March Madness 2014: Updated Bracket, Picks, Odds Advice After 3rd-Round Day 1

Brian Mazique@@UniqueMaziqueCorrespondent IIIMarch 23, 2014

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 22:  Derrick Randall #11 of the Pittsburgh Panthers attacks the basket defended by Patric Young #4 and Dorian Finney-Smith #10 of the Florida Gators during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Amway Center on March 22, 2014 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Half of the Sweet 16 is set in the NCAA tournament. Saturday's action didn't create as many surprises as the previous two days, but the games were still exciting.

As we head into the final day of the opening weekend of the tournament, most everyone's bracket is in bad shape. Click here to see the most updated bracket.

Using this article as a second chance, here are my newest Final Four selections:


South - Florida Gators

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 22:  Kasey Hill #0 of the Florida Gators and the Gators bench cheer in the second half against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Amway Center on March 22, 2014 in Orlando, Fl
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After going undefeated in the SEC and winning the conference tournament, the Gators got a little bit of a challenge from the Albany Great Danes in the second round.

Florida would bounce back on Saturday.

Behind a smothering defense that held the Pittsburgh Panthers to just 37 percent shooting in their third-round game, the Gators again looked dominant.

The team has now won 28 straight games. 

The Gators could potentially have to go through UCLA and Kansas en route to the Final Four, but the way they're playing, you'd have to like their chances against both teams.

Consistency has been a problem for that trio of potential opponents, but the Gators have continued their march without a hiccup for months. 

Picking against them right now just doesn't seem smart.


East - Michigan State Spartans

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Head coach Tom Izzo has his team playing like a well-oiled machine. After riding Adreian Payne's 41-point performance to a 93-78 win in the second round, the Spartans looked just as dominant in the third round against the Harvard Crimson.

In Michigan State's latest win, Brandon Dawson was the biggest star. He had 26 points to help sink the Crimson.

If you took a look around the country and asked which teams are playing their best basketball, the Spartans would probably be on a short list.

Izzo's team marched through the Big Ten tournament and haven't stopped its momentum in the NCAA tournament. 

There isn't a team in the East region that the Spartans can't beat.


West - Arizona Wildcats

Denis Poroy/Associated Press

The Wildcats spent eight weeks at No. 1 this season. There's no question the team has the talent to not only advance to the Final Four, but win it all.

In the first round, Weber State played like Damian Lillard was still on the roster in the second half, and Arizona made just 56 percent of its free throws.

The result was a closer-than-comfortable 68-59 win in the second round for Arizona.

Now that the tournament has Arizona's attention, expect a better performance against Gonzaga on Sunday. Aaron Gordon may be 'Zona's most talented player, but point guard Nick Johnson is the team's leader and stabilizer.

His 18 points and ball control were big against Weber State. Johnson's play will be key in Arizona's run to Arlington, Texas.


Midwest - Michigan Wolverines

Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

Balance is Michigan's best quality. The Wolverines have at least three players capable of having a huge offensive performance on a given night. 

In some games, they all band together and form a maize-and-blue Voltron that is pretty tough to beat. Against Texas on Saturday, Michigan had four players with at least 14 points en route to a 79-65 win.

As much of a team effort as the win was, sophomore guard Nik Stauskas has continued to assert himself as the leader and figurehead of the team's attack. He had 17 points to lead the team and dished eight assists against the Longhorns.

Check out this stat from ESPN Stats and Info:

Michigan is so good offensively and it defends on the perimeter very well. Led by Stauskas' versatility and energy, the Wolverines will come out of the Midwest region.


Odds Advice on Three Key Sunday Games

No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks (-6) vs. No. 10 Stanford Cardinal

Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

Andrew Wiggins is leaving little doubt who should be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. While Duke's Jabari Parker was disappointing in an early exit, and teammate Joel Embiid struggles with a back injury, per Jeff Goodman of, it's looking more and more like Wiggins is the man to tab No. 1.

He's averaging 22.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in March. His strong play is a major reason why the Jayhawks will beat Stanford by more than six points on Sunday.

Think head coach Bill Self would like to see Wiggins back for his sophomore year? You better believe it. Take a look at this quote from Self in a tweet from Andrew Baker of 6 Sports in Lawrence, Kan.:

Wiggins is turning it on when his team needs him most. He's also getting help from his teammates. The Jayhawks have bigs stepping up in Embiid's absence.

Jamari Traylor had 17 points and 14 rebounds against Eastern Kentucky in the second round. Without Embiid in the lineup, Kansas is clearly Wiggins' team, and his supporting cast has been solid.

The Jayhawks will cover.


No. 1 Wichita State Shockers (-4) vs. No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats

Mar 8, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Julius Randle (30), guard/forward James Young (1),  forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15),  guard Aaron Harrison (2) and guard Andrew Harrison (5) look at the bench against the Tampa Bay Rays during
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Shockers are the only undefeated team remaining, but we have to remember, this team hasn't beaten a ranked team all season.

This is primarily the same team that went on a Cinderella run to the Final Four last season—and yes it's a well-coached bunch by Gregg Marshall.

That said, Kentucky is more talented, and it's hard to ignore the length advantage it has in the middle. The Shockers' leading rebounder is Ron Baker, and he's just 6'3".

They do have 6'9" Chadrack Lufile and shot-blocker extraordinaire Kadeem Coleby, but matched against Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress, the Wildcats have the size and talent to win the battle on the boards.

With the rebounding edge, Kentucky should also be able to get out in transition regularly. The Wildcats' athletes can take over from there.

In an upset of sorts, Kentucky will hand Wichita State its only loss of the season.


No. 12 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks vs. No. 4 UCLA Bruins (-9)

Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

Quite honestly, were it not for some boneheaded decisions by VCU down the stretch, Stephen F. Austin would have seen a valiant effort result in a loss and second-round exit.

As it is, the Lumberjacks have a date with the Bruins on Sunday.

UCLA is too big, versatile and athletic at almost every position. Point forward Kyle Anderson is not the fleetest of foot, but at 6'9", he's a force on the glass (8.8 rebounds), a solid outside shooter (49 percent from three-point range) and the team's best playmaker (6.6 assists).

He's surrounded by run-and-jump athletes like Zach LaVine, Jordan Adams and the underrated Wear twins.

The Bruins will cover the hefty nine points.


Odds information per Covers.

Statistics per Statsheet unless otherwise noted.

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