Malik Newman and top-seeded Kansas got past their Elite Eight road block on Sunday, knocking off second-seeded Duke 85-81 in overtime in a thrilling Midwest Region finale that clinched the Jayhawks’ first trip to the Final Four since 2012.
Newman scored all 13 of the Jayhawks’ points in overtime and finished with a career-high 32 to lead Kansas (31-7). The Jayhawks will face fellow top seed Villanova in San Antonio on Saturday after snapping a two-game losing skid in the regional finals.
This was college basketball at its best — two blue bloods trading blows for 45 minutes in what was arguably the best game of the tournament so far, one that featured 18 lead changes and 11 ties.
But Newman drilled his fifth and final 3 from the corner to make it 81-78 with 1:49 left. Newman followed with four straight free throws, and the Jayhawks defense stiffened enough to knock the favored Blue Devils out of the tournament.
Trevon Duval scored 20 points for Duke. Freshman star and future lottery pick Marvin Bagley added 16 points and 10 rebounds in what could have been his final game for Duke (29-8), which fell shy its first Final Four trip since winning the national title in 2015.
Grayson Allen had 12 points for the Blue Devils, but the senior’s 10-foot bank shot at the regulation buzzer went in and then out of the rim before spinning away to force overtime.
THE BIG PICTURE
Kansas: This might be the unlikeliest of coach Bill Self’s three Final Four squads. They are not stacked with obvious future NBA starters and they lost three times at home this season. But the Jayhawks banded together to win the Big 12’s regular season and conference titles and now the Midwest Region. By doing so, they proved to their coach that they were hardly soft — a claim that Self had made often earlier in the season.
Duke: The Blue Devils might see four of their freshman stars bolt for the NBA Draft, an expected exodus led by Bagley, a likely top-five pick. Duke will also lose Allen, one of the best players in school history. Don’t cry for Coach K, who has four five-star recruits committed to join the program next year. But this season will likely be remembered as a lost opportunity for a program that expects to make the Final Four more often than not.