Which teams have what it takes to reach the coveted Final Four? The madness of the 2014 NCAA tournament is relentless, as bracket-busting games continue to ensue. With so many surging teams in the mix, the last four teams standing could come as huge surprises.
We saw the first No. 1 seed fall on Sunday after a thrilling game between Wichita State and No. 8 Kentucky. There’s a strong possibility that at least one more top-seeded team will also exit the tournament before the Final Four begins.
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Let’s take a look at the latest Final Four predictions based on how each team has fared through this point in March Madness.
South Region: No. 1 Florida
It’s tough to bet against the Gators right now. Florida looks to be one of the most complete teams in the 2014 NCAA tournament. Its defense has been spectacular, and it continues to gain momentum with every victory.
After defeating a powerful Pittsburgh team 61-45 in the round of 32, Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin commented on how well the team has jelled during a press conference with The Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
We just wanted to come out and not let them play harder than us or not play as hard as we can. I think we did a good job of having our energy up at the start of the game, and we played together on offense and played together on defense.
Florida was dynamic against the Panthers, holding Pittsburgh to shoot just 37.3 percent from the field and outrebounding the Panthers 38-31. The Gators also forced 11 turnovers and accumulated 10 steals over the contest.
There have been plenty of upsets in the South—No. 2 Kansas and No. 3 Syracuse have already been bounced from the tournament—making Florida’s fun to the Final Four seem more probable than ever.
West Region: No. 2 Wisconsin
The Badgers went on a great late-season run and continued to gain momentum early in the NCAA tournament. In the back end of the regular season, they earned quality wins against Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa.
After losing to the Spartans in the Big Ten tournament, Wisconsin bounced back in a big way. In its next game, the team trounced American University by a score of 75-35. The Badgers followed that up with an 85-77 victory against the resurgent Oregon Ducks.
Wisconsin trailed by 12 at the half against the Ducks but surged in the second half, putting Oregon away in brilliant fashion. During a postgame press conference with the Associated Press, via ESPN.com, Badgers head coach Bo Ryan came away impressed with his team.
Ryan said, “To be able to handle that smack in the face in the first half and come back and deliver one of our own says a lot about this group.”
This team continues to build momentum. No. 3 Creighton and No. 1 Arizona stumbled a bit in the round of 64, leaving Wisconsin to look like the most well-rounded team going forward.
East Region: No. 4 Michigan State
What a run the Spartans are on right now. Riding a five-game winning streak, Michigan State defeated a number of diverse opponents.
After taking down Wisconsin and Michigan to take the Big Ten conference tournament title, the Spartans continued to surge in the NCAA tournament. They handled Delaware with ease in Round 2 and followed it up by defeating a very strong Harvard team 80-73.
Michigan State is a very experienced team, and it has one of the best coaches in college hoops. Tom Izzo continues to put his team in the best possible position to succeed, and that will carry this team to the tournament’s Final Four.
With No. 1 seed Virginia relying solely on its defense, No. 2 Villanova exiting the tournament early and No. 3 Iowa State remaining an offensive-minded team, the Spartans are the most well-rounded team in the East.
The team’s chemistry, experience and coaching will allow Michigan State to continue its run deep into the tournament.
Midwest Region: No. 2 Michigan
How good did the Wolverines look against No. 7 Texas on Saturday night? Michigan put on a clinic, recording a team-record 14 three-pointers during the contest. The Wolverines were on point from downtown from the get-go and finished the game shooting 50.0 percent from behind the arc.
Not only was the team’s shooting on point, but Michigan made very few mistakes. The Wolverines didn’t turn the ball over for the first 15 minutes of the game and ended the contest with just four total turnovers.
This is a very deep team, as four of its five starters recorded double-digit points against the Longhorns. That same group also held a high-octane Texas offense to shoot just 37.1 percent from the field.
After the convincing victory, head coach John Beilein expressed his delight with his players after the win during a press conference with the Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
Huge win for us. These guys believe and they did a great job. What I do like about this team is they’ve never lost two in a row. They’ve been resilient. They get better in both victory and defeat.
We knew that number, that rebounding number, we probably weren’t going to win today. We had to win the other numbers to win the possession number. Proud of only four turnovers. I don’t think we had a turnover out of the backcourt in the entire game.
Michigan will face the winner of lower-seeded teams for the remainder of its games against the Midwest Region. Kentucky looked great against Wichita State on Sunday, but the Wildcats have been rather inconsistent this season. Louisville has struggled over its last couple of contests and doesn’t look as dominant as it has been.
Expect the Wolverines to continue their remarkable run right into the Final Four.
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