Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 4:30 PM
We're set to complete the puzzle in the NCAA Tournament's Final Four in Atlanta next weekend - and now here's the Sunday duo of games from the Elite 8 field and talk about your heavy-hitters in action!
NCAA TOURNAMENT SOUTH REGIONAL FINAL - Cowboys Stadium - Arlington, TX
#3 FLORIDA (29-7) vs. #4 MICHIGAN (26-7) - 2:20 p.m. ET, CBS
Not a bad hoops appetizer here on this Easter Sunday, eh? The Michigan Wolverines completed the biggest and best Sweet 16 round comeback of them all with that epic 87-85 overtime win against a free-falling Kansas team and - while everyone wants to stop and chat about guard Trey Burke's 23 points (all coming after halftime) and his monstrous way-back three-point/late-regulation triple, let us not forget the fact that the guy the maize-and-blue call "Monster" - that's Mitch McGary - was a major star in that tilt with game highs in points (25) and rebounds (14). There is no question that McGary has blossomed as a real star in this tourney - no question one of the top five players in this year's "Big Dance" - and he figures to be a central figure here 'cause Florida often times can be muscled off the low box and beaten to short caroms and loose balls.
Okay, so let's say Burke posts a 20-plus point game here for John Beilein's troops and McGary is a double-double chap one more time, now the $64,000 question is can Michigan get out and guard the Gators' perimeter shooters who didn't exactly shine in Friday night's 62-50 non-cover win against Florida Gulf Coast. The trio of Mike Rosario, Scottie Wilbekin and Kenny Boynton combined to drill just 11-of-31 field-goal tries in all and note that the Gators canned just four triples but a pair of consecutive treys by reserve G Michael Frazier II really saved the day as they started a 16-0 scoring spree late in the first half.
Michigan needs to be ultra-aggressive to the tin - note Florida committed only 11 personal fouls against Florida Gulf Coast two nights ago - and so that means more than just Burke going hard to the hoop and trying to pick up fouls on the likes of front-court stars Erik Murphy and Patric Young - hey, paging Nik Stauskas who is just 9-of-25 from the field in this tourney but could be an X-factor type for the Big 10 team.
FLORIDA'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-22||Florida||- 19||Northwestern St||Florida 79-47|
|3-24||Florida||- 8||Minnesota||Florida 78-64|
|3-29||Florida||- 14||Florida Gulf Coast||Florida 62-50|
MICHIGAN'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-21||Michigan||- 12||South Dakota St||Michigan 71-56|
|3-23||Michigan||- 3.5||VCU||Michigan 78-53|
|3-29||Kansas||- 1.5||Michigan||Michigan 87-85 (ot)|
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT MIDWEST REGIONAL FINAL - Lucas Oil Stadium - Indianapolis, IN
#1 LOUISVILLE (32-5) vs. #2 DUKE (30-5) - 5:05 p.m. ET, CBS
Who said anything about the Louisville Cardinals not "looking themselves"? Rick Pitino's team - and specifically ace scorer G Russ Smith - has been battling a hacking cough and flu symptoms in recent days but you really wouldn't know it by that showing in a 77-69 win against Oregon in Sweet 16 action.
The Cards charged out of the starting gate with a 24-8 advantage - yes, the Ducks drew within six points late but you never did get the sense that the 'Ville was in any sort of real trouble - and Smith finished up with 31 points as he further stamped his imprint on this tourney and proved that at this point he's been the single-best player in this whole "Big Dance". Now, if Smith wants to help spark the Cards to a second consecutive Final Four appearance (remember Louisville bested Florida in last year's Elite 8 game in Phoenix) than he'll have to shake off that sleepy/sluggish feeling and be the best scorer on the floor here.
And that won't necessarily be an easy thing to do because Duke mega-star G Seth Curry (29 points in Friday night's 71-61 win against Michigan State in Sweet 16 round play) is playing with utmost confidence these days as his 6-of-9 shooting night from beyond the arc should have Louisville's backcourt raising their eyebrows here. Curry posted his 8-of-17 FG night in 37 minutes and it's worth noting that four of Duke's starting five played 36-or-more minutes versus Sparty and so you do wonder if that will any effect here - or maybe some outside shots that don't drop will cause Mike Krzyzewski's squad to go hard to the hoop where Louisville's Gorgui Dieng is fresh off a four-block night.
It's not as if these teams can't find their way to the Final Four but here's a case where Pitino needs Smith at 100 percent health-wise while Coach K needs his guys to play sticky "D" for a full 40 minutes - it sure worked against Michigan State who went on a prolonged dry spell or too in the Sweet 16.
Hey, the Dookies only had two players sink triples against Michigan State - reserve G Tyler Thornton hit the one Curry didn't - and that's gotta change here as the ACC guys probably need 30-or-so beyond-the-arc points in this clash.
LOUISVILLE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-21||Louisville||- 26.5||North Carolina A&T||Louisville 79-48|
|3-23||Louisville||- 10.5||Colorado State||Louisville 82-56|
|3-29||Louisville||- 11||Oregon||Louisville 77-69|
DUKE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-22||Duke||- 21||Albany||Duke 73-61|
|3-24||Duke||- 6||Creighton||Duke 66-50|
|3-29||Duke||- 2||Michigan State||Duke 71-61|
NCAA TOURNAMENT CONFERENCE-BY-CONFERENCE POINTSPREAD BREAKDOWN CHART
Here's an update on the tourney chart with a reminder that here we bring you only the conferences/leagues that were part of the Sweet 16 action - the figures below are through the games of Friday, March 29:
NOTE: There's more NCAA Tournament News/Notes plus our Major-League Baseball 2013 Preview is coming in the next Jim Sez.