B/R Expert NCAA Bracket Picks 2014: Updated Elite Eight Results
It was a tough task to achieve, but the four Elite Eight games upstaged the plethora of dramatic games that we saw throughout the first four rounds of the 2014 NCAA tournament.
Wisconsin advanced past Arizona in an overtime battle in Anaheim, while its fellow Big Ten teams fell in dramatic fashion on Sunday.
UConn and Kentucky defeated Michigan State and Michigan respectively in two drama-packed showdowns on Sunday to join the Badgers and Florida, who easily beat Dayton, in the Final Four on Saturday at AT&T Stadium.
Read on for complete recaps from each of the regional finals played this weekend.
Florida 62, Dayton 52
Florida finally broke through its self-imposed Elite Eight wall, holding off Dayton 62-52 on Saturday to reach its first Final Four since 2007.
The top-seeded Gators (36-2) won their 30th consecutive game, and also ended a skid that saw them lose in this round in each of the previous three seasons, by jumping out to a 14-point halftime lead and then using defense and rebounding to keep Dayton (26-11) from mounting a comeback.
No. 11 seed Dayton tied the game at 23 with 4:40 left in the first half before Florida went into halftime on a 15-1 run for a 38-24 advantage. The Gators kept the lead around 10 points for most of the second half, though the Flyers got within 58-50 on a Dyshawn Pierre layup with 3:57 remaining.
Neither team shot well in the final 10 minutes of the game, with Florida making only 1-of-15 shots down the stretch. But the Gators prevented a comeback by dominating on the boards to clinch their fifth Final Four appearance.
Scottie Wilbekin came out on fire for Florida, scoring 14 of his game-high 23 points in the first half. He also scored the Gators' final seven points.
Dayton was led by Dyshawn Pierre, who finished with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while Devin Oliver was 4-of-7 from three-point range to net 12 points for the Flyers.
Florida was just 5-of-21 from the field in the second half, but the Gators dominated on the glass to make their poor second-half shooting a non-issue. Florida outrebounded Dayton 37-26, including a 12-5 edge in offensive rebounds.
The Gators will face Connecticut in the Final Four next Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Florida's last loss, on Dec. 2, was by one point at Connecticut.
Update by Brian J. Pedersen
Wisconsin 64, Arizona 63 (OT)
Wisconsin clinched its first trip to the Final Four since 2000 in dramatic fashion, pulling out a 64-63 overtime victory over top-seeded Arizona on Saturday night in the West Regional final at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
The second-seeded Badgers (30-7) rode the inside-outside game of Frank Kaminsky and tenacious defense to send coach Bo Ryan to his first Final Four after 704 career victories.
Wisconsin had to survive late drama to advance, including a lengthy video review on an out-of-bounds ball that awarded Arizona possession with 2.3 seconds left in OT. The Badgers then prevented Arizona's Nick Johnson from getting a shot off.
Kaminsky, who scored 28 points, put Wisconsin up for good on a turnaround jumper with 2:21 left in overtime, breaking a 59-59 tie. Arizona (33-5) pulled within 64-63 with 58 seconds left on a putback by Jordin Mayes, then held for a final shot after a defensive stop. However, Johnson was called for a push-off on a drive with four seconds to go.
Arizona forced overtime on a Rondae Hollis-Jefferson dunk on a Johnson airball with 36 seconds left, then Traevon Jackson missed on an outside jumper with three seconds left on the other end.
Kaminsky was nearly unstoppable for the Badgers, scoring his 28 on 11-of-20 shooting that was a mix of layups and putbacks inside and 3-of-5 shooting from three-point range. He also had 11 rebounds.
Johnson scored 16 points for Arizona, but was just 6-of-17 from the field including the miss at the end of regulation, while Aaron Gordon had eight points and a career-high 18 rebounds.
Arizona's inability to keep the ball from Kaminsky was the difference in the game. No matter who was guarding him, he found a way to get his shot off, or if not involved in the initial attempt, the 7-footer was there for the rebound and the putback.
Wisconsin will face Kentucky, a team that defeated Michigan in the Midwest region final, in one of the two Final Four games to be played on Saturday.
Update by Brian J. Pedersen
UConn 60, Michigan State 54
The latest defining moment at Madison Square Garden for the UConn Huskies came on Sunday in the 60-54 win over Michigan State.
Shabazz Napier, who has been the star of the entire season for the Huskies, clinched the victory with three free throws after he was fouled by Keith Appling with 30.8 seconds remaining.
After the Napier free throws, Philip Nolan slammed the door shut on the Spartans with an emphatic slam that sent the crowd at the Garden into an uproar.
Napier was his usual self throughout the game that saw each team pull off a large scoring run. The senior guard made all nine of his free throws and four triples on his way to 25 points.
Michigan State had just two players contribute for most of the game as Adreian Payne and Gary Harris carried the team, but the lack of production from the supporting cast failed Sparty in the end.
With the win, UConn became the second No. 7 seed to advance to the Final Four. The 1984 Virginia Cavaliers were the only other team to do so and they fell to Houston in the national semifinals.
Napier once again delivered in a clutch situation with his game-high point total of 25. Harris scored 22 for the Spartans, while Payne contributed 13, despite shooting 4-of-14 from the field.
The X-factor for UConn wasn't one single player, it was the entire group on defense that denied Michigan State of getting into a rhythm down low. Starting with the first possession, the Huskies made sure that the Spartans would not get good looks in the paint.
UConn will travel to AT&T Stadium to play Florida in the Final Four, a game that will be a rematch of a December game in Connecticut that was won by a Napier buzzer-beater.
Update by Joe Tansey
Kentucky 75, Michigan 72
With the outstretched arm of Caris LeVert stuffed in his face, Aaron Harrison launched the game-winning three-pointer that sent Kentucky into the Final Four.
Harrison's shot connected with the nylon with 3.8 seconds remaining in the dramatic showdown at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Nik Stauskas, who was quiet for most of the second half, had one last chance to send the game to overtime, but just like Gordon Hayward's 2010 halfcourt heave in the national championship at the same location, his shot was close, but not good enough.
The Wolverines found themselves in the game late because of a 6-0 run after John Beilein called a timeout with 6:24 left in the game.
After that run, it was Harrison who countered the Michigan offense with three triples in the final 4:30.
Aaron Harrison may have scored just 12 points, but all of them were important as they came in the final eight minutes from beyond the arc. Julius Randle led the Wildcats in scoring (16) and rebounding (11). Stauskas had 24 in defeat for Michigan.
Marcus Lee came off the bench to deliver a performance no one expected with 10 points and eight rebounds for Kentucky.
Kentucky will face Wisconsin in the national semifinals on Saturday at AT&T Stadium.
Update by Joe Tansey