The 2014 NCAA tournament rolls on to the Elite Eight on Saturday after a thrilling set of games on Friday night. While there are some years where March Madness doesn't quite live up to its nickname, this certainly isn't one of those years.
Game after game is up for grabs heading into the final minutes. The result is an Elite Eight that features a mix of teams that were expected to reach this point like Florida and Arizona along with some unexpected title contenders such as Dayton and Connecticut.
College basketball fans around the country hope those competitive trends continue over the final three rounds of the event. As for now, let's check out all of the updated bracket information, followed by previews and predictions for Saturday's contests.
All Your Bracket Essentials:
- Download the Printable Bracket
- Follow the Latest Bracket Updates Live
- Play the Free Bracket Challenge
South: (11) Dayton vs. (1) Florida
Dayton survived matchups against Ohio State and Syracuse by three points combined. That illustrates not only the small margin for error in the tournament but also what it takes to spark a Cinderella run. A team must come up big in crunch time, and the Flyers have.
After a more comfortable win over Stanford, Dayton will face its toughest test to date in Florida. The tournament's top overall seed hasn't looked unstoppable in the early rounds, which at the very least should give the Flyers a sense of belief heading into the game.
What sets Florida apart is the sheer number of players capable of stepping up to lead the charge in any given game. Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News passed along comments from head coach Billy Donovan about the make up of his roster:
We're not the most talented team in the country. We don't have a lot of these lottery picks running around.
I think on any given night, we can play with anyone. But we don't have a Julius Randle, a Jabari Parker, a Doug McDermott, a Marcus Smart. We don't have a star. Our team is based on being a team.
Which team will win the South region?
Dayton, which didn't even make it beyond the quarterfinals of its own conference tournament, is riding a wave of momentum right now. The confidence that comes from that should allow them to stay competitive with Florida throughout.
The question is whether the Flyers can pull off another upset. Given how well Florida has played all season, the answer is likely no. The Gators simply have too many weapons, led by Scottie Wilbekin, to become the latest victim of this year's Cinderella.
Prediction: Florida 75, Dayton 67
West: (2) Wisconsin vs. (1) Arizona
The West region hasn't generated much attention because it's lacked the major upsets going on elsewhere. The result, however, is a positive one as fans should now be treated to a very entertaining clash between Arizona and Wisconsin, the top two seeds.
Both teams enjoy playing at a slow pace, but the manner in which they win is different. It's a simple battle featuring offense against defense. The Wildcats rank first in adjusted defensive efficiency while the Badgers rank fourth in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com.
The most impressive fact about Arizona's play on the defensive end is how consistent it's been from the opening tip of the season. ESPN's Numbers Never Lie provided an interesting fact to further illustrate that point:
Only ONE team in the country has yet to allow more than 75 points in a game... the Elite 8-bound Arizona Wildcats...— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) March 28, 2014
Which team will win the West region?
So it will come down to which group is able to gain the upper hand. Frank Kaminsky, Ben Brust and Sam Dekker will be attacking the rim for Wisconsin while Aaron Gordon, Nick Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson defend it for Arizona.
Every indication suggests this will be the latest tournament game to go right down to the wire. In those situations, it's hard to pick against the better defensive team because they are more capable of getting the necessary stops in crunch time. It gives the edge to the Wildcats.
Prediction: Arizona 71, Wisconsin 66