NCAA Tournament

Elite 8 2014: Updated Bracket, Schedule and Predictions for Final 4

Mar 28, 2014; New York, NY, USA; The Michigan State Spartans bench reacts during the second half against the Virginia Cavaliers in the semifinals of the east regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
R. Cory SmithSenior Writer IMarch 30, 2014

The Final Four slate isn't quite set, but half the field is already in. As for the rest, just one game remains before booking a flight out to Arlington, Texas, for the biggest stage in college basketball.

Only one No. 1 seed remains (Florida), but historically great programs like Kentucky, Connecticut and Michigan State are still fighting to punch their tickets to visit Jerry World.

 

All Your Bracket Essentials:

 

While the glass slipper doesn't exactly sound right for No. 8 Kentucky or No. 7 UConn, they're the closest thing to a Cinderella story remaining in the bracket.

Can Kentucky pull off one more upset to make it to the Final Four for the second time in three years, or will No. 2 Michigan do what Wichita State and Louisville couldn't do by taking down the young Wildcats?

As for the other side of the bracket, No. 4 seed Michigan Statethe trendy pick before the tournament startedand UConn are set to battle it out in what is sure to be an exciting game between two legendary programs.

Before the final games of the Elite Eight get underway, here's a look at the Sunday schedule and last-minute predictions.

 

No. 7 Connecticut vs. No. 4 Michigan State

Michigan State has two national championships and eight Final Four appearances. UConn has been to just four Final Fours, but has three titles to show for it.

Both programs come in with hopes of adding to their history, but just one can emerge to cut down the nets and claim its region.

While UConn comes in as a No. 7 seed, the Huskies have knocked off No. 2 Villanova and No. 3 Iowa State en route to the Elite Eight matchup with the Spartans. The Huskies' greatness on the court has been thanks in large part to elite guard Shabazz Napier, who has made a name for himself during the tournament, per Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:

The Huskies may have a standout player in Napier, but the all-around game of Adreian Payne will be the difference. Payne has averaged 23 points through the first three games. Gary Harris has also shown flashes of the standout player he can be, but still has plenty left in the tank.

The Spartans and Wolverines also have already both made program history, as ESPN Stats & Info points out:

When the Final Four is set, expect Michigan State to punch their ticket behind both Harris and Payne, along with great defense that has been the Spartans' signature that won them the Big Ten title and has helped them cruise through the tournament.

Predicted Winner: Michigan State

 

No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 2 Michigan

The state of Michigan may have two rival programs in the running for the final weekend of the college basketball season, but will both make the Final Four?

Michigan has played outstanding basketball all season to earn its place as a No. 2 seed. The Wolverines also bring a certain mentality to the Elite Eight that hasn't wavered throughout the season. That mentality was noted by coach John Beilein following the Tennessee matchup, per Nancy Armour of USA Today:

Certainly there was a lot of drama at the end, but we've had a lot of that this year. A win is a win. The whole thing is these kids always believe and they never stop. They just never stop believing we're going to win the game.

On the other side stands a young team that started the season with aspirations of getting to the Final Four. And thanks to finally maturing throughout the SEC tournament and NCAA bracket, the Wildcats are a much improved team.

Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal points out just how spectacular the run has been for the Wildcats heading into the Elite Eight matchup with Michigan:

Much of that has been thanks to the progression of Julius Randle. The star freshman has been great all season, but his three double-doubles throughout the tournament have turned him into a superstar, according to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders:

Michigan has been one of the best offensive teams of the tournament behind Nik Stauskas, as he's scored at least 14 points in every contest thus far. With Caris LeVert shooting from behind the arc and Glenn Robinson III dominating the paint, Michigan will make their eighth Final Four in program history.

Predicted Winner: Michigan

 

Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter. He goes hard in the paint.

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