Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, March 25, 2017 at 12:26 PM
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT REPORT - SUNDAY'S ELITE 8 GAME PREVIEWS
It's time to round out this year's NCAA Tournament Final Four teams - so let the fun-n-games roll on in Sunday's Elite 8 hoops action from New York City and Memphis:
NCAA TOURNAMENT POINTSPREAD BREAKDOWN CHART
(Results are thru the games of Friday, March 24th)
Note that below we've updated our chart but here we only include any/all conferences that have played at least two NCAA Tournament games:
NCAA TOURNAMENT - ELITE 8
EAST REGIONAL - Madison Square Garden - New York, NY
#7 SOUTH CAROLINA (25-10) vs. #3 FLORIDA (27-8) - 2:20 p.m. ET, CBS
Who knew back on Feb. 21st when Florida snagged an 81-66 win against visiting South Carolina - thus forging a split in the season's series - that these two SEC teams would meet again in an NCAA Tournament Elite 8 affair … and in the "Big Apple", no less!
Fact of matter is the Florida Gators needed an uber-heroic running three-pointer from gritty G Chris Chiozza at the end of overtime on Friday night to defeat 1-point underdog Wisconsin 84-83 on what might have been the worst-defended play in NCAA Tourney history, save for Duke-Kentucky back in the early 1990s.
Shame on you, Badgers, for letting the dynamic Chiozza race ahead of your defense with just four seconds left on the clock!
Now, Florida will see if it can figure out/dissect a South Carolina defense that's been absolutely stifling thus far in this tourney as Frank Martin's squad yielded just 50 points to a fine Baylor team that was lost from the proverbial get-go. It's not only that fierce mano-to-mano defense that's driving the SEC Gamecocks but also the fact Carolina gets to all the "50-50" balls and SEC Player of the Year Sindarius Thornwell (24 points and 6 rebounds in the 70-50 Sweet 16 win against 3-point fav Baylor) is playing on another planet right now. Sorry we haven't been giving you more love, Mr. Thornwell!
How does Florida - listed as a 3.5-point favorite here - snake its way past this South Carolina club?
Mike White's squad needs yet another epic scoring show from KeVaughn Allen (career-high 35 points against Wisky) and it would help if the Gators got a big-time energy game from super-sub Canyon Barry whose key block of a late-OT Wisconsin dunk was the biggest play of Friday's game.
Pointspread Fact - Despite the heady 3-0 ATS (against the spread) mark in this year's tournament, South Carolina is just 4-9 versus the vig in its last 13 games overall
SOUTH REGIONAL - Fedex Forum - Memphis, TN
#2 KENTUCKY (32-5) vs. #1 NORTH CAROLINA (30-7) - approximately 5:05 p.m. ET, CBS
Go ahead and say it … wow-wow-wow!
College hoop fans are gonna be treated to another powerhouse showdown even before we get to this year's Final Four in Glendale and now hoop nuts are wondering if John Calipari's Kentucky kids will rise to the challenge two nights after squashing 1.5-point fav UCLA 86-75 behind G De'Aaaron Fox's career-best 39-point game that didn't include even a single trifecta.
Heck, Fox was exceptional as he took charge of the Kentucky offense and we don't always expect that much resistance from a North Carolina defense that goes by the live-and-let-live mantra but truth is if the 'Cats survive-and-advance as 2.5-point pups here than the game probably needs to be in the high 70s, low 80s and not close to the triple-figure mark as was the case when Kentucky bested UNC 103-100 back in December when G Malik Monk poured in 47 points including eight triples in that neutral site game in Las Vegas.
The Tar Heels' game plan here is simple: Hit the offensive glass - hey, they are the nation's #1 offensive rebounding team - and let PG Joel Berry III (26 points in Friday's cruise-a-thon 92-80 win/cover against 7-point underdog Baylor) dictate the pace of this affair but it's the likes of F Luke Maye (a double-double guy against Butler with 16 points and 12 boards) and inside presence F Kennedy Meeks (11 rebs against Butler) that probably will make-or-break this game for coach Roy Williams' gang.
If Maye, Meeks and others are allowing Carolina second- and/or third-chance put-back attempts at the basket, then Kentucky's cooked!
Pointspread Fact - North Carolina is a heady 6-3-1 against the odds in its last 10 overall games