Eight is enough

NC State's still around! And it'll face a familiar foe with the Final Four on the line in Duke. Also, Purdue dominates Gonzaga and Tennessee handles Creighton. Plus, the latest on the coaching carousel and the transfer portal.

Even with North Carolina out of the tournament, Tobacco Road still takes center stage in the NCAA Tournament.

Let's get to Friday’s news.

1. The South Region is all about the ACC

The ACC has three teams in the Elite Eight — and none of them is North Carolina. Been that kind of NCAA Tournament.

Duke — we’ll get to the Devils — and NC State are headed for a showdown in the South Regional Final on Sunday, guaranteeing the ACC at least one team in the Final Four.

To think, NC State’s season nearly ended on March 15 until a banked-in 3-pointer forced OT vs. Virginia in the ACC Tournament. To say noting of getting pushed by Louisville in the ACC tourney opener!

Yet, here’s the Wolfpack, in their first Elite Eight in nearly 30 years after a 67-58 win over Marquette on Friday night.

Some will say NC State’s been lucky during its eight-game win streak. That won’t quiet down considering Marquette missed more open looks than Bill Raftery has catchphrases — it was a miserable 4-of-31 (12.9%) from beyond the arc; it was 36% entering the game — but I’m certain NC State (25-14) doesn’t care.

Besides, Marquette’s insistence on hoisting 3s wasn’t the only thing that decided the game. Mohamed Diarra was his usual all-around awesome self (11 points, 15 rebounds), DJ Burns dropped 7 dimes and DJ Horne delivered when it mattered most, going for 19 points, including baskets on three consecutive series in the second half when Marquette (27-10) was trying to make a run.

“It’s magical, but I’m going to say we knew this from day one,” Horne said. “We knew we were a good team. It was all a matter of just locking in and understanding our roles, and no better time to be doing that than now.”

They’ll face a familiar foe next.

Duke’s 54-51 win over 1-seed Houston sent the Devils (27-8) to their second Elite Eight in the last three years. It was quite the grind, too.

Kyle Filipowski scored 16 points and had nine rebounds, while Jeremy Roach added 14 as the Devils (26-8) held off Houston. However, the biggest reason for Duke’s win was because of who wasn’t on the court.

With Houston leading 16-10, Jamal Shead — its All-American point guard and Big 12 POY — injured his right ankle driving for a layup and didn’t play the rest of the game. Without him, the Cougars (32-5) couldn’t must any offensive rhythm, going just 12-of-30 from that point.

"It didn’t feel like a fair fight. Two of theirs equals one of Jamal. That’s how good he was. You don’t have another one of those,” Cougars coach Kelvin Sampson said. “You don’t have the best defensive player in the Big 12. You don’t have the guy who made all the big shots at the end.”

Even without Shead, Houston still had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds, but couldn’t get any clean looks for LJ Cryer or Emanuel Sharp.

“This game right here was that same type of game. Just a great, gritty team and their culture. Just seeing the togetherness, how we didn’t quit out there tonight, that really shows the growth from last year,” Kyle Filipowski said. “We remember how upset we were from last year, and we didn’t want to repeat that again.”

2. Collision course between top two in Midwest

If UConn’s been the most dominant team of the tournament thus far, Purdue isn’t far behind.

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