Here’s what you can expect from Saturday night’s NCAA tournament Elite Eight games, featuring the South and West region finals.
SOUTH: No. 1 seed Florida vs. No. 11 seed Dayton, 6:09 p.m. in Memphis (TBS)
Florida, the tournament’s overall No. 1 seed, and No. 11 Dayton, the lone double-digit seed remaining, will meet Saturday night in what should be a very intriguing clash. Dayton hasn’t seen a team as talented as the Gators all season and Florida’s last loss was Dec. 2 at Connecticut.
Dayton used a 34-2 bench scoring advantage to knock off No. 10 Stanford, 82-72, in the Sweet 16 on Thursday. The Flyers are just the eighth No. 11 seed to reach the Elite 8 since the NCAA began seeding in 1979. Dayton is making its first Elite Eight since 1984 thanks to pressure defense and a deep bench. Dayton isn’t going to overwhelm you with talent, but with plenty of changing parts they have become the story of this year’s dance.
Florida, on the other hand, is playing in its fourth consecutive Elite Eight after taking care of UCLA, 79-68, in Thursday’s late game for its 29th straight victory. Sharpshooting guard Michael Frazier II entered Thursday’s game shooting 4 for 15 from the field but rid himself of his shooting woes in the region semifinals. Frazier scored a game-high 19 points, knocked down five three-pointers and displayed the confidence that has helped him earn the school’s single-season record for three-pointers. Florida also shared the ball at a very high rate Thursday, with 22 of 29 of its baskets coming off an assist. The Gators have defeated all three NCAA tournament opponents by double digits but look for a very competitive game with the Flyers.
WEST: No. 1 seed Arizona vs. No. 2 seed Wisconsin, 8:49 p.m. in Anaheim, Calif. (TBS)
The Wildcats and Badgers meet in a classic No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. Arizona Coach Sean Miller is coaching in his third Elite Eight game but a berth in the Final Four has eluded the Wildcats’ head man. And for all the great work Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan has done he’s also yet to reach a Final Four; it’s just his second Elite Eight appearance in his 13 seasons at the helm. The crowd should be Arizona-friendly with less than 500 miles separating Tuscon from the Honda Center.
Arizona defeated San Diego State for the second time this season, 70-64, on Thursday. In both wins, Arizona held San Diego State to worse than 40 percent shooting with a front line that causes matchup problems for any team left in the tournament. Wildcats senior and Pac-12 player of the year Nick Johnson scored all 15 of his points in the final four minutes of the game after shooting a dismal 0 for 10 from the floor for 36 minutes. Freshman forwards Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are playing their best basketball of the season and dropped 15 points apiece Thursday.
The Badgers thoroughly dominated No. 6 Baylor, 69-52, while holding the Bears to 31 percent shooting from the floor and 2 of 15 from the three-point line. Wisconsin is now 2-4 in Sweet 16 games under Ryan and several analysts feel this is the best team he’s had in his tenure. The Badgers shredded the Bears’ zone defense with entry passes to the high post and dribble-drive action to shoot 52 percent from the floor. Frank Kaminsky has scored 19 points in back-to-back tournament games.
Individual matchup to watch
Dayton’s Jordan Sibert vs. Florida’s Michael Frazier II
If you love watching off-guards pour in shots from the perimeter, the matchup between these two shooting guards is worth your time. Both found their shooting touch Thursday, leading their respective teams in scoring.
Frazier was in a slump the first two tournament games, scoring 13 points on 4-for-15 shooting, but Thursday he shot 7 of 13 with five three-pointers for a game-high 19 points. Frazier shoots 45 percent from behind the arc, which is ninth-best in the nation. Dayton cannot afford to lose him on off-ball screens. The sophomore converted an SEC-record 11 three-pointers March 4 in a win over South Carolina.
The 6-foot-4 Sibert is the Flyers’ leading scorer at 12.5 points per game and scored 18 points in the win over Stanford. An Ohio State transfer, Sibert is very efficient scoring from the floor but can also step out and knock down three-pointers. He shoots 46 percent from the floor and is Dayton’s best offensive option on a very deep team. The Cincinnati native wants nothing more than to continue the Flyers’ historic run.
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