The complete field for the Elite Eight is set, and it promises to bring us four great battles over two days to determine the teams heading to Texas for the Final Four.
Day 1 features two of the more intriguing matchups on tap. The Arizona Wildcats take on the Wisconsin Badgers in a powerhouse clash for the West regional title, while the top-seeded Florida Gators look to end the Dayton Flyers’ Cinderella run in the 2014 NCAA tournament.
Keep reading to check out the Day 1 Elite Eight schedule, plus updated odds for the contests, my predictions for each and more.
|Date||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream||Spread||Prediction|
|Sat, March 29||(11) Dayton vs. (1) Florida||6:09 p.m.||TBS||NCAA.com||Florida -10||Florida|
|Sat, March 29||(2) Wisconsin vs. (1) Arizona||8:49 p.m.||TBS||NCAA.com||Arizona -3||Wisconsin|
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Day 1 Elite Eight Matchup to Watch: Dayton vs. Florida
The Dayton Flyers are looking to become the third No. 11 seed since 2006 to make its way to the Final Four. The last two programs to make that type of run, VCU in 2011 and George Mason in 2006, went through No. 1 seeds in the Elite Eight to get there.
Dayton is getting the job done with excellent play from just about everyone, from the starters down on to the end of the bench. The Flyers used 12 players in their Sweet 16 victory over Stanford, something Cardinal head coach Johnny Dawkins seemed stunned by after an 82-72 loss on Thursday evening.
As per Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports, the coach said: "They were relentless. That's the best way I can put it. They came in waves. They've got two players at every position."
ESPN Stats & Info pointed out that the Dayton reserves outscored the Cardinal bench by a large margin:
Dayton's bench outscored Stanford's bench 34-2— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 28, 2014
There is plenty of motivation for this unheralded Atlantic 10 squad to feed off of, which is exactly what guard Jordan Sibert told reporters after the Flyers dispatched Stanford, as per Forde:
People have been doubting us and not giving us a lot of credit. But I know these guys. I know what coach wants. We all want to win. … We fight every day in practice. We compete every day. No matter what, we just want to go out there and show people that we can compete with anybody and handle anybody.
While Dayton has undoubtedly showed it can hang with the best, it is not going to be easy for the squad to navigate any further in the tournament. Especially since the Flyers face a Florida team that earned the No. 1 overall seed in the 68-team March Madness field and has not lost since early December.
The Gators have been downright dominant in 2013-14, ripping off the first 18-0 regular season finish in the SEC, capturing the conference title with relative ease and now winning three straight by double-digits in the NCAA tournament.
Jon Rothstein noted that health has been a major blessing for the Gators this year:
Florida advances to the Elite Eight for the fourth consecutive year. Gators have still yet to lose a game this season when fully healthy.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 28, 2014
Give credit to the multitude of seniors on the roster, four of whom are main contributors in the starting lineup. As per ESPN Stats & Info, the program has made its fourth straight surge to the Elite Eight, but this four-year class has yet to advance any further:
This will be Florida's 4th straight Elite 8 ... the Gators have lost in that round in 2011, 2012, 2013— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 28, 2014
Which team will win?
2014 represents the last and best chance for these young men to make history and bring a third title to UF; head coach Billy Donovan hung back-to-back banners in 2006 and 2007.
Expect these Gators to dig in for their final stand, easily dispatching the Flyers and moving on to the Final Four to await their next test. It’s not a sure thing, but it would be downright foolish to bet against this Florida powerhouse at this juncture.