The field of 68 is now down to just eight teams, and four of those team will be in action on Saturday afternoon and evening to kick off the Elite Eight of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
In the day's first game, No. 2 seed Florida squares off against No. 8 seed Butler at 4:30 p.m. EDT (CBS). Last season, the Bulldogs became America's Cinderella team, charging through the 2010 NCAA Tournament to meet Duke in the national championship game before ultimately losing to the Blue Devils. This year, the Bulldogs' talent is no longer a secret, and the Gators know they will be facing a tough task in Butler.
Florida touts a strong quintet of talent, led by junior sensation Erving Walker, who averaged 14.8 points in the regular season. Kenny Boynton (14.1 PPG), Chandler Parsons (11.5 PPG), Vernon Macklin (11.2 PPG) and Alex Tyus (8.9 PPG) make up the rest of the Gators' star group.
On the other side, Butler no longer has the services of Gordon Hayward, but it still has a strong duo in Matt Howard (16.8 PPG) and Shelvin Mack (15.6 PPG) that has propelled the Bulldogs to the Southeast regional finals.
For the most part, Florida has flown under the radar in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, but according to The Sports Network, the Gators are a force to be reckoned with and will return to the Final Four on Saturday night.
It's hard to pick against a Butler team as hot as any in the tournament, especially with its penchant for dramatic hard-nosed play. That being said, Florida garnered a two-seed for a reason and is among the tournament's most balanced and deep teams. The Gators' noted ability to crank out a new star performer on any night gives opposing teams fits on defense and may very well carry it to the Final Four and beyond in 2011.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida 71, Butler 68
In the second and final game of the evening, No. 3 Connecticut will do battle with No. 5 Arizona at 6:55 p.m. (CBS). This game will feature two of the nation's premier talents in UConn's Kemba Walker and Arizona's Derrick Williams.
Alas, something has to give, and according to The Sports Network, it will be Walker and the Huskies who come out on the short end of Saturday night's contest.
With spotlights on both Williams for Arizona and Walker for the Huskies, it will be the players on the periphery who will likely decide the outcome in this meeting. As long as the Wildcats can again get a complete effort like they did in the second half against Duke and don't become too enamored with their own success, they should be able to finally count at least one game against the Huskies in their favor.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arizona 71, Connecticut 67
For an in-depth preview of tonight's UConn-Arizona game, check out our UConn StoryStream.
Saturday, March 26th
Southeast Region final, New Orleans:
No. 2 Florida vs. No. 8 Butler at 4:20 p.m. ET
West Region final, Anaheim:
No. 3 UConn vs. No. 5 Arizona, 6:55 p.m. ET
Other March Madness resources: