The rule of thumb in the NCAA Tournament the last few years has been: don’t bet against the Big Ten.
The conference had two teams in the Final Four last year, and with three of the final 12 standing, the odds are good that it will happen again. The usual suspects are all still hanging around in Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Michigan.
There weren’t many surprises this evening, besides Dayton continuing their unlikely run. In a momentary lapse of reason, I also had Baylor beating Wisconsin, as I did on my original bracket.
For those of you doing a round-by-round NCAA Tournament bracket challenge, here are my predictions for the Elite Eight matchups on Saturday, March 29th:
SOUTH REGION at MEMPHIS, TN:
(1) Florida vs. (11) Dayton
Sharpshooter Michael Frazier almost single-handedly carried Florida through the first 25 minutes. Frazier was knocking down three-pointer after three-pointer in pushing the Gators to a double-digit lead. UCLA made a nice run to get back to within six, but the Florida defense clamped down, holding the Bruins scoreless for nearly five minutes, allowing the Gators to extend their lead back to double-digits. UCLA never got closer than eight the rest of the way as the No. 1 overall seed advances another round.
The Cinderella run continues for Dayton. They came out fast against Stanford, and wore the Cardinal down with a passing clinic. The Flyers moved so well with and without the ball that Stanford just could not keep up with them. The Cardinal were never able to overcome the opening blitz by Dayton. The Flyers used their quickness and their super deep bench (10 players notched points for the Flyers in this one) to take Stanford out of their game. The Cardinal were never able to slow Dayton down, and their lack of depth was exploited in this one.
The fact that George Mason made their miracle run as an 11 seed is not lost on me. Can Dayton really slay the giant that is the Florida Gators like the Patriots did to UConn during their run? Dayton will need to use their quickness and spectacular passing to keep the defense moving. Even if they do that, they will have a hard time wearing the Gators out. Florida is just too good and too disciplined on defense — that, and they have been to the Elite Eight for four straight years. There isn’t a team in the field that can match that kind of experience. (Pick: Florida)