Programs like Gonzaga, Arizona, Purdue, & UCLA all had legit chances at winning the 2022 national title going into the tournament.
Gonzaga guards shoot the ball poorly in loss to Arkansas, plus Chet Holmgren fouls out on questionable calls
Mark Few’s quest for his first national title is still being worked on, as Gonzaga came up short vs. Arkansas in a competitive six point Sweet 16 loss. Drew Timme & Chet Holmgren combined to shoot 50% from the field, but remaining starters Julian Strawther, Rasir Bolton, and Andrew Nembhard only shot 26.6% while the bench went 33.3%. The game pretty much came down to which team played better overall, and Arkansas won that battle by having more players contribute in efficient ways. Also Holmgren fouled out late in the game after picking up some questionable fouls. I wouldn’t look too much into the calls though, Chet ended the season averaging a concerning 4.3 fouls per game during his last six contests.
Arizona’s top four scorers have bad games vs. Houston, Kerr Kriisa still wasn’t 100%
The Arizona Wildcats couldn’t afford to have an off shooting night against the high scoring Houston Cougars, but that’s exactly what happened. Head coach Tommy Lloyd’s best four scorers (Bennedict Mathurin, Azuolas Tubelis, Christian Koloko, & Kerr Kriisa) combined to shoot just 20% from the field while remaining starter Dalen Terry played great and had 17 points on 66.7% shooting. Pelle Larsson also went for 8 points on 75% shooting off the bench, but Houston scored 72 points as Arizona was lucky enough to even get 60 points thanks to scoring 17 points at the free throw line. Despite the loss, I just wanted to quickly give credit to Kerr Kriisa for playing through a tough ankle injury.
Saint Peter’s upsets Purdue, headlined by Jaden Ivey’s off night and Zach Edey getting subbed out early
Coming into this matchup, I’m sure Saint Peter’s high level defense was on the mind of Purdue’s Jaden Ivey after seeing what top guards for Kentucky & Murray State went through in their losses. And just like those guards, Ivey struggled too, scoring 9 points on 33.3% shooting from the field and turning the ball over six different times. Jaden’s off night didn’t hurt Purdue that much though, as the game was close the whole way. Where Purdue may have gone wrong is when head coach Matt Painter subbed out the seven foot four inch Zach Edey with 6 minutes to go after making his last 2 out of 3 shot attempts. Having two talented bigs like Edey & Trevion Williams was a positive all season, but the Boilermakers only played one big down the stretch vs. Saint Peter’s. Which makes you wonder how much of a difference Edey could’ve made while in such a nice rhythm (5-7 FG).
UCLA gets taste of their own medicine in 7 point loss to North Carolina
During the last two seasons, UCLA made it known they were going to ride or die with their starters and arguably had the best starting five in the entire country this year (Tyger Campbell, Jules Bernard, Jaime Jaquez, Johnny Juzang, & Cody Riley). Unfortunately for the Bruins, North Carolina had the same heavy minutes mindset, as their starters outworked head coach Mick Cronin’s group. Four out of five North Carolina starters (Caleb Love, RJ Davis, Armando Bacot, & Brady Manek) scored 12 or more points headlinded by Love’s electric 30 point performance. Although it wasn’t just scoring that helped lead the Tar Heels to victory. Bacot, Manek, & Davis combined for 30 rebounds on the glass alone while UCLA had 34 total. In a classic grind it out matchup, head coach Hubert Davis’ club prevailed with toughness and timely shot making.