The odds-on favorite to win the NCAA Tournament was knocked out of the competition on Thursday, March 16, when No. 1 seed Gonzaga lost to No. 4 Arkansas 74-68 in the Sweet 16. The shocking result eliminates any hope the Zags had of avenging last year’s national runner-up finish and makes them the second home-bound No. 1 seed in the tournament.
Gonzaga completed the year with a 28-4 record and as the Western Conference champions, it had a strong season, but it fizzled out in the tournament. Kentucky got out to slow starts against No. 16 Georgia State in the first round and No. 9 Memphis in the second round, but turned things around in the second half of both games to advance.
But, Arkansas had what it took to hold them off, as evidenced by the fact that they took the lead for good at the 18:09 mark of the second half and never looked back.
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman attributed the victory to the team’s strong defensive performance, which limited Gonzaga to its second lowest field goal percentage of the season (37.5%). “Our ability to create turnovers was impressive, in my opinion.
To us, it was crucial that we cut down on their extremes. Trey Wade’s baskets were crucial at the right time.”
March Madness: Gonzaga Falls Short Again as the Favorite
Timme Despite Gonzaga’s 25 points, 7 boards, and Holmgren’s 11 points, 14 boards, and 2 blocks, their team fell short. Noting that they “needed Chet to stay there a bit longer,” the three Gonzaga players who were present at the news conference after the game said little to nothing about Holmgren.
Although Stephen Curry, Clay Thompson, and the rest of the Golden State Warriors are regulars at Chase Center, Arkansas and Gonzaga may have felt the court was not as friendly to their style of play.
Three heads banged on the basket all night long, and the runners never stopped. Neither club was able to make a respectable percentage of their free throw attempts. Gonzaga’s 32-29 halftime deficit was typical of his position in this tournament.
Midway through the second half, the 16th-ranked Zags had a 4-point lead over Georgia State. Nevertheless, the Panthers eventually came back and defeated the Zags. They were only up by two points at halftime, but they were able to pull away and beat Memphis by 12 early in the second half.
Unusually, the Zags team struggled to register for extra time. Gonzaga’s best offense went nearly four minutes without scoring before halftime, giving Arkansas a lead they would never relinquish (27-19). The problem was caused by sporadic attempts at 3-pointers.
In the regular season, Chet Holmgren shot 43.8 percent from beyond the arc for Gonzaga. But, in the Bulldogs’ five postseason games, he shot only 2 for 16. On Thursday, Julian Strother, a tournament star who shot 39.6 percent from beyond the arc, went 1-for-14 from 3-point range.
Toughness is Winning in March – And it’s why No. 1 Seeds Arizona, Gonzaga Got Sent Home
When played at its highest level, basketball is a breathtaking display of athleticism, artistry, and talent that will have fans on the edge of their seats. In its most extreme forms, it resembles a bar fight between men wearing gym shorts.
The NCAA has decided what kind of sport it wants college basketball to be at the highest levels. It likes a game in which players are unable to freely move around the court, where passing lanes are frequently blocked, and where no one dares approach the basket without risking serious injury.
It’s extremely violent, arbitrated in a haphazard fashion, and frequently unpleasant to watch. Even so, it makes for entertaining viewing and provides some insight into the factors that determine the NCAA tournament champions.
Two top seeds losing within a few hours of one other on Thursday may seem like a crazy night, but in reality, it fits well into the model of what college basketball has become. When they should be playing for the championship, why is Gonzaga leaving early?
Due to the fact that it was dominated by an Arkansas squad that froze its high-octane attack to a halt. Arizona won 33 of its 36 games this season, so why are they packing it in? The difficulty level was so high because of Houston’s physicality on every play that Arizona was at a loss for what to do.
Drew Timme, a standout for Gonzaga, came out to attempt to save the day once again, scoring 25 points, 17 of which came in the second half. On the other hand, the Zags’ hopes of moving on in the tournament may have been undermined by the fact that top player Chet Holmgren, who is widely expected to be the first overall pick in this summer’s NBA Draft, was limited in his effectiveness by foul trouble.
During the break, Holmgren had no points, and he would finish with 11. He would play only 23 minutes until fouling out. Arkansas’ defense was a problem for Gonzaga’s backcourt as well, limiting Andrew Nembhard to 2-of-11 shooting, Julian Strawther to 3-of-9, and Rasir Bolton to 3-of-10.