Elite 8 Schedule: Ranking the Most Exciting Remaining Matchups

Alex Koma@AlexKomaVTContributor IIIMarch 29, 2014

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 28:  Adreian Payne #5 of the Michigan State Spartans reacts after hitting a three pointer late in the game against Virginia Cavaliers during the regional semifinal of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 28, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

After a truly bizarre and unpredictable NCAA tournament, it’s hard to believe that the Elite Eight has shaken out the way it has, producing some very exciting matchups.

With just two of the tournament’s top four seeds remaining, it’s hard to tell which games will be more compelling.

It’ll certainly be a treat to watch an underdog like Dayton take on the tournament’s top seed in Florida, but there’s a certain appeal to the heavyweight clash of a region’s top two seeds, like when Arizona and Wisconsin square off.

Read on for a full schedule of the remaining slate of games and a quick ranking of which ones will be most worth your time to watch.

Elite 8 Schedule
MatchupTime (ET)TV Info
(11) Dayton vs. (1) FloridaSaturday, 6:09 p.m.TBS
(2) Wisconsin vs. (1) ArizonaSaturday, 8:49 p.m.TBS
(7) Connecticut vs. (4) Michigan StateSunday, 2:20 p.m.CBS
(8) Kentucky vs. (2) MichiganSunday, 5:05 p.m.CBS

4. (8) Kentucky vs. (2) Michigan

Bleacher Report

While John Calipari’s Wildcats may be the lower seed in this one, it’s hard to consider Kentucky a Cinderella team.

That takes a little of the magic out of this one, especially once it becomes clear that this will be a matchup between two talented, if flawed, teams.

There’s no doubt Kentucky is hitting its stride at the right time. After an uneven regular season, this is by far the best basketball the Wildcats have played this year.

And they won a big game over Louisville, a popular pick to repeat as tournament champions, which can’t be discounted when considering this game.

"I told them before the game, 'You're going to get punched in the mouth and you're going to taste blood,'" Calipari told the Indianapolis Star’s Phillip B. Wilson. "You're going to fight and brace yourself for the next shot. They fought, they never stopped playing."

Kentucky’s freshmen will be fun to watch against Michigan, but the Wolverines’ latest win was marked by two questionable referee decisions late in the game, and the Wolverines managed to claw out a tight finish.

This will still be an exciting game, but hardly the best one to watch for in the Elite Eight.

3. (11) Dayton vs. (1) Florida

Michael Conroy

There’s no way around it—Florida is an incredibly talented team.

They control the pace of the game with their methodical defense, averaging just 64.7 possessions per game, and it’s no surprise to find them where they are right now.

Dayton surely deserves credit for advancing as far as they have in the tournament, but their talent level just can’t compare to the Gators.

The Flyers also benefited from some weak matchups to get this far. The highest seed they played, Syracuse, certainly had its share of problems that led to that loss.

While the underdog aspect of this one is exciting, Florida has the skill to make this into a blowout pretty quickly.

Flyers fans shouldn’t completely lose hope, though, as SportsCenter tells us history may be on their side.

Mar 27, 2014; Memphis, TN, USA; Dayton Flyers forward Kendall Pollard (22) celebrates after defeating the Stanford Cardinal 82-72 in the semifinals of the south regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament at FedExForum. Mandatory Cre
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

2. (2) Wisconsin vs. (1) Arizona

Not many people predicted both of these teams to survive their strong draws, but now they find themselves matched up in a good one.

Unsurprisingly, Wisconsin’s best asset is its strength in the frontcourt. While Arizona has plenty of talent there, notably in freshman Aaron Gordon, they’ll still be at a depth disadvantage.

However, if they stay consistent at the line and play well down low, they can get the edge here, as Basketball Insiders' Yannis Koutroupis writes.

The Wildcats need to attack them on the frontline and go right at Frank Kaminsky. Making their free throws late could end up being key as this has the makings of a game that could go down to the wire. The Wildcats have had their struggles at the line, but on Thursday they went 19-25 while the Badgers went 11-20. They’ll also have to do a better job on the glass after getting outrebounded by the Aztecs. If they can’t keep the Badgers off the glass, they give them the chance to dictate the tempo  and control the pace.

Watching these two teams duel in the low post should be truly compelling theater.

1. (7) Connecticut vs. (4) Michigan State

Mar 27, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard T.J. McConnell (4) talks in a huddle against the San Diego State Aztecs during the second half in the semifinals of the west regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament at Honda
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

More and more, the Spartans are looking like the team everyone expected them to be coming into the season.

After being banged up all year, Michigan State has finally settled into a groove and seems to have a clear shot at the title game.

It’s largely thanks to Branden Dawson, who almost single-handedly carried them over Virginia, as ESPN’s John Gasaway notes (subscription required):

You can forget about the perimeter orientation, because that's ancient history now. Instead, Michigan State is now killing opponents in the paint, hitting 53 percent of its 2s for the month. Payne has been reliable as usual (making half his 2s in the NCAA tournament) but it's been Dawson who has really led this charge. Over the last three games, the junior has made a remarkable 68 percent of his 2s.

Michigan State has also lowered its foul rate now that the roster is whole, but at least to this point this defense is still merely "good" and not "great." In the month of March opposing teams have scored 589 points over the course of 567 possessions.

But the Huskies shouldn’t be taken lightly. Between Villanova and Iowa State, UConn’s beaten some very tough teams and their stars are starting to prove themselves.

Shabazz Napier put up 19 points against the Cyclones while keying the offense, yet DeAndre Daniels’ 27-point performance was perhaps more impressive.

It’s hard to call the Huskies “underdogs” because of the program’s history, but they do have a bit of a Cinderella vibe to them.

That’s what makes this matchup the best one of the Elite Eight—the two teams in the tournament that seem to be getting the absolute hottest when it matters most squaring off.

It should be quite the ride.


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