Today, Saturday, March 26th, is the first day of the Elite 8 (the regional finals) in the 2011 NCAA tournament. As is often the case, the Sweet 16 round was not kind to Cinderellas. Both the 12 seed Richmond and the 11 seed Marquette were thumped by No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 North Carolina, respectively, but the No. 11 seed in the Southwest region, Virginia Commonwealth, beat Florida State to earn a match up with powerhouse Kansas in the regional final. That said, the round of sixteen did not spare the favorites either as No. 1 seed Duke was crushed by Arizona in the West and No. 4 seed Kentucky knocked off No. 1 Ohio State in the East region.
See below for a preview of Saturday and Sunday’s Elite 8 action, including schedule, predictions and picks.
NCAA Elite 8 Schedule, Preview and Picks
Saturday, March 26th, 4:30 pm ET
The No. 8 seed Bulldogs continue their annual March madness run in the 2011 tourney, and have gotten the job done with stifling defense this year, including holding the No. 4 seed Wisconsin to just 54 points in their last game. But Florida is a tough, physical ball club that also plays very good D. Something has to give here and I say Butler’s run ends in the regional final this year as Florida moves on to the Final Four.
Saturday, March 26th, 7:05 pm ET
The Huskies’ Kemba Walker vs the Wildcats’ Derrick Williams should be an amazing show, but the key to winning the game will be which player can get his teammates most involved. And Kemba Walker is the heart and soul of this Connecticut team, and his infectious enthusiasm (and three point sharp-shooting) will be the difference in this game.
Sunday, March 27th, 2:20 pm ET
The Virginia Commonwealth Rams are the Cinderella darlings of the 2011 NCAA tourney. They are the highest remaining seed at no. 11 and they have played their hearts out to get to this point. Unfortunately they are running in to a buzz saw in the Kansas Jayhawks who are playing like they are possessed right now. It will take a combination of the Ram’s best game and an off game by both of the Morris twins for VCU to prevail in this contest.
(2) North Carolina
Sunday, March 27th, 4:30 pm ET
What can you say about the job John Calipari has done with his young Wildcats team this year? Nothing but superlatives as they are playing their best basketball of the year right now, just beat Duke, the No. 1 seed in the East, and their young star Brandon Knight is blossoming into the superstar most thought he would become. But North Carolina is also a very talented team, and has responded to every challenge in the Big Dance so far, making this a very tough game to pick. The Tar Heels have the edge in size and are very versatile on offense, and their ability to adjust as the game goes on will ultimately be the difference as they pull away late.
For more on this year’s March Madness, including previews, scores and bracket analysis see:
Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament Scores – 2011 March Madness Results
Friday Sweet 16 Preview – March Madness 2011
NCAA Tournament Results – 2011 March Madness Second Round Wrap Up