Here’s what you can expect from Sunday’s NCAA tournament Elite Eight games, featuring the East and Midwest region finals.
EAST: No. 4 seed Michigan State vs. No. 7 seed Connecticut, 2:20 p.m. in New York (CBS)
Region favorite Michigan State will take on red-hot Connecticut for a spot in the Final Four. The contest could turn into a shootout as both teams have been proficient from the three-point line, with Connecticut shooting 47 percent and Michigan State connecting on 40 percent of its treys.
After riding a wave of momentum to the 2011 NCAA title, the Huskies look to do the same after knocking off No. 2 seed Villanova and No. 3 seed Iowa State. U-Conn.’s Shabazz Napier has been on a tear through the first three games, averaging 22.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists behind his quick playmaking ability. But against the physical Spartans, the Huskies hope to get another boost from forward DeAndre Daniels, who tallied 27 points and 10 rebounds in Friday’s win against Iowa State.
Seeking its seventh Final Four appearance in 16 seasons, Michigan State will again look to Adreian Payne, who can stretch the floor with his shooting and create matchup problems in the paint with his strong play. In defeating one of the nation’s top defensive teams in Virginia on Friday, the deep Spartans were sparked by Branden Dawson’s 24 points and 10 rebounds as well as a solid effort from the foul line, where the Spartans have shot 54 for 65 during the tournament.
The two teams last met in the postseason in the 2009 Final Four when Michigan State beat U-Conn., 82-73.
MIDWEST: No. 2 seed Michigan vs. No. 8 seed Kentucky, 5:05 p.m. in Indianapolis (CBS)
In its bid to advance to the Final Four for the second straight year, Michigan must first get past a Kentucky team playing up to the potential that placed it atop the preseason polls.
After draining a team tournament record 14 three-pointers in the second round, Michigan’s hot hand from the outside extended to Friday’s game, when the Wolverines went 11 for 20 from behind the arc. Jordan Morgan led four double-digit scorers with 15 points while Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas put together a strong all-around game. The Wolverines have used quick starts to advance this far and sound play down the stretch to fend off late rallies by their opponents and compile a 15-0 mark in games decided by 10 points or less this season.
Though young, Kentucky has been battle-tested in reaching this point, defeating a tough Kansas State squad followed by upsets of Wichita State and Louisville. Freshman Julius Randle has been the Wildcats’ most consistent threat, powering inside for rebounds and tough layups. He, along with Dakari Johnson, will need to elevate their play Sunday with sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein expected to be sidelined by an ankle injury. The Wildcats stand bigger than the Wolverines and in turn, will again look to continue their dominance of the offensive boards this tournament.
Sunday’s game marks the first meeting between these teams since the 1993 Final Four, when Michigan’s Fab Five downed Kentucky.