The 2014 NCAA tournament has lived up to the lofty expectations placed upon it by college basketball fans, but the bracket is heating up as the final two matchups of the Elite Eight approach on Sunday.
With Michigan State taking on Connecticut and Kentucky squaring off against Michigan, the last two spots in the Final Four will be cemented in two of the most intriguing matchups of the entire tournament.
Here is all the updated bracket information, a full schedule for the remainder of the tournament and the latest picks and projections for the Elite Eight.
All Your Bracket Essentials
|Full Schedule, TV and Elite Eight Predictions|
|Date||Regional Finals||Time (ET)||TV||Picks|
|Sun, March 30||Connecticut vs. Michigan State||2:20 p.m.||CBS||Michigan State|
|Sun, March 30||Kentucky vs. Michigan||5:05 p.m.||CBS||Michigan|
|Date||National Semifinals||Time (ET)||TV||Picks|
|Sat, April 5||National Semifinal - TBD||6 p.m.||TBS, TNT, truTV||N/A|
|Sat, April 5||National Semifinal - TBD||8:30 p.m.||TBS, TNT, truTV||N/A|
|Date||National Championship||Time (ET)||TV||Picks|
|Mon, April 7||National Championship - TBD||9:10 p.m.||CBS||N/A|
Sunday’s Most Intriguing Matchup: No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 7 Connecticut
Taking nothing away from the battle between Michigan and Kentucky, the most intriguing game of the two remaining Elite Eight matchups will be the bitter war between the No. 4 seed Michigan State Spartans (29-8, 12-6 Big Ten) and the No. 7 seed Connecticut Huskies (29-8, 12-6 AAC).
While Michigan State has been the more consistent of the two teams, winning seven of the last eight games, there are few teams in the nation with as much momentum as Connecticut after running through St. Joseph’s, Villanova and Iowa State.
Led by the elite all-around ability of senior guard Shabazz Napier—he leads the team in points, rebounds and assists per game—the Huskies have proven to be one of the best offensive teams remaining in the tournament and a fierce test in the defensive end.
UConn is playing fundamental basketball, and head coach Kevin Ollie deserves credit for that.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo told Gillian Van Stratt of MLive.com about Ollie and the job he has done since taking over for a legend like Jim Calhoun:
Jim Calhoun told me what an incredible coach he was going to be. I talked to some of my NBA friends about him and the same words kept coming up -- hard working and classy guy. What he's going to figure out is it's so much easier to keep it going because he's been part of it and has never really left (the program). I've been at Michigan State 31 years and I think that's helped me. That's why the Magics fly in. You're part of both groups -- the past and the future.
As well as the Huskies have played during the NCAA tournament, Michigan State has been hot for weeks. After beating Michigan to win the Big Ten Championship, the Spartans went on to defeat Delaware, Harvard and No. 1 seed Virginia to advance to the Elite Eight.
Michigan State’s key to success this season has been the ability for a strong cast of veterans to complement several young star players. While an amazing start to the season led to a complacent second half, the Spartans have refocused in time.
With an average of 76.2 points per game and led by the elite play of sophomore guard Gary Harris, Michigan State has the better all-around offensive unit and will thwart UConn’s game plan.
This will be a dream matchup, but the Spartans should be able to steal the victory.
Predicted Final Score: Michigan State 77, UConn 74
*Stats via ESPN.com.