Elite 8 Bracket: Schedule and Keys to Victory for Sunday's NCAA Tournament Games

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 28:  Julius Randle #30 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates defeating the Louisville Cardinals 74 to 69 during the regional semifinal of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 28, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

After a thrilling Saturday saw half of the Final Four set, the Elite Eight will end with two games featuring four of the biggest schools in college basketball. 

Michigan State looks to keep rolling after knocking off No. 1 seed Virginia, but it will have to defeat a Connecticut team that is playing like the Kemba Walker-led group of 2011. 

After that is the heavyweight showdown between Kentucky and Michigan. The Wildcats hit their stride at the right time, knocking off No. 1 seed Wichita State and No. 4 seed Louisville in back-to-back games. 

Now John Calipari's group will have to defeat its third straight 2013 Final Four team to advance to Dallas. 

We have an updated look at the bracket, a schedule for Sunday's games and what to watch for when both games tip off. 

 

All Your Bracket Essentials

Bleacher Report
NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Schedule
DateTeam 1Team 2Final Score/Start TimeTV
March 29No. 1 FloridaNo. 11 DaytonFlorida 62, Dayton 52TBS
March 29No. 1 ArizonaNo. 2 WisconsinWisconsin 64, Arizona 63TBS
March 30No. 4 Michigan St.No. 7 Connecticut2:20 p.m.CBS
March 30No. 8 KentuckyNo. 2 Michigan5:05 p.m.CBS

via NCAA.com

 

Keys to Victory

Michigan State Spartans vs. Connecticut Huskies

The team that wins the paint will win the game

The Spartans and Huskies feature dynamic talents in the backcourt who can take over a game at a moment's notice.

Shabazz Napier is having one of those tournaments, like Walker in 2011 or Carmelo Anthony in 2003, where he is capable of carrying a team by himself. The senior guard is averaging nearly 23 points, six rebounds and just less than five assists per game in the tournament. 

Gary Harris and Keith Appling have led a versatile, aggressive Spartans offense that's averaging 78 points per game in the tournament. 

Despite the ability of these star guards, the difference will come in the paint with the big men. Michigan State's Adreian Payne is averaging almost 23 points per game on 51 percent shooting from the floor. 

In his preview for SI.com, Brian Hamilton noted that Connecticut's big men—while not getting as much attention as Napierhave been just as critical in the Huskies' success this March:

You cannot underestimate the value of a March breakthrough and the momentum it creates. That’s true in the macro sense for the Huskies but also true on a more specific level, with DeAndre Daniels dropping 27 points and 10 rebounds on Iowa State on Friday and suddenly providing Connecticut hope that it has the material on hand to measure up to Michigan State’s bigs. 

Michigan State's offense is more potent than Connecticut's, ranking 26th in offensive efficiency during the regular season, but the Huskies are the superior defensive unit. They finished 28th in points allowed per 100 possessions and 40th in total points allowed. 

In a battle between the unstoppable force and immovable object, what happens in the paint will determine who plays in North Texas next weekend. 

 

Kentucky Wildcats vs. Michigan Wolverines

Michigan's three-point shooting versus Kentucky's perimeter defense

There are a number of routes to go with this game. For instance, we could talk about how well Kentucky's freshmen have played in the tournament. 

IMPORTANT: Kentucky Freshman scored 68 of the Wildcats 74 points last night.

— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) March 29, 2014

But when you start breaking down the numbers for both Michigan and Kentucky, it's clear that the outcome will be determined on the perimeter. 

3-Point Shooting in NCAA Tournament
RoundMichigan OffenseKentucky Defense
Second Round7-17 (41.2%)5-21 (23.8%)
Third Round14-28 (50%)10-21 (47.6%)
Sweet 1611-20 (55%)4-15 (26.7%)
NCAA.com

If the game stays on the outside, Michigan will be looking at a second consecutive trip to the Final Four. The Wolverines can shoot with anyone in the country, ranking 21st in field-goal percentage during the regular season and 40.6 percent from three-point range. 

The Wildcats don't want to live on the outside, though they did show off a nice shooting touch against Wichita State by making eight of their 18 three-point attempts. 

Calipari's team has size and strength to overpower Michigan in the paint, but the Wildcats had moments during the season where they couldn't buy a basket. If that happens again, combined with the Wolverines' ability to score in a hurry, this game could get out of hand quickly. 

 

Note: Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. 

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