The madness of March is coming closer to ending, with the Elite Eight getting underway on Saturday night. It is the final step on the road to New Orleans next weekend.
With Louisville and Florida making emphatic statements in their Sweet 16 games, what little hope there was for chalk holding up this weekend went out the window.
We will have a look at all of the Elite Eight action for this weekend, and tell you what you can expect when the games tip off on Saturday and Sunday.
When: Saturday, March 24 and Sunday, March 25
Watch: All games broadcast on CBS
Live Streaming: Available on NCAA.com
|REGION, MATCHUP||DATE, TIME (EST)||ARENA|
|West: No. 4. Louisville vs. No. 7 Florida||March 24 @ 4:30 p.m.||US Airways Center (Phoenix)|
|East: No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 2 Ohio State||March 24 @ 7:15 p.m.||TD Garden (Boston)|
|South: No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 3 Baylor|| March 25 @ 2:20 p.m. ||Georgia Dome (Atlanta)|
|Midwest: No. 1 UNC vs. No. 2 Kansas||March 25 @ 5:05 p.m.||Edward Jones Dome (St. Louis)|
Matchup to Watch: Louisville vs. Florida
Another year, another Big East team getting hot at the right time.
Louisville was a disappointment in the regular season, but once the Big East tournament came around the Cardinals hunkered down on defense, and now they are one game away from the Final Four.
The Gators did not have a lot of hype behind them after losing four out of five coming into the tournament—even though three of those losses came to Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Their shooting has been spectacular thus far, and an improved defense has made them unstoppable.
These two teams are polar opposites of each other. Louisville wants to wear opponents down with tough, physical defense. Florida is going to shoot you out of the gym.
Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan have a history together, as Donovan played for Pitino at Providence and was an assistant with him at the University of Kentucky.
Predictions (Will Be Updated When All Games Are Determined)
Louisville vs. Florida
The Cardinals have been stifling on defense for the last three weeks. In the seven games they have played since March 7, they have allowed more than 60 points just twice.
On the flip side, the Gators are going to run and shoot. If they create open looks from three-point range, they can make their first trip to the Final Four since 2007.
In the end, Louisville looks too strong defensively for Florida to overcome. It will be another boring, low-scoring affair, but the Cardinals will be victorious.
Syracuse vs. Ohio State
Syracuse has been playing the survive and advance card a lot this tournament. Wisconsin gave the Orange a fight, but it was not enough to pull out a victory.
Ohio State is doing all it can to prove that its February woes were overblown, though the Buckeyes haven't really been challenged thus far.
This will be a battle of two great rebounding teams, but the Buckeyes look a little deeper right now. They will steal a victory in this matchup.
Baylor vs. Kentucky
I will say this: Perry Jones came alive in the Sweet 16 against Xavier and Baylor is so talented that it can mask its inconsistency.
But...Kentucky is the most talented team in the country, sporting four players who could land in the Top 20 of the 2012 NBA draft. Plus, Kentucky is playing more consistent ball than Baylor.
I love Baylor's athleticism and frontcourt, but it's hard to see the Bears beating a team that just dropped 102 points on Indiana despite its top player, Anthony Davis, scoring nine points.
Kansas vs. North Carolina
North Carolina may be the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, and Kansas may be the No. 2 seed, but that doesn't mean they don't have problems.
The Tar Heels were simply not the same team against Ohio without Kendall Marshall. Tyler Zeller stepped up, but the rest of the team was out on sync, evidenced by a grand total of 23 turnovers.
Kansas, on the other hand, has currently seen Tyshawn Taylor go cold and start coughing up the ball. The Jayhawks still have Thomas Robinson, but they need Taylor to expose North Carolina in the backcourt if Marshall doesn't play in the Elite Eight.
It's a tough call, but I'm going with the more talented team in the end, and that team is North Carolina.