The Dayton Flyers are the surprise team on the South Region
headed to the Sweet 16 in
Remember that conference Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said wasn't as deserving as the ACC? Well, the team that finished tied for fifth in the Atlantic 10 during the regular season is still alive and well in the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, while some of the top teams from the ACC will watch the rest of the event on their televisions.
Welcome to the South Region of this year's dance, a foursome that includes the No. 1 team in the nation, a school looking for its 12th national championship and a pair of double-digit seeds. All signs point to the top-ranked Florida Gators having a fairly easy road to the Final Four, but the UCLA Bruins will certainly have something to say about that, while the upstart Stanford Cardinal and Dayton Flyers have no intentions of being pushovers.
No. 1 Gators One Of
Three SEC Squads Still Alive
Billy Donovan and Florida (34-2 straight up, 16-14-2 against the spread) are on a roll as they head to Bluff City. The Gators followed up their unbeaten Southeastern Conference regular season record with the league tourney title, plus added a pair of wins in Orlando this past weekend to reach the Sweet 16 on a 28-game win streak.
Florida wore down Pittsburgh on Saturday, 61-45, easily covering a 5.5 point spread on the NCAA basketball odds board to snap a 2-game skid in that column. Scottie Wilbekin netted 21 in the victory to lead the offensive charge, but the real story of the game was defense as the Gators limited the Panthers to 19-of-51 (37.3%) from the field while coming up with 10 steals and five blocks.
The solid all-around effort vs. Pitt came after a bit of a scare Thursday against Albany. Florida posted a 67-55 decision in that contest with five players scoring in double figures, but the 12-point victory was anything but comfortable and never came close to beating the -22 line oddsmakers hung on the Gators. The final score had just enough to get past a 120.5 point total, Florida's only 'over' in its last five games.
No. 4 Bruins Aim For
1st Final Four Since '08
Florida has been installed as the 3/1 favorite to win the NCAA Tournament, and if the Gators are going to follow through on that chalk, they'll first have to get by UCLA (28-8 SU, 23-12 ATS). Steve Alford has the Bruins back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008, which was also the same season UCLA made it to a third consecutive Final Four.
The Bruins ran their win and cover streak to five Sunday with a 77-60 triumph vs. Stephen F. Austin State. Favored by 9.5, UCLA only turned it over three times against the Lumberjacks while connecting on 29-of-53 field goals. That victory was preceded by a 76-59 decision over Tulsa in San Diego on Friday, more than enough to beat the -8.5 spread.
No. 10 Cardinal Coming
Off Upset Of Kansas
Stanford (23-12 SU, 19-12-2 ATS) would love nothing more than for the South Region Championship to be a matchup of Pac-12 teams. Johnny Dawkins' group travels to Memphis off a pair of upsets in St. Louis, capped by knocking 2-seed Kansas out of the tourney on Sunday.
The Cardinal were getting 4.5 points in their opener Friday vs. New Mexico, almost coughing up a 16-point lead over the Lobos before holding on for a 58-53 dubya. They then caught the Jayhawks minus big man Joel Embiid, as well as star guard Andrew Wiggins having one of his worst games of the season, for a 60-57 win Sunday as 6.5 point underdogs. The 144 point total vs. Kansas was never threatened, leaving six of Stanford's last seven games 'under' the mark.
No. 11 Flyers Shock
Buckeyes & Orange
For the Cardinal to do their part and reach the Elite Eight, they'll have to first get past the tournament's biggest surprise in Dayton (25-10 SU, 19-12 ATS). Archie Miller and the Flyers opened the Big Dance by upsetting No. 6 seed Ohio State on Thursday, 60-59, then shocked No. 3 seed Syracuse in Buffalo on Saturday, 55-53.