Three of the four Elite Eight underdogs scored upsets and advanced to the March Madness Final Four. #4 Michigan State appeared to sleep-walk through a 60 – 54 loss to #7 UCONN in the Eastern region, and #8 Kentucky kept the possibility of an all-SEC championship game alive with a stunning victory over #2 Michigan in the Midwest. #2 Wisconsin edged #1 Arizona by a single point, 64 – 63 in the West. And in the Southern region, Florida was the only Elite Eight favorite that won. They had a relatively easy time against the #11 Dayton Flyers, the Cinderella darling of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. One team from the American Athletic Conference, one team from the Big Ten and two squads from the SEC remain with hopes of being crowned the 76th March Madness champion.
No ACC Team Left?
The usually basketball-strong Atlantic Coast Conference was conspicuously absent from the Elite Eight. And the SEC is well represented, with half of the final four spots laying waste to the allegation that the conference is only dominant in football. The Florida Gators were the #1 overall seed headed into the tournament, and they get the UCONN Huskies for a 6:09 PM EST tipoff on Saturday, April 5. At 8:49 PM that same night, the Wisconsin Badgers and Kentucky Wildcats go head-to-head, with coach John Calipari hoping for a return to the championship game that delivers the same victorious outcome his team achieved in 2012. The Huskies most recently won the tournament in 2011, and Florida went back-to-back with titles in 2006 and 2007. Wisconsin’s only March Madness championship came way back in 1941, so the Badgers are guaranteed to play strong and hungry against Kentucky.
Quiet Second Half Costs the Spartans
The March Madness 2014 championship game will be held on Monday, April 7 at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and will be aired by CBS. UCONN was led by Shabazz Napier, who torched Michigan State for 17 of his 25 points in the second half. The East Regional’s most outstanding player helped the Huskies overcome a nine point second-half deficit for the victory at Madison Square Garden, as the Spartans scored just 29 points in the final 20 minutes. With the victory, UCONN became the first #7 seeded team to make it to the Final Four since 1985, when the March Madness tournament was expanded to a full 64 teams. Against Michigan, a quiet pair of 19-year-old identical twins made big shots and big plays when they counted for Kentucky, just as they have throughout the Wildcats tournament run.
Harrison Twins Identically Big for Kentucky
Aaron and Andrew Harrison combined for 20 points and just 3 rebounds in the game. But Aaron’s NBA range three-pointer with 2.3 seconds left on the clock cemented the huge win over a favored Michigan team. His brother Andrew had five of his game-high six assists after the break, as the two brothers have been taking turns making game-changing plays during this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Florida was able to end Cinderella’s dance thanks to 23 points from Scottie Wilbekin, as the Gators rolled past everyone’s favorite underdog to reach the Final Four for a fifth time. The victory gave UF its 30th straight win and a 36 – 2 overall record that topped the previous school record of 35 wins tallied during the 2007 National Championship season.
#8 Kentucky Showing Real Value as an Underdog Wager?
As predicted here in our last March Madness post, Frank Kaminsky was huge for Wisconsin. The seven footer stroked 28 points, 6 of those in overtime, to give Wisconsin the edge and the victory against Zona. The long-range shooting big man had 3 three pointers and added 11 rebounds, scoring inside and outside seemingly at will. Coach Bo Ryan earned his 704th career victory with that W. The Vegas odds on March Madness 2014 will no doubt show Florida as a huge favorite to win it all this year. But savvy risk takers see some real value in the #8 Wildcats, who will be showcasing a very attractive money line in their upcoming game against the powerful Badgers.