Even though there are no more upsets to be found in the NCAA tournament, the drama is reaching a fever pitch in the Elite Eight.
These teams are so evenly matched that one small mistake here or big shot made from an unexpected player is the difference between winning and losing.
All you have to do is look at Saturday's game featuring Wisconsin and Arizona for evidence of this. Arizona's Nick Johnson had a chance to win the game at the buzzer, but he took one dribble too many and couldn't get a shot off before time expired.
Expect to see a lot more intensity like we saw on Saturday night with Michigan State vs. Connecticut and Kentucky vs. Michigan. We have a look at the odds for the two games, as well as predictions coming up right now.
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|East||Michigan State vs. Connecticut||MSU (-5.5)|
|Midwest||Kentucky vs. Michigan||Kentucky (-2)|
Via Vegas Insider
Elite Eight Predictions
Michigan State vs. Connecticut
This is the hardest game of the Elite Eight to predict because Michigan State and Connecticut are winning in similar ways right now.
The Spartans used a 41-point effort from Adreian Payne in the second round to defeat Delaware, but Branden Dawson has been the star in the third round and Sweet 16 with a combined 50 points.
Virginia's smothering defense did hold Michigan State down for most of the game, including the always-important transition points.
Michigan State has 2 points in transition at halftime. Spartans entered game averaging 19 transition points per game.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 29, 2014
What's the best game on Sunday?
Connecticut isn't as strong defensively as the Cavaliers, but the Huskies are strong in that area. They ranked 28th in defensive rating and 40th in points allowed per game. That's held throughout the tournament, with Villanova scoring just 65 points and Iowa State shooting 37.5 percent from three-point range.
The difference in this game will come on the inside. Tom Izzo's team has size and depth in the frontcourt, led by Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson. The Huskies don't have that dominant inside presence—guard Shabazz Napier led the team in rebounds during the season—so it will be difficult to match the Spartans physically.
Prediction: Michigan State 67, Connecticut 63
Kentucky vs. Michigan
It has taken almost five months, but Kentucky's lauded freshman class is playing up to its full potential. Here's what that group did against the defending-champion Louisville Cardinals in the Sweet 16.
IMPORTANT: Kentucky Freshman scored 68 of the Wildcats 74 points last night.— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) March 29, 2014
Julius Randle, in particular, continues to evolve and could end up being the star of the tournament if the Wildcats are able to win a championship.
Julius Randle has 23 double-doubles this season. Only one freshman has had more in a season -- Michael Beasley (28 in 2008).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 29, 2014
Of course, Michigan has something to say about that. The Wolverines are one of the best shooting teams in the country. They haven't shot less than 44 percent from the floor in the tournament and are shooting a robust 49.2 percent (32-of-65) from three-point range.
Kentucky's strength on the defensive side of the ball is in the paint, though it will be tested with seven-footer Willie Cauley-Stein likely out for the game with an ankle injury suffered in the Sweet 16, per CBSSports.com's Jeff Borzello.
Wichita State was able to exploit Kentucky's defense in the round of 32. The Shockers shot 10-of-21 from behind the arc but were saved because Andrew and Aaron Harrison played the best game of their careers with a combined 39 points and four assists.
Michigan's a better shooting team than Wichita State and only allowed 64.8 points per game in the regular season. It's going to be a battle of Kentucky's inside play against Michigan's outside shooting.
So far no one has been able to contain the shooters, so why bet against them now?
Prediction: Michigan 77, Kentucky 75
Note: All stats courtesy of SportsReference.com unless otherwise noted.
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