the team in points this season with 16.5, and Jones led the team in assists with 14.3.
7-foot forward Jack Nunge is going to need a big performance in the paint on Friday. Nunge recorded 18 points, three rebounds and two blocks in the Musketeers 84-73 victory against the Panthers in the Round of 32.
Xavier will be without a key player as they are missing forward Zach Freemantle. Freemantle went down with a foot injury against Creighton on Jan. 28 and hasn’t played since. Before the Big East Tournament, it was announced that the forward would have to undergo season-ending surgery.
Miller’s squad managed to make a run to the Big East Tournament championship and will look to continue their March Madness run against Texas on Friday.
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