The stage is set for the Elite Eight, and the quick turnaround after a wild Sweet 16 means teams with momentum will clash while the iron is hot and fans have little time to recover.
On paper, the next round has everything fans can ask for in a tournament. Great defense vs. great offense. Contrasting styles. Individuals on opposite sides who can take over a game at will.
The beat goes on.
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With such a quick turnaround, it's important to get caught up with all of the pertinent info as quickly as possible. Here's a look at the schedule, odds and a deeper dive into two of the Elite Eight bouts.
|Region||Game||Time (ET)||TV||Predicted Winner|
|South||Dayton vs. Florida (-10)||6:09 p.m.||TBS||Florida|
|West||Wisconsin vs. Arizona (-3)||8:49 p.m.||TBS||Wisconsin|
|Midwest||Michigan vs. Kentucky||5:05 p.m.||CBS||Kentucky|
|East||UConn vs. Michigan State||2:20 p.m.||CBS||Michigan State|
NCAA. Odds via Vegas Insider.
Note: Odds info courtesy of Vegas Insider.
(11) Dayton vs. (1) Florida
Go ahead, get the "David vs. Goliath" and other tropes out of your system.
In all seriousness, not many penciled in Dayton as having what it takes to go this far. Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel put it best:
If you had Florida-Dayton in the Elite 8 on your bracket, congratulations, you are a Dayton fan.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) March 28, 2014
Alas, this is what happens when a team lives and dies from long range. Get hot at the right moment and great things can happen.
Florida has to understand this. Being the No. 1 overall seed and having not lost in 29 straight contests is great, but a team like the Flyers, led by an elite scorer like Jordan Sibert (18 points in Sweet 16 victory over Stanford), is not to be underestimated.
Which team wins?
Credit where it's due—Florida center Patric Young understands the magnitude of the matchup, as captured by the Associated Press, via Sporting News:
"They've earned their spot here just as we have," Young said. "We're going to respect them, just as much as they respect us. We know they're a good team. If they're here, they are going to be one of the eight teams left."
Now combine that with the weight of expectations, as Lost Lettermen points out:
Don't see Florida losing to Dayton but LOT of pressure on Gators. Going to 4 straight Elite 8s w/o Final 4 would be Buffalo Bill-eque.— LostLettermen.com (@LostLettermen) March 28, 2014
Florida will be up to the task. Dayton's guards won't find it so easy to slash in the paint against a defense that ranked in the top three with just 57.8 points allowed per game in the regular season. Sibert will get his, but names like Michael Frazier II and Scottie Wilbekin are hot at the right time and have more than enough to outscore a mega effort from Sibert.
Prediction: Florida 68, Dayton 61
(2) Wisconsin vs. (1) Arizona
It sounds silly to say at this stage of the Big Dance, but both of these teams in particular are on a roll.
Arizona moved past San Diego State in the Sweet 16—despite Nick Johnson missing his first ten shots. Meanwhile, Wisconsin absolutely obliterated a strong Baylor defense with relative ease and won the battle on the glass by a pretty significant margin.
So how does one determine a winner?
Which team wins?
Easy. Roll with the team that can still pick up critical wins despite a poor performance from its best player.
That team here is the Wildcats, which saw the likes of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon step up in a major way while Johnson struggled for the first 17 minutes of the Sweet 16 matchup.
Not only will Wisconsin have to trump an elite team, it has to best history as well, as ESPN Stats & Information captures:
To reach the Final Four, Wisconsin will have to do something it has never done under Bo Ryan - beat a Top 4 seed - and at the same time, also beat a higher seed. Under Ryan, the Badgers are just 1-7 as a lower seed and are 0-6 against Top-4 seeds and have never beaten a team seeded better than 5th.
That's a tall order, and one the red hot Badgers won't be able to fulfill. They're due to come back down to Earth at some point, whereas that drop-off does not exist for the Wildcats thanks to a deep roster that can produce consistency regardless of who shows up.
Prediction: Arizona 75, Wisconsin 70