The 2014 edition of the Final Four is just one week away. Although this year’s slate of Elite 8 matchups is compelling, some teams look like much surer bets to advance to AT&T Stadium than others.
An underdog like Dayton might be a fun story, but the Flyers just don’t seem terribly likely to make it all the way to the Final Four.
Instead, there is a pair of teams left in the tournament that seem particularly likely to make it out of the Elite 8.
Read on for full predictions for each of these matchups, with a spotlight on two teams that look particularly good.
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|Matchup||Time (ET)||TV Info||Prediction|
|(11) Dayton vs. (1) Florida||Saturday, 6:09 p.m.||TBS||FLA|
|(2) Wisconsin vs. (1) Arizona||Saturday, 8:49 p.m.||TBS||ARI|
|(7) Connecticut vs. (4) Michigan State||Sunday, 2:20 p.m.||CBS||MICH ST|
|(8) Kentucky vs. (2) Michigan||Sunday, 5:05 p.m.||CBS||KEN|
The tournament selection committee chose exactly right when they selected Florida as this year’s top team overall.
Billy Donovan has the Gators playing suffocating defense once more, coming in third in the country in scoring defense.
Quite simply, Florida is just too imposing defensively for Dayton’s magical run to continue, as College Basketball Talk’s Rob Dauster writes.
The bottom line is this: Florida is the No. 2 defense in the country, according to KenPom’s adjusted efficiency ratings. And when it comes to coaching, it may be even more difficult to build a gameplan around how to beat the Gators. They simply give you so many looks defensively. They can play man or zone, they can press or play in the half court, they can try to force turnovers or focus on preventing offensive rebounds. The bottom line is that Billy Donovan’s club is the best in the business.
However, the Gators will be ready for their perimeter shooting, as they’ve only let opponents hit 32.4 percent of their tries from deep all year long.
It might be boring to choose the heavily favored team over the upstart team playing “Cinderella,” but the talent gap in this one just seems too large for the Flyers to overcome.
Kentucky just ripped through two of the best teams in the tournament in Louisville and Wichita State, and now the Wildcats have their sights set on Michigan.
John Calipari’s squad has had plenty of ups and downs this season, but his bunch of freshmen seem to have finally put all the pieces together and seized on their tremendous potential.
The Wolverines are no pushovers, but they might not have enough to stop this red-hot Kentucky squad.
Michigan didn’t really inspire much confidence with their win against Tennessee, letting the Volunteers back into the game despite holding a 15-point lead during the game.
Their road to the Elite 8 wasn’t exactly impressive either—beating Texas and Tennessee just doesn’t look as good as beating a top seed and the defending champs like Kentucky just did.
In fact, the experience the Wildcats gained in the rough road to this matchup, and their overwhelming size advantage, could be exactly what puts them in the Final Four, as Sports Illustrated’s Brian Hamilton notes.
Because no team is playing better, with more resiliency, along a tougher path to get to the regional final. The Wildcats dispatched a tough Kansas State team, then beat an undefeated, national title favorite in Wichita State, and the beat another national title favorite in Louisville. And they did it spotting the Cardinals a double-digit lead almost before anyone had yanked their warmup shirts over his head. Against Michigan, Kentucky again will have a decided size advantage just about everywhere. The Wildcats have had double-digit offensive rebounds in six straight games, which is allowing them to make up for their own mistakes consistently.
Calipari’s freshmen seems to be maturing rapidly.
Randle was particularly good down the stretch against the Wildcats, hitting a clutch layup to draw the team within three points and then icing the game with a pair of free throws.
"I didn't really feel any pressure," Randle told ESPN’s Myron Medcalf. "I really wasn't worried about where this game could take us. I was just focused on the game and the game plan that Coach had for us."
The team will likely miss Willie Cauley-Stein after he hurt his ankle against Louisville, but with the way the freshmen are playing, they should have no trouble overcoming the loss.
The Wildcats just seem downright unstoppable right now.
It’ll be a challenge for them to deal with Michigan’s barrage of three point attempts, but the Wildcats have the decided size advantage on the interior to balance the game out.
Kentucky might have looked like a rudderless ship midway through the season, but Calipari’s expert coaching should guide this team to a Final Four berth once more.