March Madness has lived up to its billing so far, with a 7- and 11-seed advancing to the Elite Eight this weekend. More shockingly, three SEC teams are represented – no other league has more than one.
But rather than revel in any accomplishments, the teams now must get back to work and prepare. The winner of each of these games will head to the Final Four, the biggest stage in college basketball.
Here’s the definitive power ranking of the four games on Saturday and Sunday.
4. No. 4 Florida vs. No. 7 South Carolina
2:20 p.m. Sunday – New York City (CBS)
Who could have expected this? From a storyline perspective, the SEC totally redeeming itself has to be right at the top.
But while the storyline is fun, the actual game will be brutal. These two teams split their matchups this season, with each winning at home. Considering the game takes place in New York City, there shouldn’t be much of a homecourt advantage.
The Gamecocks boast the No. 2 adjusted defense in college basketball. Florida is right behind at No. 4. Ultimately, it will come down to which team can produce more consistent offense. It probably won’t be especially watchable.
3. No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 11 Xavier
6:09 p.m. Saturday – San Jose, Calif. (TBS)
It might not fit the typical Cinderella mold, but Xavier shocked everyone to get to the Elite Eight. The Musketeers took the hard way through the tourney, beating Maryland, Florida State and a loaded Arizona team.
However, the Zags are the toughest test yet. Gonzaga earned the No. 1 ranking in the nation earlier this year after compiling an impressive 32-1 regular season record. Nigel Williams-Goss is a future NBA player, and he’s one of five players on the team to average double-digits.
Xavier is by far the lowest-rated team left in the tourney, but have consistently proved that it belongs. The Musketeers also shoot 46 percent from the 3-point line. The stats are there for a team of mayhem situation.
2. No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 3 Oregon
8:49 p.m. Saturday – Kansas City, Mo. (TBS)
With Villanova out of the tournament, Kansas might be the most talented team left. Point guard Frank Mason III will likely win national player of the year. Freshman Josh Jackson is a top five pick in the NBA draft this June. However, Oregon is playing with a chip on its shoulder.
Oregon big man Chris Boucher, one of the best shot blockers in college basketball, tore his ACL in the PAC-12 Tournament, ending his season. Many critics thought that spelled the end of their chances. However, the Ducks powered past upset-minded Rhode Island and Michigan teams to earn a date with the Jayhawks.
Kansas holds the No. 3 adjusted offense nationally, and the ability to score in different ways. However, the Ducks shoot just under 43 percent from the 3-point line, only behind Xavier and Kansas among remaining tourney teams.
1. No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kentucky
5:05 p.m. Sunday – Memphis, Tenn. (CBS)
Surprisingly, the toughest region in the NCAA tournament produced the only matchup between the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the Elite Eight. UNC blazed past Butler in the Sweet 16, while Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox outdueled star UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball to advance.
Now, the blue-blood programs will face off in the most anticipated game of the weekend. This game features the most talent out of any of the Elite Eight showdowns, and it’s not particularly close. North Carolina wing Justin Jackson was a semifinalist for national player of the year. Kentucky boasts three potential lottery picks.
Kentucky likes to push the tempo, especially when Fox gets the ball in the open court. Both Fox (39 points against UCLA) and Monk (21) can put up points in a hurry. However, the Tar Heels boast the No. 6 adjusted offense in the nation. There will be plenty of points. The two teams both topped 100 when they met back in December, with Kentucky winning 103-100.