3-FLORIDA vs. 11-MINNESOTA
Scouting report: The Gators are 8.5-point favorites because they are a much more well-rounded team that had a dominant season in the SEC. But each side will face a serious challenge it didn’t see in the second round. Florida doesn’t lack for size or rebounding, yet it isn’t as aggressive or physically tough in the blocks as Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are No. 9 nationally in rebound margin and No. 12 in blocked shots.
On the flip side, Minnesota’s backcourt of Andre and Austin Hollins will be under extreme duress from Florida’s intense pressure. Turnovers, and the inability to get the ball to their bigs, have been major concerns for the Gophers all year. Minnesota is a good defensive team; Florida is a great one, ranking No. 2 in points allowed and No. 4 in field-goal percentage defense. The Gophers will need to knock down their share of jump shots to take this to the wire.
2-MIAMI vs. 7-ILLINOIS
Scouting report: On paper, it looks like a mismatch. You have the team with everything - including tremendous size, a premier point guard and vast experience - against a relatively small, perimeter-oriented team coming off an uneven season. Yet the Hurricanes are just a 6.5-point favorite. Why? The Illini are dangerous when their three-point shots are falling, and they know who they are. They have beaten two No. 1 teams (Gonzaga, Indiana), Ohio State and opened 12-0. Streaky Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson combined to nail 158 three-pointers.
Miami, with Shane Larkin directing, has stronger numbers almost everywhere. The Canes are 47th in field-goal shooting, the Illini 268th. The Canes are 71st in rebounding; the Illini 224th. The Canes are 125th in assists-to-turnover ratio; the Illini 220th. Illinois will have no answer for Miami’s vast array of bigs but, if it has one of those unconscious nights shooting the three-ball … well, it wouldn’t be the Illini’s first major scalp of the season.