There seems to be a big divide between teams that reach the Sweet 16 and those that make the Elite Eight. While a lucky draw can help a squad win two games, getting to the national quarterfinals proves that it is a legitimate contender.
Last season, fans got excited to watch No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast shock the world to reach the Sweet 16 with wins over Georgetown and San Diego State. However, the Eagle were no match for Florida, which reached the Elite Eight for the third year in a row.
The Gators are now back looking to get to this stage for a fourth straight time, while 15 other programs all have the hope of continuing this wild ride. However, half of the teams will be forced to go home after this round.
Here is a look at which teams will be able to advance with a breakdown of the closest matchups of the weekend as determined by Bleacher Report's Round-by-Round Contest.
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|March 27||Stanford (10) vs. Dayton (11)||7:15 p.m.||CBS||Dayton|
|March 27||Wisconsin (2) vs. Baylor (6)||7:47 p.m.||TBS||Baylor|
|March 27||Florida (1) vs. UCLA (4)||9:45 p.m.||CBS||Florida|
|March 27||Arizona (1) vs. San Diego State (4)||10:17 p.m.||TBS||Arizona|
|March 28||Michigan (2) vs. Tennessee (11)||7:15 p.m.||CBS||Michigan|
|March 28||Iowa State (3) vs. Connecticut (7)||7:27 p.m.||TBS||Iowa St.|
|March 28||Louisville (4) vs. Kentucky (8)||9:45 p.m.||CBS||Kentucky|
|March 28||Virginia (1) vs. Michigan State (4)||9:57 p.m.||TBS||Michigan St.|
No. 10 Stanford vs. No. 11 Dayton
This game has been a tough one to predict because fans generally do not know much about either team. Neither squad had been in the spotlight for much of the year, but they certainly showcased their ability in upset wins in the opening weekend.
Of course, these squads have been far from dominant, combining for four wins by a total of 11 points. Only one game did not feature the opponent taking the potential tying or winning shot as time expired.
To this point, Stanford has gotten by with some excellent defense:
Stanford has allowed the lowest field goal percentage (34.5%) and the second-fewest points per 100 possessions (84.6) in the tournament— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 27, 2014
The Cardinal have been especially impressive at shutting down key players, holding New Mexico's Kendall Williams to just three points and Andrew Wiggins of Kansas to four points. Cameron Bairstow did have 24 in the second round, but he was the only one contributing for New Mexico.
Both of these teams are extremely reliant on driving to the paint and scoring inside. With Stefan Nastic and Dwight Powell inside for Stanford, that is difficult to do.
On the other hand, Dayton is much better from the outside with multiple players who can hit the three. Jordan Sibert, Devin Oliver and Khari Price can shoot it at any time, while others are always threats to make an open shot, making the Flyers very tough to defend.
After relying mostly on defense for the first few games, expect Dayton to come through a bit more to help secure the win.
Prediction: Dayton 70, Stanford 68
No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Baylor
Syracuse might have the most famous zone in college basketball, but Baylor has been quite successful in recent weeks utilizing its own version. As David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest noted, the Bears did an excellent job containing Doug McDermott and Creighton:
Baylor held McBuckets to 15 points. Before today, he'd scored fewer than 20 twice since New Year's.— David Ubben (@davidubben) March 24, 2014
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan explained his strategy against the zone:
Bo on Baylor's zone: "We're going to try to move the defense around and be patient to try to find a weak spot" #Badgers— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) March 24, 2014
The Badgers often do a good job moving the ball around to find the best shot available, but there will be fewer openings against a zone defense. This could lead to forced shots and a poor shooting day for the usually efficient offense.
Additionally, the length of Isaiah Austin in the middle of the floor could really cause problems for Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky. The junior has seemed to always have big games for the Badgers when he was needed the most, and it would help free up his teammates to make plays as well.
If Kaminsky is limited, the Badgers will be completely reliant on outside shooting, which is solid but hardly consistent.
On the other end of the court, Kenny Chery has done a great job of running the show, and Brady Heslip seems like he cannot miss from outside. This will be enough for Baylor to continue its impressive run and score its 12th win in 14 games.
Prediction: Baylor 67, Wisconsin 63
No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 7 Connecticut
There might not be a better point guard matchup possible in college basketball. Shabazz Napier and DeAndre Kane each fill up the stat sheet in multiple ways and have the ability to carry their teams late in the game.
Napier scored 25 in an upset win over Villanova, playing most of it on one leg after getting hurt earlier in the game. He still made huge plays throughout the contest to ensure the victory for the Huskies.
Matt Winer of ESPN is one of many starting to think about a Kemba Walker comparison:
Down goes 'Nova. They've been a 2 seed twice. Lost in Round of 32 both times. Shabazz Napier looking Kemba-like with 25. #MarchMadness— Matt Winer (@matt_winer) March 23, 2014
The former UConn point guard led his team to a shocking national championship in 2011.
Meanwhile, Kane has led the No. 6 scoring offense in the nation while also coming through in big moments. He totaled 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in the latest win over North Carolina and had an even bigger role late:
DeAndre Kane scored or assisted on 43 of Iowa State’s 85 points last night... INCLUDING 15 of their final 17 points (!!!!).— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) March 24, 2014
While these players will get their numbers, the difference will come in the supporting cast. Napier is surrounded by some quality shooters but few who can create for themselves. Meanwhile, Iowa State has Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim who can get points against anyone in the country.
Even without Georges Niang, Iowa State should be able to score enough to move into the Elite Eight.
Predictions: Iowa State 82, Connecticut 74
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