After three weeks of madness, the field of 68 NCAA tournament teams has been cut down to just four, and the teams will head to North Texas to compete for the 2014 NCAA Championship. 2011 Champion UConn and 2012 Champion Kentucky come in as underdogs against #1 overall seed Florida and #2 Wisconsin. These four teams have combined to win four out of the last eight national championships, and are set to compete for one more in what should be an entertaining Final Four.
Saturday, April 5 at 6:09 PM: #1 Florida vs. #7 UConn
This matchup is very intriguing for several reasons. The Florida Gators are riding an incredible 30 game win streak and have not lost in 2014. However, their last loss came at the hands of Shabazz Napier’s buzzer beater way back in early December. Florida has one of the best defenses in the country, and all the focus will be on making sure Napier and fellow backcourt member Ryan Boatright don’t get into a rhythm early. The Gators have a talented group of seniors led by point guard Scottie Wilbekin, and coach Billy Donovan, who won back to back national championships in 2006 and 2007.
However, while Florida’s starters are making their first final four appearance, UConn’s best player already national championship experience under his belt. Shabazz Napier backed up star point guard Kemba Walker during UConn’s impressive run to the Final Four in 2011 and eventual national championship. Napier, a freshman back then, is doing his best Kemba Walker impression now as a senior as he tries to duplicate what the 2011 team was able to accomplish.
However, I think Florida is just too talented and too deep to lose this year. They have managed to win games even with terrible performances from their best players, and have the experience of three consecutive elite 8 trips prior to this year. Scottie Wilbeken, Casey Prather, Patric Young, and Michael Frazier have been playing together for a while and desperately want to end this season with a national championship after being so close to the Final Four in previous years. Billy Donovan clearly has the coaching advantage over Kevin Ollie, and the Gators aren’t going to let UConn repeat what they did back in December. I think Florida wins this one by 10 points and advances to the national championship.
Saturday, April 5th at 8:49 PM: #2 Wisconsin vs. #8 Kentucky
The Kentucky Wildcats have been the story of the tournament so far. After having such high expectations to begin the season, they were often inconsistent and not very impressive for a large majority of the year. That all changed once the tournament began. After defeating Kansas State in the second round, Kentucky went on to upset undefeated #1 Wichita State in the third round, defending national champion #4 Louisville in the Sweet 16, and defending national runner-up #2 Michigan in the Elite 8 in the hardest region of the tournament. There was no doubt that Kentucky’s freshman were very talented, but they also proved they could play as a team and brought coach John Calipari back to the Final Four.
On the other end of the floor are the Wisconsin Badgers. After an epic one point overtime victory over Arizona in the Elite 8, Bo Ryan clinched his first career Final Four berth. Junior forward Frank Kaminsky posted 28 points and 11 rebounds in that game, and will be a key factor if Wisconsin wants to advance to the national championship. The Badgers struggled early in their first couple rounds of the tournament against inferior opponents, but look to be back on track as they clash with Kentucky in Arlington.
I think Kentucky’s size and deadly three-point shooting is going to be too much for Wisconsin to handle in this game. Aaron Harrison and James Young have combined to shoot 45% from three during the tournament, and the Wildcats have been monsters on the offensive glass, especially against Michigan. I think Kentucky’s three previous opponents were all better than Wisconsin, so they are battle-tested and ready for any challenge. Meanwhile, Wisconsin has come through arguably the weakest region and has not shown anything overly impressive, other than a blowout of Baylor in the Sweet 16. I believe we are going to see Florida vs. Kentucky IV in the national championship and it should be an epic game on Monday night.
How do you think the Final Four will play out? Let me know by voting in the poll down below.
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