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From the Bird’s Nest: Tonight’s picks for the Elite Eight

The Sweet Sixteen round begins tonight, with four games on tap and then four more Friday night.  Two regional finals will be held Saturday and two more on Sunday.  My bracket is toast, but that won’t stop me from picking on from here. 
Tomorrow I’ll give you a preview of Friday’s games. In the meantime, here’s what’s on tap for tonight.

Here we go:

SOUTHEAST REGION: TONIGHT IN NEW ORLEANS

#3 BYU vs. #2 FLORIDA TBS 6:27PM

What a treat for those heading down to the Crescent City, who will get to see the Jimmer show in person. Jimmer Fredette is maybe the most fun player to watch in all of college basketball and he’ll try to lead BYU to a regional final. Standing in their way is SEC regular season champion Florida. I thought Florida was overseeded as a #2, but they’ve lived up to their billing and played extremely well. The loss of Davies hasn’t hurt the Cougars yet, but sooner or later it’s got to catch up with BYU. I think that time is tonight. I look for Florida to win tonight. Jimmer will get his, but if the Gators can guard the rest of the Cougars (and they can), then they’ll move on.

#8 BUTLER VS. #4 WISCONSIN–TBS 8:57PM

Well, here they are again. Butler wasn’t expected to do this much. They struggled early in the season, struggled at times in the Horizon League and were even money to go out in the first round of the tournament. But late heroics against Old Dominion and Pitt have last year’s Cinderella story back in the Sweet 16. Wisconsin is somewhat of an enigma. Despite having good outside shooting and a good inside game, the Badgers sometimes really struggle to score points. They haven’t had that problem yet in the tournament however. In a game like this, at a time like this, give me the team that can really shoot free throws. Wisconsin leads all of college basketball in that department. Look for Wisconsin to take it inside early and often to try to get into the bonus as early as possible. If they’re successful, they’ll move on. A Wisconsin/Florida final is on the horizon.

WEST REGIONAL–ANAHEIM

#3 CONNECTICUT VS. #2 SAN DIEGO STATE–CBS 6:15PM

After finishing ninth in the Big East I really didn’t expect the Huskies to make it this far. But they’ve shown their run through the Big East tournament was no fluke. Kemba Walker is the best player in college basketball not named Jimmer Fredette and the freshman has put the Huskies on his back. San Diego State is one of the really good stories in college basketball. Former Michigan coach Steve Fisher has the Aztecs among the nation’s elite now. SDSU had never won a tournament game until this year. They had a devil of a time getting past Temple in the third round. San Diego State lost to BYU twice during the regular season but beat them after Davies was dismissed from the team. Connecticut has more firepower than just Walker and I like them to keep their incredible run alive tonight.

#5 ARIZONA vs. #1 DUKE

The Blue Devils were nearly exposed against Michigan, when the Wolverines made a great run at the end of the game. Duke never did stop them and Michigan got a clean look at the end to tie. My guess is Duke will be more focused tonight against an Arizona team that’s kind of flown under the radar all season. Arizona got by Texas thanks to a somewhat controversial five second call at the end of the game. That’s good news for Duke, as Texas would have been a tougher matchup. This is the one game tonight that I think will be decided by double digits. Look for a Duke/UCONN final on Saturday.

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