USA TODAY Sports provides your March Madness therapy.
AT THE WATER COOLER: The beauty of the postseason in college basketball is that all the rankings, seedings and percentages clearly become exactly what they are: Just numbers.
Numbers, of course, can be deceiving. Kentucky is the prime example of that.
PREVIEW: Saturday's Elite Eight games
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The Wildcats were the preseason No. 1 team in both the AP and Coaches Poll. Then inexperience and immaturity quickly removed that number from UK's résumé. That left room for the veteran Michigan State Spartans to become the new No. 1. Then injuries started to erase them from national title contender status.
The end results: The preseason top two were dealt a No. 8 seed and a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament, respectively.
As we near the end of March, it turns out that seeding really didn't matter. And if the surprising Elite Eight ride of Dayton — an NCAA tourney bubble team a month ago — proves anything, it's that the numbers really didn't matter either. That brings us to our eight remaining teams. Here's a re-seeding based on each team's chance of winning it all.
1. Michigan State: The Spartans might have been the only team with the wherewithal to knock off a tempo-controlling Virginia sqad and it took an all-around team effort to do so. Branden Dawson has been the difference-maker. Since he's returned from injury, Michigan State has looked like the best team in the country. It took a while to get the chemistry right once the injury-riddled Spartans were finally healthy, but they're playing their best at the perfect time.
2. Kentucky: Speaking of a team hitting its stride, the Wildcats are doing exactly that. Well, let's just say they've grown up. The talent has always been there. But the mental toughness has been a big issue. This group of youngsters is finally starting to play consistently smart and. most important, the team synergy that was lacking much of the season is there. Trust and unselfishness go a long way and credit John Calipari for a.) continuing to believe in his team and b.) continuing to see their potential. Confidence goes a long way with 19-year-olds and for every errant Andrew Harrison pass, there's been a clutch three-pointer. We can finally bring back the national title contender hype. 40-0? Hardly. But the growing pains will serve Julius Randle and Co. well heading into the Elite Eight.
3. Florida: The Gators haven't lost in 29 games, and that's a product of a well-coached, veteran-led group. Florida's offense is difficult to stop with floor general Scottie Wilbekin at the controls. He proved that against UCLA. And the best part about the Gators' offense is there's always a second, third, fourth or fifth option. That's the sign of a great team. And so is the phenomenal defense, which this group has perfected. Florida has the ability to completely stagnate another team's offense. While everyone loves the Cinderella story, let's not forget this program's history of smashing the glass slipper.
4. Wisconsin: Bo Ryan has yet to reach the Final Four. Well, this is his year to do it. The Badgers have ample offensive weaponry starting with 7-foot big man Frank Kaminsky, who has the ability to stretch the floor and is certainly an X-Factor player. Then there's the solid guard play of Ben Brust and Traveon Jackson. And we can't forget Mr. Big Shot Sam Dekker. Simply put, this team can light it up and an extremely disciplined offense leaves opponents little room to counter. Defense, though, has always been a calling card for the Badgers. It's no different this season and for all of the offensively gifted teams in the Elite Eight, the Badgers' defense makes them a comfortable fit to reach the Final Four and perhaps go further.
5. Arizona: The Wildcats showed their resiliency and championship grit in a hard-fought victory against San Diego State. In that game, top-scorer Nick Johnson was ice cold from the field. But Aaron Gordon's versatility and T.J. McConnell's play-making made up for it. That's been the case all season. Arizona lost starter Brandon Ashley for the season but found ways to keep pushing forward. That's what championship teams do: Win despite adversity. The ballhawking of Johnson and McConnell is underrated, and Gordon's motor energizes this squad in the same way Blake Griffin or Joakim Noah did for their college teams. Read: Aaron Gordon takes over the freshman spotlight.
6. UConn: Shabazz Napier had been putting the Huskies on his back for two games in the NCAA tournament. That didn't stop necessarily, but DeAndre Daniels decided to join the party in UConn's Elite Eight-advancing win against Iowa State. Daniels had a coming-out party performance of 27 points and if he can keep that momentum going as Napier does Shabazz Napier things, the Huskies have a shot at getting past Michigan State. Napier's backcourt sidekick Ryan Boatright can't be forgotten. "If we have a balanced attack, we can win a lot of games, and we can continue to play," said UConn coach Kevin Ollie after the game. Obviously easier said than done.
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USA TODAY Sports college basketball writer Nicole Auerbach breaks down the Elite 8 matchup and gives you her Final Four pick.
7. Michigan: The hot-shooting Wolverines continue to advance with their marksmanship from beyond the arc. How long can it last? It seemed like the fuel had run out in a narrow victory against Tennessee in which Michigan coughed up a substantial lead. Well, the Wolverines aren't just living by the three, they're thriving by it. They followed a similar script against Texas, and it's been the season's theme. In all, Michigan has hit 32 three-pointers in three tournament games and a school record 306 during the season. The Wolverines are shooting 39.8% from beyond the arc, and 40.3% of their field goal attempts are three-pointerss. Michigan scores 34.9% of its points from the three-point line, the 22nd most in the country.
8. Dayton: The unlikeliest Elite Eight team also could be the scariest. Keep doubting the Flyers and they're poised to silence that doubt. However, even the most Cinderella-y Cinderella will need an extra shot of "steroids" as Archie Miller has called his team's tournament momentum to take down Florida. As Eric Prisbell writes, Dayton is very much about the sum of all parts. This is a true team, and that's what it will take to beat the Gators. One thing Dayton has done well on a consistent basis has been attack first. Stanford had a plethora of areas in which it could have exposed the Flyers. But if the Flyers are able to throw the first punch and play at their own pace, they'll have a chance to keep winning. Against anybody.
TWEET THAT SPEAKS VOLUMES: Who said winning was easy?
ON DECK TONIGHT: A look at the Elite Eight slate of games. All times Eastern.
— Arizona (33-4) vs. Wisconsin (29-7) | 8:49 p.m., TBS
— Florida (35-2) vs. Dayton (26-10) | 6:09 p.m., TBS
Scott Gleeson, a national college basketball writer/digital producer for USA TODAY Sports, is on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.
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