Only one of the top Division I Men’s Basketball programs not just in the state of North Carolina but in the entire county will be advancing to the Elite Eight next weekend. The No.1 ranked Duke Blue Devils narrowly topped the fourth-seeded Virginia Tech Hokies 75-73 in the East Regional semifinal and the No.1 ranked UNC Chapel Hill Tar Heels were upset by the fifth-seeded Auburn Tigers in a stunning 97-80 defeat in the Midwest Regional semifinal.
UNC vs Auburn:
Nobody gave the SEC tournament champions a shot against the top-seeded Tar Heels, but they blocked out the noise and used a prolific shooting performance from behind the arc to slay the overwhelming favorite UNC team. They sunk a whopping 17 three-pointers in the contest, many of which came in after the second half when they pulled away late.
The Tar Heels just didn’t look like themselves in this game and while they a slight advantage in rebounding at 40-36, the Tigers were the main aggressors in the paint and around the glass tallying six blocked shots compared to just two for UNC.
The No.1 seed struggled to establish a consistent offense in the bout as they went on long scoring droughts in the second half especially. It’s the first time that Auburn has made the Elite Eight in over three decades and just the second time in the last three years that Chapel Hill has fallen short.
Duke vs Virginia Tech:
Like every opponent that the Blue Devils have faced off against in the playoffs, the Hokies gave the No.1 seed everything they could muster and nearly all they could handle but it wasn’t enough to pull off the upset.
Virginia Tech mirrored Auburn’s game plan in the first half as they were red-hot from the perimeter sinking seven three-pointers in the opening 20 minutes alone and took a 38-34 lead into halftime. They were highly efficient from the field early on as they consistently found the open man in transition to sink several uncontested shots while Duke looked a little rusty to start the game.
The second half was a tight battle that went down to the wire and saw the Blue Devils yet again escape with a single possession victory after what seemed like another example of a divine intervention that kept the final shot from sending the game into overtime and possibly send them home packing.
Duke got an outstanding performance from a trio of freshmen that included two usual suspects in Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett but with Cam Reddish out due to injury freshman Tre Jones stepped in and had his best game to date with 22 points and eight assists. Williamson led the team in scoring with 23 points and Barrett registered a double-double with 18 points and 11 assists.
They will now play the Michigan State Spartans on Sunday at 5:05 eastern time with a chance to advance to the final four and if their last two games were any indication of what to expect from Duke going forward, then the contest should come down to the wire and be decided by a single possession.