The second day of Elite Eight play doesn't feature a No. 1 seed. In the East, Virginia was knocked out by Michigan State in the Sweet 16. In the Midwest, Kentucky knocked off Wichita State two rounds ago before pulling off another upset against rival Louisville.
It showcases the type of tournament it's been since the start. A lot of close games, several teams playing at a level well above their seed line and numerous upsets. In other words, it's March Madness at its finest, and there are still a couple rounds to go.
Up first, there are two more spots to claim in the Final Four. Let's check out all of the updated bracket information, followed by the schedule for Day 2 of the Elite Eight and picks for both games. All odds used are courtesy of Vegas Insider.
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Elite Eight: Day 2 Schedule
|East||Connecticut vs. Michigan State||2:20 p.m.||CBS|
|Midwest||Kentucky vs. Michigan||5:05 p.m.||CBS|
Connecticut vs. Michigan State: MSU -5.5
In its opening game of the tournament, Connecticut needed a late three-point play from Amida Brimah and a defensive stop just to force overtime against Saint Joseph's. The Huskies proceeded to win that game and have since upset second-seeded Villanova and third-seeded Iowa State.
Which team will advance to the Final Four?
Unsurprisingly, Shabazz Napier has led the charge. The talented senior is averaging over 22 points per game in the tournament, in large part due to getting hot from beyond the arc. He's also chipping in six rebounds and five assists per contest, showing off his terrific all-around skills.
The Huskies will seek their third straight upset against Michigan State. The Spartans are coming off a tense battle with Virginia. Nicole Auerbach of USA Today passed along remarks from head coach Tom Izzo, who admitted it wasn't a perfect performance but was pleased with his team's response:
That was one of the toughest games I've played in. Every possession mattered. That is hard to play, mentally, that sharp.
We didn't look as poised as I would have liked, but when you can go down and then get back up … it shows we've got some character, some heart.
Branden Dawson was viewed as the potential X-factor for Michigan State when he returned from injury in early March. He's showed why over the past two games, averaging nearly a double-double with 25 points and a shade under 10 rebounds.
The combination of Dawson and Adreian Payne has been outstanding. If the Spartans can get even slightly improved guard play from Keith Appling and Gary Harris, which is likely to happen, they should edge the Huskies.
Pick: Michigan State by three
Kentucky vs. Michigan: KEN -2
Although some people may be surprised to see eighth-seeded Kentucky as a slight favorite over second-seeded Michigan, the Wildcats' stock is soaring right now. That's what happened after scoring two straight wins over previously unbeaten Wichita State and the reigning champions from Louisville.
It's the type of run Kentucky always possessed the talent to make. Whether it could actually do it with a lineup full of freshmen was a major question mark. As Darren Rovell of ESPN points out, the Wildcats are now being viewed as a legitimate title threat:
On March 10, Kentucky was a 30/1 shot to win the title at the Las Vegas Hotel. This morning? 5/1.— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) March 29, 2014
Which team will advance to the Final Four?
By contrast, Michigan hasn't faced nearly the same level of competition, although Tennessee was a much better team than the No. 11 seed it received. So while the line shouldn't be a shock, the Wolverines can definitely use it as motivation.
Michigan should do everything in its power to slow down the game. It doesn't want to get caught up trying to match Kentucky in an up-and-down contest. The Wolverines are far better in a half-court game so it can set its defense while letting Nik Stauskas lead an efficient offensive attack.
It's easier said than done, however. Kentucky has been as impressive as any team in the tournament while knocking out the Shockers and Cardinals, two championship contenders. The Wildcats should find a way to keep that run alive on Sunday.
Pick: Kentucky by five