Well, well. For two of the berths to the Final Four, we have the fairly blue blooded Michigan and... three teams seeded below the top half of the bracket.
This is March, as they say, and there will be defense. Loyola tries to move to the Final Four, but they face a test in a team as hard-working as they have been, while Florida State’s depth, size and resilience will be challenged by Michigan’s dominant defense and explosive offense.
We are going to miss the thrills from this side of the bracket.
South Regional: (11) Loyola Chicago Ramblers vs. (9) Kansas State Wildcats
Time: 6:09 p.m.
How to watch: TBS | Stream
Odds: Kansas State, -1
Announcers: Brian Anderson, Chris Webber and Lisa Byington
One thing is for certain: Bruce Weber bought himself a lot of leeway to be kind of goofy, overly honest and supposedly not cheat with this run. The fans are impressed with his work with this roster, papering over the earlier ambivalence at his run in the other Manhattan. The Kansas State Wildcats held off the Kentucky Wildcats’ late game charge to proceed to the Elite Eight. Forward Xavier Sneed carried the load for most of the game with his 22 points (7-14 FG, 5-8 3PT) and 9 rebounds, but guard Barry Brown (13 points off 4-15 FG and 1-4 3PT) scored when it mattered most. Kansas State will need to shoot better than the 35% from the field that they showed against Kentucky, but winning ugly might be the only way they get past Loyola’s defense.
Similar to Kansas State, Loyola held off a late charge by Nevada and everyone kept their shirt on. Loyola has won by a combined four points in their last three wins, so the narrative could either be how clutch Loyola is or how lucky Loyola is. One common factor for the Ramblers is their defense. Loyola allowed opponents to score 62.4 points per game, good for fifth nationally. Their tournament opponents have averaged 64 points thus far, and Loyola will need to maintain their defensive effectiveness against Kansas State.
West Regional: (9) Florida State Seminoles vs. (3) Michigan Wolverines
Time: 8:49 p.m.
How to watch: TBS | Stream
Odds: Michigan, -4
Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner, Dana Jacobson
The Wolverines blew out Texas A&M 99-72 to advance to the Elite Eight. Guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (24 points off 9-16 FG and 4-7 3PT, 5 rebounds, 7 assists) and forward Moritz Wagner (21 points off 8-12 FG and 3-3 3PT, 3 rebounds) have their best offensive performances of the tournament on Thursday. If Abdur-Rahkman, Wagner, and guard Charles Matthews are the three best scorers on the floor, Michigan could be on its way to the Final Four.
After eliminating Xavier and Gonzaga, Florida State will have their hands full with Michigan. Guard Terance Mann has been his best when the lights have shined the brightest. After only scoring 2 points against Missouri, Mann has averaged 14 points in the last two games. Against Michigan, it will be a battle of philosophies. Florida State ranks 35th nationally in points per game with 80.9, while Michigan ranks ninth in opposing points per game with 63.3.
In a high scoring game, Michigan’s three leading scorers have a chance to stay in the game. If the game is low scoring, Florida State will have to find a way to stay in the game defensively.