2022 NCAA March Madness Observations: Gonzaga, Arizona, Purdue, UCLA

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Programs like Gonzaga, Arizona, Purdue and UCLA had legitimate chances of reaching the Final Four before the tournament.

Gonzaga’s guards throw the ball poorly in loss to Arkansas, plus Chet Holmgren fouls on questionable calls

Work is still in the works on Mark Few’s quest for his first national title, as Gonzaga fell short against Arkansas in a competitive loss by six points in the Sweet 16. Drew Timme and 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 shot 33.3%. The game basically came down to which team played better overall, and Arkansas won that battle by having more players contribute efficiently. Holmgren also fouled late in the game after receiving some questionable fouls. I wouldn’t get too hung up on the calls though, Chet finished the season averaging 4.3 fouls per game over his last six games.

Arizona’s top four scorers have bad games against Houston, Kerr Kriisa still wasn’t 100%

The Arizona Wildcats couldn’t afford to have a bad shooting night against the Houston Cougars, but that’s exactly what happened. Head Coach Tommy Lloyd’s top four scorers (Bennedict Mathurin, Azuolas Tubelis, Christian Koloko and Kerr Kriisa) combined to shoot just 20% from the field, while remaining starter Dalen Terry played very well and scored 17 points with 66.7% shooting. Pelle Larsson also had 8 points on 75% shooting off the bench, but Houston scored 72 points and Arizona was lucky to even get 60 points thanks to scoring 17 points at the free throw line. Despite the loss, he just wanted to quickly give Kerr Kriisa credit for playing through a tough ankle injury.

Saint Peter’s upsets Purdue, led by Jaden Ivey’s night off and Zach Edey being substituted early

Going into this matchup, I’m sure Saint Peter’s top-tier defense was on Purdue’s Jaden Ivey’s mind after seeing what top shooting guards from Kentucky and Murray State went through in their losses. And like those shooting guards, Ivey also struggled, scoring 9 points on 33.3% shooting from the field and turning the ball over six different times. However, Jaden’s night off didn’t hurt Purdue as much, as the game was close the entire time. Where Purdue may have failed is when head coach Matt Painter replaced the 7-foot-4 Zach Edey with 6 minutes remaining after making his last 2-of-3 shot attempts. Having two talented giants in Edey and Trevion Williams was a positive all season long, but the Boilermakers only played one down the stretch against Saint Peter’s. Which makes you wonder how much of a difference Edey could have made with such a nice pace (5-7 FG).

UCLA gets a taste of its own medicine in 7-point loss to North Carolina

For the past two seasons, UCLA made it known that they were going to ride or die with their starters and had arguably the best five starters in the entire country this year (Tyger Campbell, Jules Bernard, Jaime Jaquez, Johnny Juzang and Cody Riley). Unfortunately for the Bruins, North Carolina had the same minute-heavy mentality as their starters outplayed Mick Cronin’s club. Four of five North Carolina starters (Caleb Love, RJ Davis, Armando Bacot, Brady Manek) scored 12 or more points led by Love’s electric 30-point performance. It wasn’t just scoring that helped lead the Tar Heels to victory, though. Bacot, Manek and Davis combined for 30 rebounds in the cup alone, while UCLA had 34 total. In a classic matchup, head coach Hubert Davis’s club prevailed with toughness and timely shooting.

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