Aaron J. Thornton/ALOST

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

DETROIT — After having to wait a calendar year for redemption, Purdue’s backcourt has not only quieted naysayers about their NCAA Tournament bona fides, but they’ve been Zach Edey-like dominant in moving the program a step away from its first Final Four in more than four decades.

After years of having Final Four-caliber teams come agonizingly short of that goal year after year, Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes now has a Tennessee team that will finally play for a spot in college basketball’s final weekend of the year.

Amidst all the Madness, the Midwest Region has produced the most calm … at least until those top two teams clash in a monumental match-up that will leave one fanbase finally satisfied that a long-awaited Final Four will come their way.

Both the Boilermakers and Volunteers, the top two seeds in the region, advanced in their Sweet 16 games of the NCAA Tournament on Friday evening in Little Caesars Arena. In game one, guard Braden Smith had 14 points and 15 assists, leading No. 1 Purdue to an impressive80-68 victory over No. 5 Gonzaga. No Purdue win would be complete without an impressive performance from the presumptive National Player of the Year, Zach Edey, and he delivered with 27 points and 14 rebounds. The win lifts the Boilermakers to the Elite Eight and one step closer to making their first Final Four since 1980.

In tonight’s second regional semifinal, the Tennessee Volunteers got the best game from SEC Player of the Year Dalton Knecht in the NCAA Tournament, as he scored 24 points with six rebounds and five assists as second-seeded Vols used an 18-0 run early in the second half to create separation and eventually defeat No. 3 Creighton 82-75. Point guard Zakai Zeigler scored 18 points while playing all 40 minutes for Tennessee, who reaches the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in school history, joining the 2010 squad.

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Friday evening’s games, with photos taken by ALOST staff photographer Aaron J. Thornton. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 39 pictures in total.

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Tags : Creighton Blue JaysGonzaga BulldogsNCAA TournamentPurdue BoilermakersTennessee Volunteers

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