Two berths in the Final Four remain up for grabs. The only team in action Sunday that hasn't pulled off at least one upset—at least based on seeding—to reach the Elite Eight is Michigan. It illustrates the unpredictability of this year's NCAA tournament.
One thing the numerous close games throughout the tournament have shown is the incredibly small margin for error on this stage. A single mistake is enough to swing the contest in one direction or the other, which equates to a lot of pressure. That pressure continues to increase with each passing round.
Above all else, it makes for some very intriguing basketball. So let's check out the latest bracket information, including how you can track scores and results on Day 2 of the Elite Eight, along with some critical factors in Sunday's games.
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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|
Biggest Key in Each Game
East Final: Can Michigan State Contain Shabazz Napier?
Napier has been on fire since the tournament got underway. The senior point guard is averaging over 22 points per game to go along with six rebounds and five assists to lead Connecticut to the Elite Eight. Without him playing at such a high level, the Huskies probably get knocked out by Saint Joseph's in their opener.
Michigan State can't expect to completely shut him down on Sunday. Napier has simply been playing too well and can contribute in so many different areas. But if the Spartans can at least prevent him from taking over the game, they will be in good shape.
It's not an easy task, of course. Napier is a nightmare to defend because he can beat anybody off the dribble. Kevin Armstrong of the New York Daily News compares his ability to that of Kemba Walker, who helped the Huskies win the 2011 title:
The greatest similarity between Kemba and Shabazz is the hesitation dribble. Their start-stop, herky-jerky handles frustrate all defenders.— Kevin Armstrong (@KevinGArmstrong) March 29, 2014
Keith Appling has been struggling offensively for the Spartans. After averaging more than 11 points per contest during the regular season, he's provided just eight total points through three games. Now's his chance to make up for that.
The senior is a strong defender and will get the first crack at trying to slow down Napier. If he can do that, with some help at times when his counterpart attacks the paint, it won't matter what type of offensive numbers he puts up. And it will put Michigan State in a position to win.
Midwest Final: Pace of Play
Kentucky is not a team that thrives on getting up and down the floor, which is somewhat of a surprise given the athletic nature of its lineup. That said, the Wildcats would be wise to push the pace on Sunday to take Michigan out of its element.
Which team playing Sunday is the biggest title threat?
The Wolverines are very difficult to beat in a game dominated by half-court offense. They are extremely efficient on the offensive end, thanks in large part to the sharpshooting of Nik Stauskas, and it allows them to cover up some of their defensive weaknesses when they can get set.
It would be difficult for the young Wildcats to match Michigan in a slow-paced game. Things would be different if they can speed up the game. And it's something they are much more equipped to do at this stage than earlier in the season.
Dan Wolken of USA Today passed along comments from head coach John Calipari, who talked about the progress that was made amid the streaky play. He said there was enough time to get everything sorted out before the tournament, and it's showing through right now:
It was the fun thing to do to attack these kids individually and they took it on and pushed it aside and kept trying to get better. They kept believing in each other, but I wasn't going to give up on this team. Thank goodness we had enough time with all freshmen to get it right before things ended.
Whether they have progressed enough to beat the Wolverines at their own game is a major question mark. But if Kentucky can get out on some fast breaks and use that athleticism to its advantage, the outlook changes and the Wildcats can control the game.