Focused on the Final Four: 2014 NCAA Tournament

Breaking Down the Sweet 16 and Elite 8

by Andy Singleton

It did not take very long at all for my bracket to join the millions of others busted on the first day. If you read my breakdown of each of the first two rounds, you can see I was not very far off – despite some of the outcomes. With 9 of the 16 teams remaining correct, I am not sure if I should be proud to have Dayton and Tennessee correct, or embarrassed for not having more faith in Arizona and Michigan State. Regardless, there are Sixteen Sweet teams still in the hunt for their ‘One Shining Moment.’ These are how I expect the next two rounds to go, leading to the Final Four. Hope you are still alive in yours…
(* denotes team I did not correctly pick to make it to this round)

South Regional (Memphis)

Sweet 16
Florida Gators 1 vs UCLA Bruins 4
Kyle Anderson has been steady, but nothing to really distinguish himself yet either. The Bruins have yet to really need him, and this is the game they do and he delivers. Florida is simply too much down the stretch, and the end result is not nearly as close as the game is played.
Dayton Flyers 11 vs Stanford Cardinal 10*
Stanford has gotten further than anyone expected them to, as have the Dayton Flyers. The Flyers can play at a speed the Cardinal cannot, and ultimately that is the deciding factor. The pressure the Stanford guards will be under is too much for them to handle. 

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Florida Gators 1 vs Dayton Flyers 10
With the Final Four in plain sight, the senior laden Gators will be at their best to this point in the tournament. Dayton makes some big plays to win the crowd, but the muscle and size of Florida eventually wears thin on the underdog. In addition to their overall size advantage, Florida can also match the speed of Dayton. The end result will not be all that close.

West Regional (Anaheim)

Sweet 16
Arizona Wildcats 1* vs San Diego State Aztecs 4*
A battle of tremendous speed and athleticism, with the difference being Arizona’s superior scoring ability. The Aztecs can grind this game out, and Xavier Thames can keep them close for most of the contest. Nick Johnson becomes more and more of a leader with each game he plays, and he will once again guide his team to victory.
Baylor Bears 6* vs Wisconsin Badgers 2
In October, the Bears would have easily been picked to reach the Sweet 16. After a tumultuous season they were lucky just to get themselves into the tourney. Now, they seem to be putting it all together at just the right time. Wisconsin is more physical and athletic than you would expect, but this game will come down to the length of Baylor – which is a massive advantage. In the end, length wins.

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Arizona Wildcats 1* vs Baylor Bears 6*
This will be the toughest fought entry into the Final Four. Back and forth it will go, with both teams looking like they might pull away. Overtime, multiple even, would not surprise one bit. Towards the end foul trouble, and stamina, will be the key factors. Arizona has just enough gas in the tank to be able to survive and advance.

Mid-West Regional (Indianapolis)

Sweet 16
Kentucky Wildcats 8* vs Louisville Cardinals 4
This match-up could be the entire tournament unto itself. In what appeared to be, at one point, lost seasons for each club, the two teams are playing as well as anyone in the country right now. You know the coaches will be up to the challenge, and when the final buzzer sounds the experience of the defending National Champs will be the deciding factor.
Tennessee Volunteers 11 vs Michigan Wolverines 2
A play-in game versus a tough Iowa team, just to get the 11th seed in what is perceived to be the toughest region, was an insurmountable challenge. But Tennessee had been almost as hot as Louisville was at season’s end, and that was scorching. Not only are they playing like they should be seeded much lower, but they are destroying teams and not making it close. The ‘Vols will deliver a knockout blow to the Wolverines.

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Louisville Cardinals 4 vs Tennessee Volunteers 11
Although the higher seed, by tip off Tennessee may very well be the favorites to win this game. They play like a heavy weight boxer, wearing down their opponents until there is not fight left to muster. Louisville has shown that they are vulnerable, and have narrowly escaped defeat a few times. This is the contest they will have to thrown the towel in on.

East Regional (New York City)

Sweet 16
Virginia Cavaliers 1 vs Michigan State Spartans 4*
One thing learned to this point in the tourney: Never bet against Tom Izzo! Another thing learned: No one knows who the Wahoo’s are, but man are they good! Wahoo is a secondary nickname adopted by the students of Virginia. It is a little known fact, but that is what you get with this club: anonymity. The Cavaliers play hard and just keep coming at you. Sparty will hang tough, but eventually the Wahoo cuts him down.
Iowa State Cyclones 3 vs UConn Huskies 7*
With the loss to Georges Niang, it did not seem likely the Cyclones could get past North Carolina. It seemed even less likely that if they had gotten past the Tar Heels they would have enough to do it again. Then the UConn Huskies advanced and things changed. While Shabazz Napier is doing his best Kemba Walker imitation, he has no Jeremy Lamb to play sidekick. The difference in personnel is the difference in the outcome.

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Virginia Cavaliers 1 vs Iowa State Cyclones 3
While there is no clear cut leader, or go to guy, for the Cavaliers, the exact opposite is true of Iowa State. Virginia will continue to play the style that has gotten them this far, and will be able to limit the effectiveness of DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim. When you cut of the head the body will follow. This will be the game-plan to get the East Region’s #1 seed to the Final Four.

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