The SEC has shown greatness in basketball this year's in the NCAA's. The conference is back, and cookin, with 3 teams in the Elite Eight. The conference has 1 team guaranteed for the Final Four, and shooting for a pair. It's been stellar. Here's a look at today's tremendous match-ups with predictions locked, loaded.
Quick recap of last night
Gonzaga 83, Xavier 59
It looked like a high level college team playing a Division 3 team. Gonzaga looks super and is a real threat to win it all. They made a serious statement last night. Gonzaga in the Final Four next Saturday vs the winner of South Carolina-Florida.
Oregon 74, Kansas 60
Kind of a surprise here, but the way Oregon beat Michigan, I knew they'd be a highly difficult out for a Kansas team that looked like it was cruising right along heading into the Elite Eight. Josh Bell was a beast on defense and on the glass, finishing with 11 points, 13 boards and 8 blocks. He had the Kansas offense in disarray. Oregon moves on to Phoenix next Saturday to play the Kentucky-UNC winner. Bill Self and his Jayhawks once again can't get it done in crunch time.
No.7 South Carolina (25-10) vs. No. 3 Florida (27-8)
Madison Square Garden, Big Apple
1:20 PM CT/2:20 PM ET
These 2 teams are pretty even in talent as they are both athletic, great defensive teams, and have some clutch shooters, South Carolina in Sindarius Thornwell, who averaged 21 points this season and posted 24 Friday Night in 70-50 blasting of Baylor. The Gators have 3 stud shooters in Canyon Barry, who averaged 11.6 ppg, and is as clutch as it gets. He had a huge block of Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes's attempt at a dunk late in overtime that was the game changer for Florida in their 84-83 victory. Chris Chiozza only averaged 7 points this season, but is also a big shotmaker and leader on the floor. He sank the game winning 3 at the buzzer in OT Friday Night.
KeVaughn Allen finished with 35 Friday Night, wow, and averaged 14 points this season. He's another stud shooter, player.
With that information I listed above, it looks like Florida would have the advantage coming into the game, but I'm going with the underdog in this one. The Gamecocks defeated Duke last Sunday Night, 88-81, then smashed Baylor, 70-50. I like Frank Martin better as a coach than MIke White at this point. He has experience in big games, and will make the right moves to get his team to Phoenix.
South Carolina 75, Florida 72
No.2 Kentucky (32-5) vs. No.1 North Carolina (30-7)
FedExForum, River City, Memphis
4:05 PM CT/5:05 PM ET
This is a super matchup of the Blue Chips of college basketball. It's the Bluegrass State vs Carolina Blue. Superb players are all over these rosters.
North Carolina is led by superstar and future high first round pick in June, Justin Jackson, who averaged 18 points this season and finished with 24 Friday Night in a 92-80 Carolina victory over Butler Joel Berry II is the team's quarterback as its point guard and can light it up, as he averaged 14 points this season and poured in 26 Friday Night, going 3-for-7 from trifecta territory. Then you've got that huge front wall of 6'10", 260 pound Kennedy Meeks, who averaged 12.5 ppg and 9 boards this season. You throw in 6'9", 242 pound Isiaiah Hicks, who posted 12 points and 6 boards this season, and 6'6", 211 pound forward Theo Pinson, who came in as a starter late in the season and averaged 6 points and 4 boards and can jump out of the gym. Carolina doesn't go real deep on the bench, but Luke Maye, a 6'8", 235 pounder, went for 16 on Friday Night and is a valuable 6th man.
Kentucky counters that with the best backcourt in the country led by the awesome De'Aaron Fox, who averaged 17 points this season and is as fast as Calvin Ridley in the open field. De'Aaron poured in 39 Friday Night. Are you kiddin me? That's superb and it was the same night that former Wildcat Devin Booker, in his 2nd year with the Phoenix Suns, poured in 70 in a 130-120 loss to the Celtics. Fox is sensational. Malik Monk is pretty terrific too. Another freshman, like Fox, Monk averaged 20 points this season, and went for 21 Friday Night in an 86-75 victory over UCLA. There are other top shelf players in Isaiah Briscoe, another point guard, who averaged 12 points this season. Senior Dominique Hawkins comes off the bench and provides excellent shooting from the shooting guard position. Freshman Edrice "Bam" Adebayo is 6'10", 260, and is one kind'uh hoss. Bam averaged 13 points and 8 boards this season. Senior Derek Willis is another shooter at small forward who is valuable.
This should be an epic.
This is a tough call. UNC has the advantage inside and they are an offensive rebounding machine. But I'm going with Cal and the Cats to advance. Like Fox's and Monk's shooting to neutralize the towers in the middle for Carolina. Should be some offensive fireworks.
Kentucky 88, Carolina 86