The NCAA tournament can’t last forever. We’ve been blessed with some tremendous basketball this year, but just five games remain in the college basketball season.
With the first of four Elite Eight contests in the books, only two Final Four spots are left unfilled. No. 3 Florida and No. 4 Michigan square off at 2:20 p.m. ET to determine the South Region representative in the Final Four, while No. 1 Louisville and No. 2 Duke will do battle at 5:05 p.m. ET to fill the final vacancy.
No. 4 Syracuse suppressed No. 3 Marquette in the Sweet 16 and will await the winner of Sunday’s first matchup. No. 9 Wichita State upended No. 2 Ohio State in the West Region on Saturday and will take on either Louisville or Duke in a surprising Final Four pairing.
We’ll take a look at the game info and breakdown for each remaining Elite Eight matchup. Be sure to catch all the action live on CBS.
No. 3 Florida vs. No. 4 Michigan - 2:20 p.m. ET on CBS
Betting Lines: Florida -3, over/under 134
Key Players: Trey Burke (Michigan), Glenn Robinson III (Michigan), Mike Rosario (Florida), Erik Murphy (Florida)
Either Vegas knows something we don’t, or odds-makers don’t have a lot of faith in Michigan. Florida is a three-point favorite in this contest, despite inconsistent efforts from its best player in Kenny Boynton and a lack of resistance throughout the tournament.
The Gators cruised past No. 14 Northwestern State and No. 11 Minnesota in the second and third rounds, only to face No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast in the Sweet 16. Not to take anything away from "Dunk City,” but the Eagles weren’t prepared for a showdown with Billy Donovan’s deeper, more experienced squad.
Michigan, on the other hand, was faced with matchups against Shaka Smart’s always-dangerous VCU squad and the No. 1-seeded Kansas Jayhawks in the last two rounds. The Wolverines drubbed VCU 78-53 in the round of 32 and pulled off a miraculous comeback against Kansas with the assistance of a last-second trey from stand-out point guard Trey Burke.
Still, the last two rounds had to have taken a toll on John Beilein’s young squad. Playing the giant-killer role eventually catches up with teams in the Big Dance, and completing the trifecta with a matchup against Syracuse looming may prove to be too tall a task.
Burke will have to post another massive game on Sunday to keep the Wolverines in this game. If Boynton shows up to play and Mike Rosario has another strong showing, Burke’s efforts still may not be enough.
Expect Michigan to cover the spread in a down-to-the-wire finish, but Florida’s experience will be too much for the Wolverines to overcome.
No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 2 Duke - 5:05 p.m. ET on CBS
Betting Lines: Louisville -4, over/under 138
Key Players: Seth Curry (Duke), Mason Plumlee (Duke), Russ Smith (Louisville)
No. 1 overall seed Louisville was expected to encounter a more difficult stretch of games in the third and fourth rounds. Upsets in the Midwest Region left the Cardinals with a Sweet 16 matchup against the No. 12 Oregon Ducks, however, and Louisville was able to escape the first four rounds without much of a struggle.
The Elite Eight won’t prove so kind.
Duke has faltered in the Big Dance in recent years, but Mike Krzyzewski’s squad appears poised to run the table. The Blue Devils dispatched a potent Creighton offense in the third round and easily defeated the No. 3 Michigan State Spartans in the Sweet 16 on Friday.
Led by senior guard Seth Curry and his 24-point tournament scoring average, Duke will present a difficult matchup for a Louisville team much better suited for an up-tempo full-court style. If the Blue Devils can slow the pace of play and keep the game in the half court, Rick Pitino’s squad will struggle to score points.
The Cardinals haven’t gotten many consistent scoring performances in the tournament, but junior guard Russ Smith has been superb. He’s averaging 27 points per game in the Big Dance, including a 31-point effort against Oregon in the Sweet 16.
Given Duke’s difficult tournament path and dominance in reaching the Elite Eight, this game could be another in a long list of tournament upsets. Expect the Blue Devils to at least cover the spread, though smart money is one Duke to win in a high-scoring affair.
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