SportsPulse: Purdue vs. Tennessee became an instant classic but didn’t finish without controversy. USA TODAY’s Trysta Krick breaks down Thursday’s action and previews Friday’s slate of games. USA TODAY
Four teams are into the Elite Eight following another day of March Madness. Here’s a look at the four biggest takeaways from Thursday’s Sweet 16 action:
1. Virginia silences doubters. The Cavaliers’ redemption tour continues. The No. 1-seeded Cavaliers, using last March’s historic upset to No. 16 seed Maryland-Baltimore County as motivation for this year’s tournament, fended off No. 12 Oregon’s upset bid 53-49 and advanced to the Elite Eight. Virginia guard Ty Jerome (13 points, six assists), who hit the decisive three-pointer with 3:33 remaining, called the “ugly” defensive battle a “dogfight.”
“But it’s survive and advance,” Jerome said after the win.
The Cavs and their nation-leading defense now meet Purdue on Saturday with a chance for the program’s first Final Four since 1984. As good as the Cavs have been under Bennett’s tutelage, they’ve underachieved in the NCAA tournament — only getting to one other Elite Eight (2016) despite acquiring a No. 1 seed in three of the last five years. Not only is UVA rewriting the script on its 2018 heartbreak, it’s doing what past highly regarded Bennett teams couldn’t. If ever a team’s X-Factor were more clear, UVA is proving doubters wrong. It’s been that way all season. In November, Jerome told USA TODAY Sports of the UMBC loss narrative, “we hear everyone ripping us. I’d love to shut ’em up.”