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BRACKET BLOG: Elite Eight (NCAA Open Thread)

Feel free to use this post as an open games thread for today's Elite Eight action.

Previews after the jump.

Previous Entries:

The Teams


The Sites

  • Anaheim, Calif.
  • New Orleans, La.
  • Newark, N.J.
  • San Antonio, Texas


East Region

No. 2 North Carolina (29-7) vs. No. 4 Kentucky (28-8)
March 27 | 4:05 p.m. CST | Newark | CBS
Jim Nantz | Clark Kellogg

How They Got Here:
No. 2 North Carolina 81, No. 11 Marquette 63
No. 4 Kentucky 62, No. 1 Ohio State 60

The blue-bloods of college basketball meet for a rematch of a December game that UNC won by two points at home. But those were two totally different teams than the ones that will meet today, so that games tells us little.

Both squads are stocked with freshmen and sophomores who have no experience at this level (considering UNC's sophomores missed the tournament last year), but Kentucky actually might have a slight experience advantage thanks to the heady play of veterans Josh Harrellson, DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller.

Both coaches have multiple Final Fours on their resume (at least theoretically, considering all of John Calipari's have been vacated), so I don't see an edge for either squad there. I suspect the game will come down to the last possession, just like the previous Kentucky-Ohio State game did.

GAMER: Kentucky 74, UNC 73
Pomeroy: Kentucky 73, UNC 71
Sagarin: Kentucky 73, UNC 72


Southeast Region

No. 2 Florida (29-7) vs. No. 8 Butler (26-9)
March 26 | 3:30 p.m. CST | New Orleans | CBS
Gus Johnson | Len Elmore | Reggie Miller

How They Got Here:
No. 2 Florida 83, No. 3 BYU 74 (OT)
No. 8 Butler 61, No. 4 Wisconsin 54

I disagree with the three predictive systems that think Florida will win today. Sure, the Gators never have lost in the Elite Eight, but there's a first time for everything. I wouldn't want to be between Butler and a second straight Final Four.

While UF is very athletic and playing some pretty good basketball right now, I'm on the record as disapproving of the Gators letting the BYU game go to overtime.

I blame an ongoing bugaboo — Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker have a propensity to take a lot of bad shots early in the shot clock, instead of working the ball in to Vernon Macklin, Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus consistently enough.

The masters of mimicry that are the Butler Bulldogs will expose that flaw, trust me. Brad Stevens probably has spent the last 36 hours doing nothing but drawing up defensive looks that will make the Florida guards salivate to shoot it.

The onus will be on Matt Howard and Andrew Smith to rebound the resulting misses, and I like their chances to do it.

GAMER: Florida 70, Butler 66
Pomeroy: Florida 68, Butler 64
Sagarin: Florida 66, Butler 63


Southwest Region

No. 1 Kansas (35-2) vs. No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth (27-11)
March 27 | 1:20 p.m. CST | San Antonio | CBS
Marv Albert | Steve Kerr

How They Got Here:
No. 1 Kansas 77, No. 12 Richmond 57
No. 11 VCU 72, No. 10 Florida State 71 (OT)

Can VCU continues its improbable Cinderella run and exceed the feat accomplished by its conference mate, George Mason, five years ago?

To do so, the Rams will have to topple their biggest BCS giant yet: Kansas, the only remaining No. 1 seed and overwhelming favorite to cut down the nets in Houston, thanks to having the lowest-seeded road to the national championship game in tournament history.

But if KU already is looking ahead and counting its Jayhawks before they've hatched, VCU has proven four times that it's perfectly capable of springing the upset.

The Rams will need Joey Rodriguez and Brandon Rozzell to play their best games of the season, and they will have to dictate tempo, as well, because I don't see any way they can contend with Thomas Robinson and the "MAARESS twins" (as Marv says it) if they're forced to play a half-court game with Kansas.

Gotta get out in transition...

In the end, I suspect VCU will hang with KU for about 30 minutes, but the Hawks' superior depth and interior size will wear the Rams down in the final minutes and secure about a 10-point win.

GAMER: Kansas 76, VCU 66
Pomeroy: Kansas 81, VCU 68
Sagarin: Kansas 75, VCU 65


West Region

No. 3 Connecticut (29-9) vs. No. 5 Arizona (30-7)
March 26 | 6:05 p.m. CST | Anaheim | CBS
Verne Lundquist | Bill Raftery

How They Got Here:
No. 3 UConn 74, No. 2 SDSU 67
No. 5 Arizona 93, No. 1 Duke 77

It's hard to bet against Jim Calhoun and Kemba Walker when the Final Four is so close they can taste it, but I really like Arizona's chances in front of what will be a home crowd.

Keep in mind, the Wildcats had to beat Duke and Texas to get here. That's no small potatoes. Similar defensive and offensive efforts should be good enough to get the win against a Huskies team that isn't as deep as those two were.

And as good as Walker is, I'm not so sure Derrick Williams isn't better. He shoots a higher percentage from the 3-point line and he's certainly a much better interior player.

Williams' last two games have been off the charts and likely will elevate him to becoming the No. 1 overall NBA draft pick. Another game like that will send him to Houston.

And if that happens, Mike Anderson will be the only coach in the country making $2 million or more without a Final Four appearance on his resume. Absurdity reigns.

GAMER: UConn 69, Arizona 68
Pomeroy: UConn 73, Arizona 70
Sagarin: UConn 71, Arizona 70