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
|Date||Team 1||Team 2||Final Score/Start Time||TV|
|March 29||No. 1 Florida||No. 11 Dayton||Florida 62, Dayton 52||TBS|
|March 29||No. 1 Arizona||No. 2 Wisconsin||Wisconsin 64, Arizona 63||TBS|
|March 30||No. 4 Michigan St.||No. 7 Connecticut||2:20 p.m.||CBS|
|March 30||No. 8 Kentucky||No. 2 Michigan||5:05 p.m.||CBS|
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 Napier—have 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|
|Round||Michigan Offense||Kentucky Defense|
|Second Round||7-17 (41.2%)||5-21 (23.8%)|
|Third Round||14-28 (50%)||10-21 (47.6%)|
|Sweet 16||11-20 (55%)||4-15 (26.7%)|
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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