NCAA tournament 2013: Viewer’s Guide to Sunday’s Elite Eight action


Russ Smith and Louisville are looking for a second-straight Final Four appearance/(Getty Images)

Syracuse and Wichita State are already headed to Atlanta for the Final Four. Who joins them there will be decided Sunday in the final two Elite Eight games of the weekend. Here’s a preview of what to expect.

South region: No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 3 Florida, 2:20 (CBS)

How they got here

Michigan rolled through the first weekend of the tournament with dominating wins over No. 13 seed South Dakota State and No. 5 seed Virginia Commonwealth in Auburn Hills, Mich. But it looked as if the Wolverines’ run would come to an end Friday against Kansas before point guard Trey Burke capped off a remarkable 14-point second-half comeback with a deep three-pointer with four seconds remaining . Michigan then emerged from overtime with a dramatic 87-85 victory over the Jayhawks.

Florida rolled through its first two games of the NCAA tournament with wins over No. 14 seed Northwestern State and No. 11 seed Minnesota. The Gators then ended Florida Gulf Coast’s magical run with a 62-50 victory in Friday’s  Sweet 16.

What’s the story

Michigan Coach John Beilein is trying to finish off his program resurrection  in Ann Arbor, Mich., with the school’s first Final Four appearance in 20 years. It would be Beilein’s first Final Four appearance in 35 years as a college head coach and the first for the Wolverines since the Fab Five days. Florida, meanwhile, is making its third straight appearance in the Elite Eight, hoping to get over that hump for the first time since winning back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007. The Gators have yet to win a game this season decided by six points or less.

Players to watch

While the story out of Friday revolved around the heroics of Burke (23 points, 10 assists), a national player of the year candidate, and the emergence of freshman Mitch McGary (career-high 25 points and 14 rebounds), Michigan’s barometer is usually sharp-shooting junior Tim Hardaway, Jr. Over the course of Hardaway’s career, the Wolverines are 18-1 when he scores at least 20 points.

Guard Mike Rosario has been Florida’s best offensive weapon during the NCAA tournament and is currently averaging a team-high 12.6 points per game for the season. He has also hit 10 of his 19 three-pointers over the past three games. But he could make a bigger impact on the other side of the floor, where there’s a good chance he’ll be matched up with Burke. Rosario’s defense could be a deciding factor Sunday.

Midwest region: No. 2 Duke vs. No. 1 Louisville, 5:05 (CBS)

How they got here

Duke has won all three of its NCAA tournament games by double digits, but it hasn’t been as easy as it looks. The Blue Devils couldn’t shake No. 15 seed Albany until late, shot just 39 percent from the field in a win over No. 7 seed Creighton and then survived a Final Four-quality matchup with No. 3 seed Michigan State in the Sweet 16 Friday.

Louisville’s pressure defense wreaked havoc in blowouts over No. 16 seed North Carolina A&T and No. 8 seed Colorado State in its first two NCAA tournament games. The Cardinals then out-lasted No. 12 seed Oregon, 77-69, in the Sweet 16.

What’s the story

Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Louisville’s Rick Pitino meet for the first time in the NCAA tournament since 1992, when the Blue Devils beat Kentucky in the Elite 8 in what many consider the greatest NCAA tournament game of all time. Duke won courtesy of this shot by Christian Laettner, which you may remember from every NCAA tournament highlight reel ever assembled over the past 21 years.

Players to watch

Louisville’s Russ Smith has been the NCAA tournament’s best player thus far, averaging 27 points per game. The 6-foot-1 guard matched his career high by scoring 31 in the Cardinals’ win over Oregon. His defense has also been the catalyst for Louisville’s high octane press, which has forced 56 turnovers through three tournament games. Smith has recorded 11 steals.

The Blue Devils have lost just one game this season with senior Ryan Kelly in the lineup, but the forward has been mired in a shooting slump the past few weeks. Over the past four games, he has connected on just 10 of his 35 field goal attempts, including 0 for 14 from three-point range. Senior Seth Curry hasn’t allowed that to slow down the Blue Devils yet, but Louisville is a different animal. The Blue Devils will need all of their offensive weapons clicking.

SECTION: {section=sports, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=sports, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Show Comments
Next Story
Mark Giannotto | March 31, 2013