B/R Expert NCAA Bracket Picks 2014: Sweet 16 Predictions and Updated Results

Bleacher Report College Basketball StaffFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2014

B/R Expert NCAA Bracket Picks 2014: Sweet 16 Predictions and Updated Results

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    Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    The 2014 NCAA tournament provided us with an amazing first weekend of action, with numerous incredible games during the second and third rounds.

    Somehow, the Sweet 16 topped that craziness.

    After a Thursday night with two blowouts and two good late games, Friday's quartet of regional semifinals provided maybe the single-greatest night of postseason basketball in NCAA history. When the dust settled the Elite Eight was set, and the lineup of teams still alive give us a little bit of everything we want from a one-and-done tournament.

    Miss anything from the Sweet 16? Check out our recaps of each contest on the following slides.

Michigan vs. Tennessee

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Michigan narrowly avoided blowing a huge lead, holding on for a 73-71 victory over a late-charging Tennessee team Friday night in the Midwest Regional at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

    The second-seeded Wolverines (28-8) led by 15 points with just over 10 minutes left, only to see Tennessee storm back and have a chance to take the lead in the final seconds. The 11th-seeded Vols (24-13) trailed 72-71 and had the ball, but then the unlikeliest of calls—an offensive foul on forward Jarnell Stokes—with six seconds left proved to be the difference.

    Nik Stauskas made 1 of 2 free throws, and Tennessee wasn't able to get off a shot after that.

    Top Performers

    Michigan's Jordan Morgan, who drew the charge on Stokes to clinch the victory, also led the Wolverines with 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting to go with seven rebounds. He was one of four players in double figures.

    Tennessee was led by 24 points from Jordan McRae, though he missed all five of his three-pointers. The Vols also got 19 from Josh Richardson.

    X-Factor

    The Vols were hamstrung early when inside presence Jeronne Maymon picked up two fouls in the game's first 6:35. That completely changed Tennessee's defensive approach, and Michigan capitalized, racing to a 45-34 halftime lead by making five of its first six threes.

    The Wolverines shot 55 percent (11-of-20) from three-point range for the game, and 55.1 percent overall from the field.

    Next Round

    Michigan moves into the Elite Eight where it will face No. 8 Kentucky in Sunday's Midwest final in Indianapolis.

     

    Update by Brian J. Pedersen

Iowa State vs. Connecticut

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Connecticut moved into its first Elite Eight since 2011 with a wire-to-wire 81-76 win over Iowa State in Friday's East Regional at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

    The seventh-seeded Huskies (29-8) led by 10 points at halftime, forcing a hot-shooting Cyclones team to shoot just 30 percent in the first half. No. 3 Iowa State (28-8) caught fire in the second half, putting up 50 points in the final 20 minutes after scoring just 26 in the opening 20, but UConn seemed to make a big play whenever one was needed.

    Top Performers

    DeAndre Daniels paced Uconn with 27 points and 10 rebounds, making 10-of-15 shots from the field and 5-of-6 free throws, while Shabazz Napier made four three-pointers in the game's first 10 minutes and finished with 19 points.

    For Iowa State, Dustin Hogue scored 34 points (12 better than his career best at ISU) on 15-of-19 shooting. His shooting helped keep the Cyclones in the game while DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim went a combined 9-of-31 from the field.

     

    X-Factor

    Iowa State went to the extend-the-game-with-fouls strategy in the final minute, and Connecticut didn't blink. The Huskies made 11-of-12 free throws in the last 47 seconds, and for the game were 20-of-22 from the line.

     

    Next Round

    Connecticut will face No. 4 Michigan State in Sunday's Elite Eight, looking to make the Final Four for the first time since winning the 2011 NCAA title.

     

    Update by Brian J. Pedersen

Louisville vs. Kentucky

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Aaron Harrison's three-pointer from the corner with 40 seconds left gave Kentucky a lead it wouldn't give up, completing a comeback to knock off defending NCAA champion Louisville 74-69 on Friday night in a Midwest Regional game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

    The eighth-seeded Wildcats (27-10) trailed by 13 points in the first half, but slowly chipped away at the Cardinals' lead and were down only 34-31 at the half. No. 4 Louisville (31-6) held a three- to seven-point lead for most of the second half and led 66-59 with 4:33 left before Kentucky ended the game on a 15-3 run.

     

    Top Performers

    Harrison was one of three Kentucky players with 15 points, joined by Julius Randle and Dakari Johnson, whose career-best 15 came on 7-of-10 shooting. Randle added 12 rebounds for his NCAA-best 23rd double-double of the season.

    Louisville got 23 points from Russ Smith and 19 from Luke Hancock, but Smith missed a pair of three-pointers and Hancock was short on a jumper in the final two minutes of play.

     

    X-Factor

    Kentucky's history of pour foul-shooting in clutch situations didn't bear out against Louisville, as the Wildcats were 22-of-27 from the line. That included making 11-of-12 down the stretch, including two each by Randle and Aaron Harrison in the final 13 seconds.

     

    Next Round

    Kentucky, in the Elite Eight for a 31st time, will go for its 16th Final Four appearance when it faces No. 2 Michigan on Sunday in Indianapolis.

     

    Updated by Brian J. Pedersen

Virginia vs. Michigan State

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    Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

    Michigan State advanced to its first Elite Eight since 2010 with a hard-fought 61-59 victory over top-seeded Virginia in Friday's East Regional at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

    The fourth-seeded Spartans (29-8) led for much of the first half, only to see the Cavaliers (30-7) pull ahead early in the second half and slow the game down to a crawl. MSU retook the lead for good with 9:13 left on a three-pointer from Travis Trice, then the Spartans' big three of Keith Appling, Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne scored their next 15 points to hold on.

     

    Top Performers

    Dawson led all scorers with 24 points, making 9-of-16 field goals, along with 10 rebounds for MSU. The junior, who missed nine games in the middle of the season after breaking his hand during a film session, also made 6-of-8 free throws.

    For Virginia, Malcolm Brogdon and Joe Harris each had 17 points but were a combined 10-of-28 from the field.

    X-Factor

    Michigan State assisted on 13 of its 21 field goals, including its last two made baskets. Payne hit a three-pointer off a feed from Appling to put MSU up 54-51 with 1:31 left, then 38 seconds later Dawson scored on a layup after getting a pass from Payne.

     

    Next Round

    Michigan State is 6-1 in Elite Eight games under coach Tom Izzo, but to make the program's ninth Final Four it will need to beat red-hot No. 7 seed Connecticut on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

     

    Updated by Brian J. Pedersen

Stanford vs. Dayton

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    In a battle of quickness against size, quickness came out ahead by a huge margin as Dayton jumped out to an early lead and never trailed again in an 82-72 victory over Stanford. The Flyers picked apart Stanford’s matchup zone with precision passing, recording 19 assists on 28 field goals.

    The Flyers also outhustled their taller foes, grabbing 10 offensive boards to keep the rebounding battle at a competitive 36-35 in Stanford's favor. The win sends 11th-seeded Dayton to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1984, when it fell to Patrick Ewing and eventual champion Georgetown.

     

    Top Performers

    Jordan Sibert led the charge as usual for Dayton, hitting 4-of-9 three-pointers on his way to 18 points. Second-round hero Vee Sanford added four assists and five rebounds from the wing.

    For Stanford, big Stefan Nastic dominated on offense (15 points, 5-of-7 shooting) before fouling out. Defensive whiz Josh Huestis, the man who shut down Andrew Wiggins in the round of 32, had 13 points, eight boards, four blocks and three steals in the losing cause.

     

    X-Factor

    Kendall Powell’s 12 points (on 5-of-6 shooting) highlighted a sensational game for the Flyers bench, which outscored Stanford’s by a 34-2 margin.

     

    Next Round

    The next Goliath on deck for Dayton is the tournament's No. 1 overall seed, the Florida Gators. Sibert will pose a serious test even for SEC Player of the Year Scottie Wilbekin, but the real question will be whether Dayton's timely offense will continue to come up big against a Florida defense that's both taller and faster than the Flyers.

Wisconsin vs. Baylor

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Wisconsin doesn’t see many zone defenses in the Big Ten, but the Badgers looked right at home in demolishing Baylor’s for a 69-52 win that wasn’t even as close as the final score suggests. The Badgers shot 52 percent from the floor while holding Baylor to a dismal 31 percent shooting night, including 2-of-15 from deep.

    Remarkably, the Bears (who usually live by their rebounding prowess) got outplayed by Wisconsin in that category, with Josh Gasser’s eight boards leading the Badgers to a 40-33 edge. Wisconsin also held Baylor’s usually productive reserves to a total of just seven points and five rebounds.

     

    Top Performers

    In the battle of skinny seven-footers, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky overwhelmed Isaiah Austin, finishing with 19 points and six blocks. Nigel Hayes continued his outstanding late-season play off the Badgers bench, recording 10 points, six boards and two assists.

    Cory Jefferson was the only Bear who looked roughly like himself, finishing with 15 points and seven rebounds in the loss. Point guard Kenny Chery managed only a single assist, but he did have 12 points while tying for the game high with eight rebounds.

     

    X-Factor

    Seniors Brady Heslip (Baylor) and Ben Brust (Wisconsin) are among the best three-point shooters in the history of their respective programs, but only one showed up in this game. Heslip hit just a single field goal, finishing with three points, while Brust had 14 points (including three treys) along with six rebounds and a pair of assists

     

    Next Round

    The Badgers’ reward is a date with the West's top seed, the Arizona Wildcats. Arizona just survived one of the tourney's toughest defenses in San Diego State, so Kaminsky and company will really be put to the test trying to contain explosive Aaron Gordon and the rest of the Wildcats attack.

Florida vs. UCLA

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    A tremendous effort by Kyle Anderson nearly brought UCLA back, but the fourth-seeded Bruins couldn’t quite muster enough points against No. 1 Florida in a 79-68 loss. The Gators put on an uncharacteristic offensive show against an aggressive UCLA defense, dishing out 22 assists on the night.

    The Bruins handled Florida’s pressure better than many opponents, committing just eight turnovers, but couldn’t match the Gators’ depth. Led by Dorian Finney-Smith, the Florida reserves outscored UCLA’s by a 23-11 margin while playing vastly superior defense.

     

    Top Performers

    Florida sniper Michael Frazier II bounced back from a poor showing in the opening weekend of the tourney to pour in a game-high 19 points, including 5-of-8 from long range. Defensive stopper Will Yeguete added eight points and a team-leading seven boards.

    Anderson kept the Gators' pressure at bay while notching 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Jordan Adams led the Bruins with 17 points, right on his season average. 

     

    X-Factor 

    Freshman Chris Walker, rarely a factor in the regular season after joining the team late in the year, provided a major spark off the Florida bench with seven points, three boards, one block and one highlight-reel finish after rebounding a missed free throw.

     

    Next Round

    The win sets up a showdown between the Gators and the tournament’s top Cinderella, 11th-seeded Dayton. The individual matchup between Scottie Wilbekin and Jordan Sibert will be worth the price of admission, but it’s hard to imagine Dayton being able to handle Florida’s advantages in size and athleticism over 40 minutes.

    The Gators also know a thing or two about finishing off underdogs after knocking Florida Gulf Coast out of last year’s Big Dance.

Arizona vs. San Diego State

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Ground down for most of the night by San Diego State’s defense and rebounding, No. 1 seed Arizona showed its heart in battling back for a 70-64 win. The fourth-seeded Aztecs hounded Wildcats scoring leader Nick Johnson into 2-of-12 shooting, but freshmen Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson picked up the slack with a combined 30 points.

    Xavier Thames nearly pulled off another one-man offensive show, scoring 25 for SDSU, but came up just short. The Aztecs as a team shot just 21-of-54, including 4-of-14 from beyond the arc.

     

    Top Performers

    Gordon showed off his phenomenal athletic ability in racking up 15 points and seven boards against a tough front line. Johnson, for all his shooting woes, managed 15 points (all in the last four minutes of the game), eight rebounds and three assists.

    Josh Davis grabbed an astounding 15 rebounds while scoring six points for the Aztecs. Winston Shepard added 11 points and five boards to Thames’ offensive efforts.

     

    X-Factor

    With offense at a premium for Arizona, sophomore Gabe York provided some much-needed playmaking. Although he only managed four points, his team-leading four assists loomed large in a close contest.

     

    Next Round

    Arizona will take on Wisconsin in the only Elite Eight matchup featuring the top two seeds in a region. The Badgers won’t be as smothering a defensive matchup for the Wildcats, but Arizona will still need to improve its offensive execution to keep up with a Wisconsin offense that’s flying high after destroying Baylor.