The 2014 NCAA tournament is inching closer to crowning a champion. Half of the Final Four participants have been determined and the other half will emerge after Day 2 of the Elite Eight is completed.
It’s going to be a bitter battle in the regional finals, as these two coveted spots are on the line and each team involved has quite a bit of history in the tournament. It's definitely not something you are going to want to miss as a college hoops fanatic or even a casual observer who catches a March Madness game here and there.
Keep reading for the complete Elite Eight Day 2 schedule, plus updated odds, my predictions on the winner of each matchup and more.
|Region||Game||Time (ET)||TV||Predicted Winner|
|Midwest||(2) Michigan vs. (8) Kentucky (-2.5)||5:05 p.m.||CBS||Kentucky|
|East||(7) UConn vs. (4) Michigan State (-5.5)||2:20 p.m.||CBS||Michigan State|
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Day 2 Elite Eight Matchup to Watch: Michigan vs. Kentucky
This is the most intriguing showdown of the remaining Elite Eight games, as the Kentucky Wildcats try to continue their improbable surge to the Final Four against another participant in last year’s national title game
UK ousted defending champion Louisville in a performance even more impressive than their third-round victory against top-seeded Wichita State. The team is now going up against the second-seeded Michigan Wolverines, last year’s runner-up, which boasts plenty of returning stars hungry to get revenge in the form of their own championship.
It will be up to Kentucky’s relatively inexperienced group of freshmen to stop that from happening. It may have seemed improbable a few weeks ago, but this team looks like it could beat anyone in the country with the way it is performing at this juncture.
Give credit to head coach John Calipari, who weathered the storm and kept his group focused through the highs and lows of the 2013-14 campaign. CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein believes that coach Cal deserves more accolades than just being known as the best recruiter in the game:
John Calipari is the best recruiter in the history of college basketball. But he's also one hell of a coach. Beat Louisville w 5 freshman.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 29, 2014
Calipari explained the message he gave his players before the game, as per the Associated Press (via ESPN): "I told them before the game, you'll get punched in the mouth and you're going to taste blood. You can fight or you can brace yourself for the next shot. They fought."
ESPN’s Skip Bayless said that the young Wildcats grew up during the game against the Cardinals, pointing to their clutch shots and supreme effort down the stretch as evidence:
Kentucky kids aren't kids any more. Made so many big shots and free throws and muscled up for so many big rebounds down the stretch.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) March 29, 2014
They cannot afford to rest on their laurels, however, especially against a Wolverines squad that can shoot the lights out and always seems to find a way to put points on the board.
According to KenPom, Michigan ranks No. 2 in the country in terms of adjusted offense and showed why in a Sweet 16 win against Tennessee. UM connected on 55.1 percent of its field goal attempts and 55 percent of its three-pointers in the contest.
Kentucky will have to use its immense length and athleticism to close out on the shooters and clog the lane to prevent easy buckets inside. Doing so will certainly have the team in position to win, especially if it is scoring against a subpar defense.
Michigan’s defense is known to be a tad suspect, coming in as the No. 99 unit in the country, according to KenPom’s rankings. It almost cost the school on Friday evening, as the Volunteers made a late surge that was just barely halted in the 73-71 Wolverines victory.
Which team will win?
Kentucky’s offense might not be elite, but it is slightly better than Tennessee’s (No. 13 compared to No. 15, as per KenPom) and that may make the difference in this Elite Eight battle.
Those looking for tips to bet this game should go with the higher-seeded favorite in the contest. Kentucky has been playing out-of-this-world during the tournament and appears poised to beat all comers.
Pick: Kentucky by six.