At long last, with brackets in tatters and fans of a select few teams able to take some time to catch their breath, the stage for the 2014 Final Four has been set.
It was easy to think that the last-second classic on Saturday night between Wisconsin and Arizona was the best the Elite Eight had to offer.
Day 2 had something to say about that.
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It sounds cliche, but Sunday gave us two more classics. The following is a look at how things went down as four teams put it all on the line for an elusive bid to the Final Four.
|Midwest||Michigan vs. Kentucky||Kentucky 75, Michigan 72|
|East||UConn vs. Michigan State||UConn 60, Michigan State 54|
UConn 60, Michigan State 54
Twist. Upset. Shocker.
All of the above and plenty more apply to the fact that Connecticut continued its Cinderella run on Sunday by taking down the juggernaut that is Tom Izzo's Michigan State.
It was easy to write off UConn in the face of such adversity against a team that rarely lost with Branden Dawson on the court all year. He fell flat on Sunday with just five points, but Izzo cited even bigger problems as the reason for defeat, according to Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel:
Izzo: "I did not think we played very well." Lamented "turnovers for touchdowns." He credited UConn, also. "Today, we deserved what we got."— Pete Thamel (@SIPeteThamel) March 30, 2014
The Spartans doubled the Huskies' turnover count with 16, a sloppy and uncanny number for an Izzo-led team. Nicole Auerbach of USA Today illustrated the point best during the second half:
It's almost like Michigan State is trying to turn the ball over every possession.— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) March 30, 2014
It's one thing to win the battle on the glass 32-30, shoot 39 percent from the field and dish 13 assists, but such a high turnover rate doomed the Spartans from the onset.
Will UConn upset Florida?
For UConn, the notion that elite point guard play goes a long way in the tournament once again held true. Shabazz Napier poured in 25 points, grabbed six boards and dispensed four assists. Three other Huskies scored in double figures, but Napier's performance was once again the highlight. He has scored a minimum of 19 points in every tournament game this year.
Napier and the Huskies now get a shot at the No. 1 seed in the land in the Final Four against Florida. There, elite guard play will once again be a requirement for the shocking Huskies to advance.
Kentucky 75, Michigan 72
The Aaron Harrison show concluded Sunday's action, as he hit four three-pointers in the final eight minutes—including one to seal the deal with three seconds left:
The young Wildcats, mostly composed of freshmen, have grown up before the eyes of the nation, which speaks to the prowess of head coach John Calipari, as Yahoo! Sports' Brad Evans pointed out:
Potential realized. No matter if you love or hate Calipari have to tip your cap to the coaching job he's done in the postseason. Remarkable.— Brad Evans (@YahooNoise) March 30, 2014
Will Kentucky upset Wisconsin?
Overall, the matchup was efficiency defined. The Wildcats shot 53.4 percent from the field and notched an impressive 7-of-11 mark from long range—the decisive stat. Michigan was great as it shot 47.4 percent from the field but only managed to hit on seven of 18 deep attempts.
Nik Stauskas predictably led all scorers with 24 points, but the Wolverines had no answer for Julius Randle underneath the rim. He collected 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Kentucky enters the Final Four with a great deal of momentum but will need every ounce to move past a hot Wisconsin team. At this point, the Wildcats have shown anything is possible now that they clearly have the mental aspect of the Big Dance down.