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March Madness 2017: NCAA tournament Elite Eight TV schedule, live online streaming, preview, discussion thread

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The last two teams punch their tickets to the Final Four this afternoon.

ACC Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Today’s pair of NCAA tournament games wraps up the Elite Eight, and the nightcap (if you can call a game that tips off mid-afternoon a nightcap) figures to be a real doozy between two of the bluest blue-blood programs in the nation.

Before we get to that, here’s the TV schedule. All games are also streamed on NCAA.com.

NCAA tournament schedule, 3/26

Game Tip Time (PT) Network Site Commentators
Game Tip Time (PT) Network Site Commentators
(4) Florida Gators vs. (7) South Carolina Gamecocks 11:20 a.m. CBS New York City Verne Lundquist / Jim Spanarkel / Allie LaForce
(1) North Carolina Tar Heels vs. (2) Kentucky Wildcats 2:05 p.m. CBS Memphis Jim Nantz / Grant Hill / Bill Raftery / Tracy Wolfson

It’s hard not to look at the first game between Florida and South Carolina as the opening act, given what awaits in the last of the regional finals. As befitting their seeding, it was highly improbable that these teams would be facing each other with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

What’s most crazy about this is that we were a tick away from No. 7 seed South Carolina facing No. 8 seed Wisconsin for the regional final. But a buzzer-beater from Florida saved us from that, and instead gave us the third matchup of the season between these two SEC rivals. They split the previous two meetings with each team winning on its home floor.

If you find beauty in a competitive contest, this will likely be one. If you like beautiful basketball ... well, you’re probably going to have to wait until the afternoon game to get that. Both Florida and South Carolina feature suffocating defenses that contest every shot and force a bunch of turnovers.

Kenpom.com gives Florida a 70 percent chance of winning the game, but this is one where the numbers might be deceiving. The Gamecocks’ poor (relatively speaking) ranking in adjusted efficiency margin (which is what drives that projection) is largely due to South Carolina’s poor offensive production during large swaths of the season.

But somehow, improbably, the Gamecocks have come alive in the tournament; they famously dropped 65 points on the Blue Devils in the second half. They came back down to earth a little against Baylor (just 1.06 points per possession), but it hardly mattered since the defense was so good.

Florida has succeeded in shutting down the Gamecocks’ offense in both matchups. Whether South Carolina has found something new that they can use to penetrate the teeth of the Gators’ defense is probably the key here.

OK, enough about that. Let’s talk about the game with all they hype. And the hype is deserved.

The only downside to North Carolina and Kentucky is that this game isn’t taking place in the Final Four. The floor will be littered with NBA prospects, and both teams play a wide-open style befitting the level of athleticism on their rosters.

Kenpom.com forecasts this game to be played at 75 possessions, which frankly seems low to me. I’d guess it ends up closer to 80, with each team pushing 90 points. It almost certainly will be everything you dream that college basketball can be when two of the most tradition-rich programs in the country face off. You will see fast breaks, you will see dunks, you will see offensive putbacks where guys get fouled and flex for the crowd.

You’ll get to hear Bill Raftery shout ONIONS.

You probably won’t see a great 3-point shooting display. But that’s about the only thing you probably won’t see.

I don’t really have much to add in terms of analysis. These teams are incredibly evenly matched and they play similar styles. Just sit back, crack open a beer, and enjoy.

Discuss below. Go Cougs!