#1 Florida (33-2) vs. #4 UCLA (28-8) 9:45 ET CBS
How they got here:
Florida, the #1 overall seed, pulled away from Pittsburgh 61-45 behind a strong second half by Scottie Wibekin. The senior had 21 and was the only Florida player in double figures. He had eight consecutive points and 11 of the Gator’s 13 to put Florida into the Sweet 16 for the 4th straight year. It was the Gators’ 28th straight win.
The Gators crushed #16 Albany 67-55 in the first round in a game that was much closer than expected. Florida led 34-28 at the half and outscored the Great Danes 33-27 after intermission. The bench did all the heavy work – Dorian Finney-Smith had 16 off a bunch of dunks – and Patrick Young had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Kasey Hill also had 10 off the bench.
UCLA dogged #12 Stephen F. Austin 77-60 in the second round and are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008. They had 22 assists to just 3 turnovers and got out on the break vs a squad many thought could upset the #4 seed. Jordan Adams had 19 and Kyle Anderson 15 points, five assists and 8 boards.
The Bruins beat up #13 Tulsa 76-59 in the first round despite not shooting well. Steve Alford’s team scratched and clawed their way to a 17 point win behind sophomore Jordan Adam’s 21 and junior Norman Powell’s 15. Sophomore Kyle Anderson had 8 points, 6 boards, 6 assists and 4 steals for the Bruins who led by just 5, 35-30, at the half.
I picked the Bruins to upset Florida mainly because of Kyle Anderson and his size advantage over any point guard he faces. Scottie Wibekin will be a leader until he leaves the game, but Anderson at 6-foot-9 is the perfect player to neutralize a Florida team crazy with defense. He will free up Jordan Adams to put the ball in the hole because Billy Donovan will do whatever it takes to get the ball out of Anderson’s hands and have anyone else prove they can score. Interesting point is Anderson almost went to Florida because he dug Donovan’s player development, so since the Gators’ staff knows Anderson well, they might have a few tricks to keep the talented swingman out of the lane.
Florida has faced UCLA 3 times over the last 9 years and is 3-0 over that span. The streak began in the ’06 title game, continued in the ’07 Final Four and last won in the 2nd round in ’11.
No matter. UCLA moves on to the Elite 8 with a 76-72 win behind everything Kyle Anderson.
#11 Dayton (24-10) vs. #10 Stanford (23-12) 7:15 CBS
How they got here:
Stanford, in the first tournament appearance since 2008, shut down super frosh Andrew Wiggins and put away the #2 seeded Kansas Jayhawks 60-57. Wiggins was on a scoring tear the last 4 games – averaging 28 points – but was big time bothered by Stanford’s big front line. Dwight Powell had 15 points and 7 rebounds and Chasson Randle 13 points, 4 assists and 6 steals as Johnny Dawkins squad enters the Sweet 16 for the first time since ’08.
In the first round, Stanford pushed the #7 New Mexico aside 58-53. Cameron Bairstow did his thing with 24 points and 8 rebounds, but Dawkins’ squad pretty much shut down everyone else in the upset win. Chasson Randle has 23 and helped give Dawkins his first NCAA Tournament win in 6 years. Dawkins did win the NIT title 2 years ago.
Dayton shocked #3 Syracuse 55-53 behind Dyshawn Pierre’s 14. Tyler Ennis, who declared for the draft, missed a wide open shot from the key and Dayton made it into the Sweet 16 for the first time in 30 years. The Flyers held the Orange without a 3 for the first time in 665 games.
In the 1st round, Dayton pulled off another shocker –winning 60-59 in a thriller vs. #6 Ohio State in an in-state affair. Vee Sanford’s layup with 3.8 was the winning bucket as Aaron Craft’s lay rimmed out as time expired. Sanford had 10 and Dyshawn Pierre’s 12 paced the Flyers. Archie Miller, in his 3rd season defeats his mentor Thad Matta in the win for Dayton.
As much as I want to pick Dayton because of how they won to get here in close fashion, Stanford just seems like that destiny team we see every so often in the tournament. Johnny Dawkins has been here as a player and the former Duke superstar will channel his best Coach K mindset and Stanford will move past Dayton 66-63.
In the Elite 8, UCLA runs past Stanford 86-66 and into the Final Four.