The Latest on the NCAA Tournament (all times Eastern):
The CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska, looks like Allen Fieldhouse North as top-seeded Kansas faces fifth-seeded Clemson in the Midwest Region semifinals.
The upper and lower bowls of the 17,500-seat arena are mostly blue. One section of the lower bowl is filled with fans in the orange of Clemson.
Omaha is a 3 1/2-hour drive from the Jayhawks’ campus in Lawrence, Kansas.
The Clemson-Kansas winner will go to the Elite Eight and face the winner of Friday night’s second Midwest semifinal between No. 2 seed Duke and 11th-seeded Syracuse.
Kansas had an 11-6 lead with 14:45 left in the first quarter.
-Eric Olson reporting from Omaha, Nebraska.
The NCAA has tweaked its interpretation of a rule that allows padding to cover braces worn on the elbow, wrist or forearm.
The change could allow Purdue center Isaac Haas to play in Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Texas Tech, though it still remains a long shot. The star center has been sidelined since he fractured his right elbow in the Boilermakers’ first-round NCAA Tournament win.
An initial version of a protective brace for Haas was ruled ineligible for the NCAAs because of a rigid metal component that it felt was a safety hazard to other players. Graduate engineering students at Purdue constructed a softer version using carbon fiber and shipped it to Haas on Tuesday.
But one of Purdue coach Matt Painter’s markers for considering whether Haas would be able to play was if he could rebound using both hands and be able to shoot with it as well. Haas practiced Thursday, but displayed very limited mobility in the injured elbow, keeping it mostly at a 90-degree angle during the workout.
He performed a right-handed layup, but never attempted a jump shot during the 15-minute portion open to the media.
– Kyle Hightower, reporting from Boston
Move over underdog darlings: It’s time for some of college basketball’s blue bloods to take the stage in the Sweet 16.
Villanova, Kansas, Duke and Syracuse all tip off their regional semifinal games Friday night. All four schools have national titles.
The action tips off with Clemson taking on Kansas in the Midwest. Four teams will join West finalists Florida State and Michigan, and East finalists Kansas State and Loyola-Chicago to round out the Elite Eight.
Power names in action means Friday night might actually be good for some wins for your long-busted bracket (if you haven’t given up on it just yet).
Unlike the South region, where one-tenth of 1 percent of ESPN bracketeers correctly selected Loyola-Chicago and Kansas State to make it this far, teams like Purdue, Villanova and Kansas are highly popular picks to reach the regional final.
The second half of the Sweet 16 is rife with compelling matchups.
Villanova’s Jalen Brunson vs. West Virginia’s Jevon Carter. Duke’s athletes trying to solve Syracuse’s zone. The athleticism of Kansas and Clemson.
Should make for some more drama in the NCAA Tournament on Friday night.
The marquee matchup comes in the East Region Friday in Boston, where Villanova, one of two No. 1 seeds remaining, faces the team nicknamed Press Virginia.
The Wildcats have been on a tear, making 31 combined 3-pointers in lopsided opening NCAA Tournament wins over Radford and Alabama. Villanova (32-4) has been even better on defense, holding its first two opponents to 37 percent shooting and less than 60 points per game.
West Virginia (26-10) is known for its defense, but rode its hot-shooting offense into the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years.
Syracuse (23-13) faces its toughest test yet against the Blue Devils (28-7) in Omaha. Duke has a superb inside-out game with super frosh Marvin Bagley III in the middle and is averaging 85 points per game in the tournament.
Purdue’s 7-foot-2 standout Isaac Haas is hoping to get in the game against Texas Tech, thanks to an arm brace quickly engineered by grad students in hopes of meeting NCAA safety standards.
And Kansas (29-7), the top seed in the Midwest, faces fifth-seeded Clemson (25-9) on a roll after a 31-point rout of Auburn.
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