College basketball’s best weekend wraps up with a pair of Elite Eight games that will certainly make SEC commissioner Greg Sankey smile. Few would have predicted that the conference best known for football would have the most teams alive among the final eight playing basketball this season. All three are in action on Sunday. One matchup everyone saw coming. The other was more than a bit of a surprise.
2:20 p.m., CBS
East Region: No. 4 seed Florida vs. No. 7 seed South Carolina
This is what everyone expected to see in the regional final in New York, right? Even though this has the look of an SEC East Division showdown on the gridiron, there is, indeed, a Final Four berth on the line. Florida and South Carolina split their two meetings in the regular season, and both teams protected home court. The first game was a rock fight in Columbia, with the Gamecocks notching a 57-53 victory. That could be a preview of Sunday’s Elite Eight matchup, given that these are two top-four defenses, according to kenpom.com’s adjusted efficiency metric. The return game in Gainesville was an 81-66 Florida victory. Despite what we’ve seen from Sindarius Thornwell and the Gamecocks over the last 10 days, Florida will have the advantage if the rubber match is played at that pace.
5:05 p.m., CBS
South Region: No. 1 seed North Carolina vs. No. 2 seed Kentucky
With all due respect to Florida and South Carolina, this is the day’s clear headliner. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to cap the weekend than with a matchup between North Carolina and Kentucky for a trip to the Final Four. This, too, is a rematch from the regular season. Unlike those Florida-South Carolina games, however, the first edition of Tar Heels-Wildcats was one of the very best games of the year. Kentucky won that game 103-100 in regulation, a score befitting an NBA contest. Malik Monk scored 47 points, while Justin Jackson led the way for the Tar Heels with 34. If North Carolina-Kentucky 2 approaches what we saw back in December, we’re going to have a classic on our hands. The Tar Heels and Wildcats are two of five teams ranked in kenpom.com’s top 20 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. If the brand names aren’t enough for you, there’s no question that these are two of the best teams in the country.