Four games were played on Thursday night to start our weekend of wild and crazy college basketball. While we didn’t quite have the same excitement that we had last weekend, there were still some solid games that set the table for a pair of games on Saturday that will determine who is going to the Final Four. Here’s a look at the Sweet 16 games and who’s headed to the Elite 8.
#1 Florida 79, #4 UCLA 68
The Gators continued their dominance in the college basketball landscape with an 11-point win over the Bruins to advance to their fourth straight Elite 8. While this is certainly familiar territory for the University Of Florida, the 29 straight wins extend the best streak in school history and add to their momentum heading into a showdown against a Cinderella team in Dayton. As for Thursday, the Bruins kept it close for the majority of the first half, though it was 36-30 at halftime with the Gators up on the scoreboard. They would continue to outpace the Bruins in the final half as well, outscoring them 43-38. While this was a return to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008 for the Bruins, they looked overmatched and overpowered by a Gators team that was swarming around on defense and hitting high percentage shots from the field. Michael Frazier hit a handful of 3-pointers on Thursday to lead UF with 19 points. Scottie Wilbekin added 13, and Casey Prather had 12. The Gators made it to the Elite 8 last year, where they were upset by Michigan. They’ll hope to avoid this from happening for the second straight year, as they look to advance to their first Final Four since they won the National Championship in 2007.
#11 Dayton 82, #10 Stanford 72
Whoever would’ve advanced from the Dayton and Stanford game immediately would’ve become the Cinderella team of this year’s tournament, if they hadn’t already qualified for that roll. But the fact that it was the Dayton Fliers, who haven’t made it to the Elite 8 since 1984 and are an #11 seed, you have to think that they are writing quite the underdog story. Their 10-point win over #10 Stanford was one of their best of the tournament. This looks like a team that could be only gaining momentum as they play more games and get more spotlight, however that will be tested on Saturday when they play the #1 team in the tournament in the Florida Gators. Stanford did have foul trouble throughout the game, which helped Dayton easily wear them down with their fast-paced offense. The Flyers had 15 more transition points than the Cardinal, which makes up for the fact that they were outscored in the half court offense for the third straight game. You can bet that the Gators defense will look to slow down the Flyers on Saturday, but the question is, can they? You can look to Sportspicks.com before tipoff on Saturday for handicapper insight into this game and all of the other Elite 8 games to be played this weekend.
#1 Arizona 70, #4 San Diego State 64
Arizona almost let the San Diego State Aztecs pull off a huge upset in the Sweet 16 in the final game on Thursday night. The Aztecs led at halftime, 32-28 and also were able to play things quite evenly all the way through the second half. But a late three by Nick Johnson, who played horribly in the first half, was enough to put the Wildcats out of reach and into the Elite 8. Despite that first half struggle, Johsnon would go 10-10 from the free throw line and end up with 15, including the biggest three of them all. Also tallying 15 for the Wildcats was Aaron Gordon. Xavier Thames had 25 for the Aztecs, in the senior guards’ final game for Steve Fisher. We’ll now have a #1 vs. #2 matchup in the Elite 8, after Wisconsin also knocked off their opponent on Thursday night.
#2 Wisconsin 69, #6 Baylor 52
As for Wisconsin, they may have had the easiest time on the evening with their opponents. And that’s quite surprising, considering how much hype Baylor got this past week. However, in their 69-52 win, the Badgers looked impressive on both sides of the ball, making for a touch matchup that the Wildcats will have to deal with on Saturday. The Badgers outscored the Bears in the first half, 29-16. And even when things opened up in the second, they still were able to outpace Baylor, 40-36. On offense, Ben Brust hit six threes and finished with 14 points total. However, the real workhorse for the Badgers was Frank Kaminsky, who dropped 19 and also had 6 blocks on defense. The seven-footer has been one of the most dominating players in the, and he put it all on show as he sliced through the Baylor defense. With two teams that like to get down and play defense, we should be in for a great one on Saturday between Arizona vs Wisconsin.