College Basketball Legendary Madness: Elite Eight Preview Featuring Historic Duke, Florida & Kentucky Teams
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images. Pictured: Joakim Noah (Florida)
With the Madness ready to kick into high gear this week, Action Network’s Mike Calabrese took it upon himself to stir the pot with a bracket tailor-made to create debate.
His 68-team bracket is comprised of the best college basketball teams since 1980. He capped each program at just one entry, so you won’t be finding three or four Kentucky teams in this field.
Each game was then simulated with the help of College Hoops 2K8, and months of meticulous roster editing.
You can see the full field here:
With March just hours away, I wanted to share a passion project of mine that I've been working on for about six months.
The goal of this project is to determine the college basketball team that is truly the G.O.A.T.
Welcome to Legendary Madness
— Michael Calabrese (@EastBreese) February 28, 2022
Each matchup received a recap and can be followed via Twitter.
We’ve now reached the Elite Eight, and we’re calling in a few experts to break down the matchups ahead of their Tuesday release.
East Regional Final: (No. 1) ’92 Duke vs. (No. 2) ’96 Kentucky
Spread/Total: Kentucky -2.5 (159.5)
Kody Malstrom: I have to admit, when I was brought onto Action Network I didn’t see myself handicapping a virtual basketball game featuring some of the best teams of all-time. Alas, here we are thanks to Mike’s awesome bracket.
We start with this: the best two teams left in the tournament. It’s a shame they have to meet in the Elite Eight, but oh well. Duke rolls into this one after an eight-point win over tournament darling No. 12 seed Dayton, while Kentucky survived a heavyweight slugfest against No. 3 Villanova.
Both teams are loaded with deep talent, so this will be a scoring fest.
While normally relying on the post production of star center Christian Laettner, it was Grant Hill who shined in Duke’s last game. Hill was nearly unstoppable, finishing with 27 points, six rebounds and three assists.
Nearly doubling his average, Grant opened the floor by stretching out the defense with his perimeter shooting.
The pace was fast and efficient, a style of play the Blue Devils may lean on again against Kentucky to break the press.
Kentucky was apart of a different style of game in its previous round, pressing Villanova and beating the Wildcats with an inside-outside combo. Tony Delk and Antoine Walker did a bulk of the damage, combining for 64 points.
They conceded a deficit early, but Kentucky’s depth flexed on Villanova by outsourcing it 24-7 in bench points.
Duke possesses the best talent on the court in this matchup, and is a unit that is more than capable of beating the press and putting up points in a hurry.
Kentucky’s bench will need to help once again, capitalizing any time Hill, Laettner or Thomas Hill sit.
With no shortage of weapons being on the court at all times, I see the over ticket cruising to the window to cash.
West Regional Final: (No. 1) ’91 UNLV vs. (No. 7) ’08 Memphis
Spread/Total: UNLV -5 (182.5)
Kody Malstrom: If UNLV wants to hang a Final Four banner, then it cannot take the ’08 Memphis Tigers lightly.
The Tigers are scorching hot and rolling over opponents behind Chris Douglas-Roberts’ legendary string of performances. He’s in contention for Most Outstanding Player of Legendary Madness, scoring 57 points in his last two games.
Can the Tigers pull off another upset? If they do, they will need to find more variety on offense. While CDR has been electric, he can’t do it alone. This is a team that averaged 79.9 points per game, good for 15th in the nation at the time.
Freshman Derrick Rose will be a big part of this game, as he’s a tough guard based on sheer athleticism alone. After those two, the Tigers have no one else scoring in double digits.
While Memphis has relied on the heroics of CDR, UNLV comes in as a more complete unit. UNLV wants to run and attack the paint all game, getting Memphis’ best players in foul trouble.
The Rebels are efficient in passing, with Greg Anthony displaying his skills with 14 assists against Houston. Look for UNLV to attack the paint again and get big man Robert Dozier in foul trouble early, limiting second-chance opportunities for Memphis.
It’s sad to say No. 7 seed Memphis’ run may be coming to an end, as UNLV will be too much to handle. The Rebels will attack the paint giving Memphis fits, eventually opening up clean shots from 3 thanks to Anthony’s passing ability.
Take the points with UNLV, buying it no higher than -6.
South Regional Final: (No. 3) ’07 Florida vs. (No. 5) ’05 Illinois
Spread/Total: Florida -3.5 (152.5)
Of course, just because the Gators all look somewhat “nerdy” doesn’t mean they weren’t dominant. This was the last team to repeat as national champs, with Joakim Noah and Al Horford combining to create — arguably — the best frontcourt college hoops has seen.
Together, those two combined for 26.5 points and 17.9 rebounds per game. Throw in Corey Brewer, and the numbers get better.
Meanwhile, the 2005 version of the Illini didn’t hit such high heights. They did put together a 29-1 regular season, dropping the very last game of the season to Ohio State. And they capped it off with a Big Ten Tournament title.
But they dropped the Natty to North Carolina. The Illini put together a furious second-half comeback, but ultimately made just 12 of their 40 3-point attempts.
Illinois would chuck from 3, taking 22.5 per game, good for 30th nationally that year. And it hit them at a 39.2% rate, which was 15th.
But ’07 Florida was really good at running teams off the 3-point line, coming in top-75 in opponent 3-point rate and first in 3-point defense, allowing just a 28.5% 3-point percentage.
That’ll be the difference. I’m laying the points with Florida
Midwest Regional Final: (No. 2) ’08 Kansas vs. (No. 5) ’93 Michigan
Spread/Total: Kansas -3 (154)
The peak of the Fab Five, and likely the peak of Michigan basketball — other than the ’89 team that won the national title.
After ripping a 31-5 season and a 15-3 conference season, the Wolverines stormed to the National Championship, where Chris Webber’s timeout entered college hoops lore.
Michigan was a great shooting team and rebounding team, led by Webber’s 19.2 points and 10.1 rebounds a game.
But can it keep up with Kansas? The team that finished second in offensive efficiency and first in defensive efficiency? The team that finished top-20 nationally in both points per game and rebounds per game? That won Bill Self his only national title?
Well, Michigan is bigger in the backcourt, and the Wolverines are likely a little more versatile on the defensive end. And they finished top-50 nationally in steals, blocks and FG% allowed.
Michigan will have to be chaotic in the backcourt and mess with Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush. I think the Wolverines will be able to create turnovers against those two, as the Jayhawks’ 13.2 turnovers per game was 280th nationally.
Besides, if Chalmers doesn’t hit his miracle 3 and Webber remembers how many timeouts his team has, this line might very well be flipped.
Give me Wolverines with the points.
Editors Note: Here are the results of the Elite Eight
The Final Four is set in Legendary Madness:
#1 '91 UNLV vs. #2 '96 Kentucky
#2 '08 Kansas vs. #3 '07 Florida
Here's how we got here (thread)
— Michael Calabrese (@EastBreese) March 8, 2022