There are four spots left up for grabs in the Elite Eight. Syracuse, Marquette, Ohio State and Wichita State punched tickets with victories on Thursday. It was also another day of busted brackets as Indiana and Miami were sent packing.
It's always interesting to look at the updated bracket at this point in the tournament. Just over a week ago there were 68 teams with varying NCAA tournament dreams and, by the end of Friday, there will be just eight left chasing a national title.
First, four more teams must earn their spots in regional finals. The day's action features a pair of No. 1 seeds (Louisville and Kansas) and a pair of surprising contenders (Oregon and Florida Gulf Coast). Here are predictions for which squads will reach the Elite Eight from Friday's action.
Oregon received a poor seed from the selection committee when the tournament began, which helped fuel its run to the Sweet 16. The Ducks' win over St. Louis, a team that was being considered a sleeper for the Final Four, was very impressive.
That said, they aren't on the same level as Louisville, the top overall seed. The Cardinals were the only top seed to survive the first week of play without being challenged. They won their first two tournament games by an average of nearly 30 points.
The team's guard combo of Russ Smith and Peyton Siva will have no problem playing at Oregon's quick pace. They, along with Gorgui Dieng and unsung hero Wayne Blackshear, should be able to exploit the few weaknesses in the Ducks' defense and move on.
A lot of Michigan's matchup with Kansas depends on how the Jayhawks react to last week. They couldn't pull away from 16th-seeded Western Kentucky and then were on upset alert against North Carolina before a big second-half charge.
If Kansas is able to press the reset button and improve its level of play, the Jayhawks are the favorite. More likely, however, the team everybody witnessed last week is exactly what it is. And Michigan should be able to take advantage of that.
The dynamic duo of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. should have a field day on the perimeter. They combine to average nearly 34 points per game and could easily exceed that on Friday. As long as Mitch McGary continues his recent hot streak, the Wolverines should advance.
Michigan State Spartans
The marquee matchup of the night features Michigan State taking on Duke. It was a game a lot of people pointed to right after the brackets were released and both teams held up their end of the bargain with solid showings in the second and third rounds.
On most nights when Mike Krzyzewski is on the sideline, there's no doubt as to which team has the coaching advantage. But Tom Izzo is one coach who can at least neutralize that edge. He always seemed to get his teams to peak at tournament time.
Keith Appling, the Spartans' leading scorer, is listed as probable with a shoulder injury. Assuming he plays and is somewhere close to full strength, Michigan State will have enough depth to overcome Duke's star power and reach the Elite Eight.
Regardless of what happens on Friday night, it's been a tremendous run for Florida Gulf Coast. Most people advanced Georgetown in their bracket without thinking twice, but the Eagles never stepped down from the challenge and carried the momentum to the Sweet 16.
That's where the run will come to an end, though. After holding the nation's top-scoring team to 47 points in its tournament opener, Florida was in complete control throughout against Minnesota. The Gators look like national championship contenders.
Florida Gulf Coast is going to fight for every inch and might even put a scare into Florida for awhile. In the end, however, the Gators––the nation's most complete team––will ride their numerous scoring threats past Cinderella and one step closer to a title.
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