Surprise, surprise. Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski have their teams back in the Final Four.
No. 7 seed Michigan State needed overtime to outlast No. 4 seed Louisville in a 76-70 win, while top-seeded Duke fended off No. 2 seed Gonzaga 66-52 with a late run in Sunday’s Elite Eight action to set up a showdown of legendary coaches in the NCAA Tournament national semfinal.
The Spartans’ run through the East region arguably was more impressive, as some questioned whether they’d even make the Big Dance after hitting a rough patch in February.
Yet Izzo’s squad delivered when it mattered most, reaching the Final Four for the seventh time under his direction, more than any team under one head coach over the last 15 years.
As it had in its Sweet 16 win over Oklahoma, Michigan State trailed for much of the game and was down by eight points at halftime. Yet the Spartans’ defense stepped up down the stretch, with Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine sparking the offense to force overtime.
MSU’s defense took over again in the extra period, holding the Cardinals to just five points in five minutes to come away with the win.
(1) Duke 66, (2) Gonzaga 52: After several disappointing appearances in the NCAA Tournament, the Zags were less than 20 minutes away advancing to their first Final Four in school history. But the Blue Devils’ talented freshman class wasn’t interested in becoming a footnote.
After a strong first-half effort, Gonzaga came out firing in the second half to take a four-point lead with 12:23 remaining. That’s when Duke came to life, as freshmen Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones helped spark a nine-point run to give the Blue Devils a lead they’d never relinquish.
The win marks the 12th time Coach K has led his team to a Final Four, tying legendary UCLA coach John Wooden for the most such appearances in NCAA history. Krzyzewski and Izzo will have 19 Final Four berths between them when the two teams square off April 4 in Indianapolis.
Thumbnail photo via Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports Images