Sunday's Elite Eight Doubleheader: Surprises Michigan State And Tennessee Battle; Baylor Looks To Knock Duke Out

SB Nation's Chris Dobbertean, editor of Blogging The Bracket, has your rundown of Sunday's Regional Final action in the NCAA Tournament, including announcer pairings and picks.

All games are on CBS and NCAA® March Madness on Demand®

After this afternoon, the Final Four will be set for next Saturday in Indianapolis. There are two slots remaining now that Butler claimed the West Regional and West Virginia took the East crown Saturday night. 

Sunday, the Midwest Regional final in St. Louis will provide a way in for another surprise team, while the South final in Houston is the last chance for a one seed to make it.

Midwest Region Final: No. 6 Tennessee vs. No. 5 Michigan State, 2:20 p.m. ET (Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery)

I've had a hard time getting a good angle on this matchup, as the two teams seem remarkably even. Will over at our Tennessee blog, Rocky Top Talk, feels the same and discusses this in his game preview.

I also feel like that Michigan State people look at this game and say "We have to beat Tennessee to get to the Final Four? We can do that." And I feel like Tennessee people look at this game and say "We have to beat Michigan State without Kalin Lucas to get to the Final Four? We can do that."

There are a ton of factors that suggest this is going to be another incredibly even matchup. We've each got one intangible - their championship experience, our depth - that makes each of us feel like we might have an edge.

One factor that stands out to me, having seen them many times this season, is the Volunteers' length. This is something that will impact the Spartans' defensive approach, as KJ of our Michigan State blog, The Only Colors, writes in his game preview.

The Michigan State defenders will need to play good help defense tomorrow to prevent Tennessee's collection of 6'7"+ players from slashing to the basket for easy baskets. The goal will be to get the Volunteer's to launch more 3-pointers than they'd like to, as Tennessee shoots just .317 from beyond the arc.  (Cameron) Tatum is the only player above .350 from 3-point range. A relatively aggressive defensive approach doesn't have quite the same downside as it did against Northern Iowa, since Tennessee only shoots .671 from the free-throw line.

KJ also mentions that the predictions for this one are also close.

KenPom has MSU winning by 1 (68-67 in 68 possessions). Accounting for Lucas' absence, the guys in Vegas have it at Tennessee by 2. That's pretty close to a coin-flip game by the numbers.

And that's precisely how I feel about it. It's the Vols' length, depth and defense against the Spartans defense and March experience. My pick is Tennessee by a bucket in a thriller. The winner will face Butler in one National Semifinal next Saturday.

South Region Final: No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 1 Duke, 5:05 p.m. ET (Jim Nantz/Clark Kellogg)

Duke is the last top seed alive. If Baylor can defeat them, we'll have our first Final Four lacking a No. 1 since the 2006 event, also held in Indianapolis.

Our Blue Devil blog, Duke Basketball Report, writes its game preview, that Duke's size and three-point defense could cause the Bears problems. DBR breaks down how Baylor did against each of their three Tournament opponents, and the second round game against Old Dominion, a team with size, stuck out to me.

Against Old Dominion, the Monarchs beat Baylor on the boards, 29-28, and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds to Baylor's nine. Baylor shot 44.1% for the game.

Baylor shot 51.9% to ODU's 43.4%. They had 13 turnovers, and Udoh had two blocks.

After Baylor used some hot three-point shooting to build a lead on St. Mary's Friday night (the Bears were 8-17 on the night), Duke's perimeter defense will be another important factor this afternoon.

Defensively, Duke has not allowed anyone in the tournament to get more than four three-point shots in a game.

  • Arkansas-Pine Bluff: 4-19 (21.1%) 
  • California: 3-12 (25%)
  • Purdue: 4-15 (26.7%)

If Duke's perimeter defense holds up and their own three-point shooters get going, the Blue Devils could be on their way to Indy. Baylor simply has problems with teams who match up well with them. My pick is Duke in another close one. The winner faces West Virginia in the other semifinal.

Follow Chris on Twitter, @BracketDobber, for his thoughts and opinions throughout today's action.

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