Andrew Harrison and Tyler Ulis are both guards who play for the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats. Sure, one is 6-foot-6 and the other is 5-9, but they were born only a little more than a year apart and these days there's no noticeable age difference between the two, as this photo from last month indicates:
But that wasn't always the case. Back in middle school, the two squared off as opponents on the AAU circuit and Ulis, clearly finding the humor in it, tweeted out this photo and included a few laughing emojis:
So if Kentucky's opponents have felt a little bit like David going up against Goliath this season, we at least know there's one Wildcat who knows the feeling quite well.
The Elite Eight is upon us and we've got you fully covered in Los Angeles and Cleveland. Keep this page open starting at 6 p.m. ET as our reporters bring your real-time reaction and analysis from both of Saturday's regional finals.
That's when the world saw his glorious mustache.
It's magnificent. And there is a story behind it.
Moesch, who spoke with reporters Friday during media availability before Saturday's Wisconsin-Arizona Elite Eight matchup, said he hasn't shaved his upper lip since UW lost to Maryland on Feb. 24.
Since that game, the Badgers have won nine in a row.
That's how the lucky 'stache that changed a season was born. Moesch doesn't believe in superstition, but he's also aware of the impact that his facial hair has had on the program.
“I've just had it going and had it going, then we just kept winning, so I had to keep it growing,” he said. “It's not superstitious; it's just routine. 'Routine' is what I would call it. Superstition, we don't really do superstition, but like tradition and getting into a routine. That's what it is. Some people [encourage it]. Some people say, 'Shave that stuff.'”
Moesch has supporters, though. It's so popular that Wisconsin fans have nicknamed it "The Moeschstache."
— Ryan Morey (@rymorey) March 20, 2015
“My family, it's growing on my family,” he said. “My family likes it now. They put on fake mustaches for the games. It's definitely [a factor for this run].”
There are, however, drawbacks. He said food gets stuck in his mustache sometimes. But the mustache is not going anywhere. It's too valuable.
Just 59,204 (0.5 percent) out of 11.57 million Tournament Challenge brackets got all the Elite Eight teams correct. Regarding Friday's results, only 2.1 percent of brackets have Gonzaga, Louisville, Duke and Michigan State reaching the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament.
- 26.1% of brackets have the Louisville Cardinals in the Elite Eight (12.3% have them reaching the Final Four).
- 19.1% of brackets have the Michigan State Spartans in the Elite Eight (9.1% have them reaching the Final Four).
- 5.9% picked the Louisville/Michigan State matchup in the Elite Eight (54.0% of those brackets picked Louisville to win).
- 48.3% of brackets have the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the Elite Eight (21.9% have them reaching the Final Four).
- 82.3% of brackets have the Duke Blue Devils in the Elite Eight (52.3% have them reaching the Final Four).
- 40.7% picked the Gonzaga/Duke matchup in the Elite Eight (60.0% of those brackets picked Duke to win).
Looking ahead to Saturday’s Elite Eight games
- The Wisconsin Badgers-Arizona Wildcats is a very even matchup in terms of bracket advancement, as the Badgers were picked to reach the Final Four in 41.8% of brackets and the Wildcats in 36.2%.
- The Kentucky Wildcats are obviously the biggest favorites to reach the Final Four (77.7% of brackets), while the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were picked to do so in just 9.5%.
President Obama’s bracket
The President won the only game he could have on Friday, Duke’s victory over Utah, and he wound up getting five Elite Eight teams correct. Looking ahead to the Final Four, he still has three teams alive (Kentucky, Arizona, Duke). His bracket currently sits in the 49.9 percentile.
The seed line -- a seven for Sparty, a three for the Sooners -- will say this was an upset. Anyone who knows Michigan State's history knows better.
Here are five observations from the game:
- Michigan State coach Tom Izzo put this one on his seniors, saying the Spartans would continue to go only as far as Travis Trice and Branden Dawson took them. Count this as a delivery. Trice finished with a game-high 24 points. Dawson had only six, but his 11 boards were every bit as critical.
- Praised for his defensive prowess during the pregame, Denzel Valentine delivered offensively in this one. The junior, who managed just four points against the Virginia Cavaliers in the regional semifinal, finished with 18. More critically, 13 of those came in the second half, when Michigan State turned a four-point deficit into its first lead. He also drained a critical 3 (one of four he made), taking a great outlet from Dawson for a transition bucket that bumped the Spartans' lead to four points, which, in this game, seemed huge.
- Buddy Hield got his points -- 21 overall -- but the Spartans did a good job of all but eliminating him for a long and critical stretch of the second half. Hield went from a little under nine minutes until the final minute of the game without any points, and an even longer 10-minute stretch without a field goal. During that time, the Spartans made their push, going from two down to take the lead, and eventually, the game.
- The score might not indicate a real track meet (though this season, it kinda does) but this game was played at a near-frenetic pace, with both teams trying to push on misses and more than content to shoot early in the shot clock. That doesn't mean it wasn't physical. The Sooners and Spartans banged plenty defensively, jumping out on shooters and making the going tough in the low post.
- The Spartans are dreadful at the free throw line -- 330th out of 345 teams -- but when they needed to come up, they did. Trice and Valentine were an ice-water 6-of-6 in the final 1:19, preserving the win.
HOUSTON -- The Duke Blue Devils defeated the Utah Utes 63-57 in an NCAA tournament South Regional semifinal Friday. The top-seeded Blue Devils advanced to face No. 2-seed Gonzaga on Sunday with a Final Four berth on the line.
Here are five observations from Duke's win:
- Duke freshman forward Justise Winslow put on a show in his homecoming debut. The Houston native had an added bounce from the start of the game but saved his best work for the second half, when he scored 13 of his game-high 21 points. When Utah cut its deficit to 49-43, the closest it had been since early in the second half, it was Winslow who scored a three-point play to boost the Blue Devils. During one stretch he made back-to-back 3-pointers, which led to a bit of chest pounding and signaling from the normally stoic forward. It nearly led to a Utah basket as Winslow was beat down the floor while making his gestures. Luckily for him, the Utes missed the basket and he avoided the ire of Mike Krzyzewski.
- The Blue Devils proved they can survive against a team with more size. Early in the first half, the Utes owned the boards but finished with just a 36-31 advantage. Once Krzyzewski inserted Amile Jefferson at power forward and Grayson Allen at shooting guard for a bigger lineup, Duke was able to forge ahead. Despite giving up 18 offensive rebounds, Duke was only outscored on second chance points 12-6.
- Delon Wright's value to Utah showed just after he picked up his third foul with about five minutes left in the first half. Duke went on an 8-0 run that turned a one possession game into a 10-point lead. The Blue Devils also used full-court pressure for the first time -- once causing a 10-second violation -- and the Utes turned the ball over on four straight possessions.
- The Utes made it clear that Duke center Jahlil Okafor was not going to beat them. Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak ran a double team at Okafor every time he touched the ball in the post. While it kept him from scoring most of the time in the first half, it didn’t keep the Blue Devils from being effective. Okafor was adept at backing up with the double closing in on him, staying patient and not panicking under the pressure and finding an open player to pass out of the situation. As the Utes kept going to the double team, Okafor began cracking in the second half. He was twice baited into making cross-court passes and turned the ball over both times. Okafor finished the game tying a season-low six points on 3-of-6 shooting.
- The Duke-Gonzaga matchup has the potential to be an offensive explosion -- if both teams can actually solve the riddle of 3-point shooting in NRG Stadium. The pace should be fast, the possessions quick and decisive, and a lot of points should be scored. There are also several individual battles to look forward to, including at point guard with Tyus Jones going against Kevin Pangos. It’ll also be interesting to see if Gonzaga coach Mark Few allows 7-foot center Przemek Karnowski to play Okafor straight up.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
With half of Friday’s Sweet 16 games in the books, just 326,860 (2.8 percent) out of 11.57 million Tournament Challenge brackets have all six of the first Elite Eight teams. Regarding Friday night’s results, only 11.9 percent of brackets have both Gonzaga and Louisville reaching the Elite Eight.
Overall, 26.1 percent of brackets have Louisville in the Elite Eight (12.3 percent in the Final Four), while 48.3 percent have Gonzaga in the Elite Eight (21.9 percent in the Final Four).
Months earlier, Dekker’s Wisconsin Badgers had knocked Hollis-Jefferson's Arizona Wildcats out of the NCAA tournament in a 64-63 overtime victory that ended on a controversial offensive foul call against Nick Johnson.
"[Hollis-Jefferson] was like 'Don't talk to me. I don't mess with you,'" Dekker recalled Friday during pregame media availability. "He was obviously joking, but it still stuck with him and he was like, 'We're going to get you next year,' and here we are in the Elite Eight. It's gonna be a good one."
There is no way to escape the most obvious storyline in the final stages of the NCAA tournament. Even Arizona coach Sean Miller called it "a heck of a story" on Friday afternoon when players and coaches discussed the Elite Eight rematch at Staples Center on Saturday.
From the dais on Friday, Arizona's players spoke with the tact of seasoned politicians. They said their next game is about earning a spot in the Final Four, which would be a first for Miller.
"We're just going to treat this game like it's another game," T.J. McConnell said Friday. "We're not going to make it any bigger. But we know what's at stake, and getting to the Final Four is a big thing for us, and getting Coach Miller to a Final Four is also a big thing for us as well."
Yeah. Sure. Just "another game." And college guys only take spring break trips to Cancun for the weather.
It's obvious that there's more here. And as the players and coaches continued to discuss the particulars of Saturday's matchup, some of those suppressed emotions and feelings -- tucked away for a year -- seeped to the surface.
"A block/charge call, I don't know," Miller said about the offensive foul call against Johnson with 3.2 seconds left in last season's Elite Eight. "Is it a block? Is it a charge? I think about that every 10 minutes, 20 minutes. But you can't control that. What you can control, especially now that we're playing again, is to do the best that we can with who we are, and really respect why they're such a great team, and they really are, especially on the offensive end."
It's a sentiment that Dekker understands well. After Wisconsin defeated Arizona in last season's Elite Eight, it lost to Kentucky in the Final Four on Aaron Harrison's late 3-pointer.
"I still think about that Kentucky game once in a while, just how close we were [to] playing for a national championship," Dekker said. "It kind of sticks with you. You kind of have, I don't know, maybe a jealousy. When I watch Kentucky, I'm like, 'Man, why couldn't we have gotten that one?'"
While most of the key players return for both teams, personnel additions and subtractions will make Saturday's matchup different from last season's meeting.
Key to the game: Frontcourt matchups will decide this game.
After last year's Elite Eight loss, Miller what-if'd a rematch with a healthy Ashley, who might have helped Arizona stall Frank Kaminsky, who scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in that game.
Kaminsky was unstoppable in last year's matchup. He finished with a 136.0 offensive rating on kenpom.com after shooting 11-for-20 from the field. Kaminsky's offensive versatility perplexed Arizona. The same concerns exist in the rematch. What will Miller do to limit Kaminsky's effectiveness?
Kaleb Tarczewski wasn't comfortable as Kaminsky roamed the floor last season. Ashley might be the best option, but Miller could also go with the long-armed Hollis-Jefferson. He has the agility, length and athleticism to pressure Kaminsky.
But the Badgers have to answer some questions, too. Johnson is a 6-foot-7, 246-pound tight end on a basketball court. How will Wisconsin defend him? Who guards Hollis-Jefferson? Ashley and Tarczewski? That's a lot of size and athleticism that the Badgers have to handle.
And then there's the foul-trouble quandary. Neither team possesses an abundance of depth inside. With so many talented athletes colliding in the paint, it'll be interesting to see how Saturday's game is officiated. If the crew hands out a bunch of early fouls, Arizona and Wisconsin could both have problems that linger throughout the game. At the same time, neither team's frontcourt can afford to play timidly.
The action in the paint will be the most significant factor in Saturday's game.
Player to watch: Kaminsky. That's simple for all the reasons listed above. He's not the only player the Wildcats must contain, but he'll be the most important player on the court. He was a superstar in last year's matchup against an Arizona team that saw two players drafted by the NBA.
If Kaminsky goes off again, then Arizona will go home again.
The Wildcats have to shadow him. He cuts hard off screens along the baseline and finds those bubbles in the corner. That's when teams get confused, because they switch to stop Kaminsky's open looks but often leave other spots on the floor exposed.
The Wildcats also have to score over him when he's defending. North Carolina did a good job of using its bigs to score in transition and get points in the paint against Kaminsky & Co. Arizona must attack, too.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- This is getting predictable. For the third time in four years, and five out of the past eight, the Louisville Cardinals are back in the Elite Eight, though this time might rank as the most surprising.
The Cardinals -- the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, a team that booted its starting point guard in February, a squad that looked downright pedestrian for most of the year -- topped the NC State Wolfpack 75-65 to advance to Sunday’s regional final against either Michigan State or Oklahoma.
Here are five observations from the game:
- In a game that had seven lead changes, furious rallies from each team, unexpected temporary heroes (Anton Gill? Really?), the play of the game went straight chalk. Terry Rozier’s burst down the court, ending with a Euro step, fake, layup, plus the foul was essentially the game winner for the Cardinals, even though it came with three minutes left. And, really, that’s the right finish because Rozier again was the star for the game. The guard, whose elevated play has catapulted Louisville in the NCAA tournament, finished with a dazzling line of 17 points, 14 rebounds and four assists.
Back to Anton Gill. The Raleigh, North Carolina, native won a state championship in his junior year but was never offered a scholarship by NC State. A motivating factor? Perhaps. Pressed into service when Wayne Blackshear was whistled with his fourth foul, Gill responded with seven points, including a critical 3-pointer when the two teams were trading leads.
- Louisville knew it wasn’t going to win this game from the arc. The Cardinals simply don’t have the shooters that the Wolfpack have, but they wisely made sure that wasn’t an issue. Louisville played a smart half-court game, slowing down the tempo to eliminate NC State’s chances at transition shots (and to slow down Cat Barber) and concentrating on getting inside either to Montrezl Harrell or with dribble penetration. The Cards finished with 40 points in the paint to NC State’s 22. That’s against a team that ate up Villanova with 34 paint points a game ago.
- Harrell, held to seven points the last time the two teams met, got the same physical treatment from the Wolfpack bigs but this time pushed back. He mixed up his shots, throwing in a few short jumpers along with some power moves down low, to finish with 24 points -- his high for this NCAA tournament.
- Lost in the commotion of the back-and-forth game -- Louisville had just five turnovers in the game, only one in the entire second half. Rozier and Quentin Snider made savvy decisions on when to push tempo and when to retreat, and then took their time in the half court. That mistake-free basketball all but eliminated NC State’s usually potent transition game.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
HOUSTON -- Arguably the best team in Gonzaga Bulldogs coach Mark Few's tenure is now in position to do something no other team in program history has done: advance to the Final Four.
Here are five observations from the Zags' win:
- NRG Stadium is still far from a shooter's paradise. Much of the first half played like a flashback to the Connecticut Huskies' win over the Butler Bulldogs in the 2011 national title game. The Huskies made just 1 of 11 3-pointers, the Bulldogs 9 of 33 (and were even worse in 2-point territory, going 3-of-31) and finished shooting 18 percent from the field.
The court was a different configuration -- attendance being much different for a regional than a Final Four, but the results were about the same when it came to shooting jumpers.
Gonzaga entered the game shooting 41 percent from 3-point range. For UCLA, that mark was 37 percent. Needless to say, neither team came close to reaching its average. The Zags went 3-for-19 and the Bruins 3-for-13.
- Knowing the going was tough outside, Gongaza pounded the ball inside to Przemek Karnowski, and the Bruins had no answer. Karnowski used his 7-foot-1, 288-pound frame to make the 6-foot-9, 260-pound Tony Parker and 7-foot, 245-pound freshman Thomas Welsh look small by comparison.
It didn't matter who was on him. Karnowski wielded his weight around the basket, scoring eight of the Zags' first 14 points after halftime to help establish a double-digit lead that they maintained.
The first time the Bruins double-teamed him in the second half, Karnowski whipped a behind-the-back pass to Domantas Sabonis for a basket. Karnowski finished with a team-high 18 points.
- UCLA's Bryce Alford scored 27 against the SMU Mustangs and 22 against the UAB Blazers in the opening rounds of the tournament. But given the aforementioned shooting problems everyone had in the stadium, he was rendered ineffective against the Bulldogs. It certainly didn't help him get into a shooting rhythm after he picked up two fouls midway through the first half and had to sit.
Alford was 1 for his first 8 before the Bruins started taking desperation 3s and he made two -- even banking one home. Alford finished with eight points on 3-of-11 shooting.
The Bruins aren't deep enough to withstand an outing like that from their second leading scorer, who had averaged 15.6 points per game.
- The Bruins talked about taking Gonzaga leading scorer Kyle Wiltjer out of the game after he torched them for 24 points during their regular-season meeting, and they effectively achieved that goal. Wiltjer scored just eight points on 4-of-12 shooting from the field, but he did grab 10 rebounds. Kevon Looney kept Wiltjer from getting many open looks, and even when he did, the stadium backdrop seemingly took care of the rest.
- Gonzaga doesn't hurt itself. The Zags play like every player understands his role. They don't take many bad shots. They stay patient, doing so even when the game's tempo at one point got a bit hectic. And they definitely don't turn it over, as UCLA scored just four points on five Gonzaga turnovers.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider