PLAYER OF THE DAY: Ryan Cline, Purdue
Cline had a career-high 27 points on Thursday. He scored 22 of those 27 points in the second half, and Purdue needed every single one of them despite the fact that they held a 17 point lead with 15 minutes left. That’s because Tennessee made a furious rally down the stretch to take a three-point lead on two different occasions — both times answered by a Cline three — and force overtime.
TEAM OF THE DAY: Texas Tech Red Raiders
Texas Tech held a team coached by John Beilein to 44 points in the Sweet 16.
Let me say that again for the people in the back.
Texas Tech held a team coached by John Beilein to 44 POINTS.
What the Red Raiders did to a very good Michigan team on Thursday night was ridiculous. Michigan never got close to a rhythm against the Wolverines, and the result was a second straight trip to the Elite 8 for Chris Beard’s crew.
ONIONS OF THE DAY: Kihei Clark, Virginia
Clark is a kid that I have bee pretty hard on this season. He’s a weird fit on this Virginia team, and he has moments where he looks like he shouldn’t be on the floor in an ACC game. That did not happen tonight, because he was arguably the best player on the floor for the ‘Hoos.
Clark finished with 12 points and six assists, but it was the three-pointer that he buried with 5:21 left in the second half that was the biggest shot of the day. That three ended an 18-5 run and tied the game at 45. It launched a game-ending, 11-4 surge by Virginia, who won 53-49 and advanced to the Elite 8 for the second time in Tony Bennett’s tenure.
Someone is finally going to get the recognition that they deserve in the South Region.
Tony Bennett has been an utterly dominant coach during the regular season, winning four of the last six ACC regular season title, three of the last six ACC tournament titles and entering the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed four times during this stretch.
Building this Virginia program into the behemoth that it is should never be looked down on.
Matt Painter has been similarly impressive, especially in the last four years. During that stretch, he has turned Purdue into one of the most successful teams in the Big Ten. They have won two of the last three Big Ten regular season titles and, in 2018, finished one game out of first place with a 15-3 conference mark. They’ve done all of this despite graduating significant pieces each and every offseason.
These two men are two of the best currently doing in the collegiate ranks.
And on Saturday, one of them will get their first trip to the Final Four.
That is great news for whoever wins.
And whoever loses will have to wait at least one more year before the rest of the world truly understands how good they are.