The field of 64 has already been whittled down to eight, with more teams about to face the agony of defeat as we roll toward the final showdown of the NCAA tournament in Arlington, Texas, on April 7. Each Elite Eight matchup was chock-full of storylines, and first game didn’t disappoint.
The Cinderella team of this year’s tourney, the Dayton Flyers, were knocked out of contention but they proved their mettle and gave Florida its toughest test so far.
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Elite Eight Schedule
|South||No. 1 Florida vs. No. 11 Dayton||6:09 p.m.||TBS|
|West||No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 2 Wisconsin||8:49 p.m.||TBS|
|East||No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 7 Uconn||2:20 p.m.||CBS|
|Midwest||No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 8 Kentucky||5:05 p.m.||CBS|
Note: All games can also be streamed online with March Madness Live.
Florida Handles Dayton to Finally Advance to the Final Four, 62-52
The most lopsided matchup in terms of seed drew the attention of the nation as fans watched to see if the feel-good Dayton Flyers could continue their run and upset the No. 1 overall seed. For the first 16 minutes, the Flyers were giving Florida all it could handle.
Dayton was not overwhelmed by the stage or the moment. The trademark ball movement and probing found a few holes in the Gators defense, and the Flyers hung tough thanks to the three-ball.
They even took their first lead with seven minutes left in the first half, and the game was tied at the four-and-a-half-minute mark.
But then the Gators made the run everyone knew was coming. The defense clamped down, forced some turnovers and Florida ended the half on a 15-1 run—punctuated by a Scottie Wilbekin three-pointer at the buzzer—and went into the break with a 14-point lead.
Give Dayton credit, however. The Flyers came out of halftime on fire, cutting the lead to eight, but that was as close as they came. They actually continued to shoot well in the second half, but Florida’s size and athleticism eventually took its toll—especially on the offensive glass, where the Gators racked up 12 boards.
Dayton managed to make it an eight-point game with 3:57 left, but the Flyers couldn’t cap off the comeback.
It was a fantastic season for Dayton and head coach Archie Miller, and this tournament was great exposure for the program but it unfortunately ran into a team that hasn’t lost a game since early December.
For this Florida team, it finally made it to the Final Four after losing in the Elite Eight in each of the last three years.
Have to feel good for Florida's seniors after Elite Eight losses against Butler (2011), Louisville (2012) and Michigan (2013).— Pete Thamel (@SIPeteThamel) March 30, 2014
From the very beginning, however, this Gators team was motivated by past failures to reach its goal. Here’s what Patric Young had to say on the matter, per Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com:
"We set our goals to be here, to be this team that could use a lot of guys. But [in November], we never knew what would happen. It's been a process, it's been quite a journey, and it's been a great year. But we're not done."
They certainly aren’t done, as the Gators are trying to make it to Arlington and cut down the nets when it’s all over.
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