With the only No. 1 seed advancing to the Final Four being the tournament's No. 1 overall seed (Florida), there is an easy target as championship favorites.
Sports Illustrated had no problem tweeting of Florida's favorite status before the Final Four was set:
Florida's win over Dayton was its 30th straight, making the Gators prohibitive Final Four favorites: http://t.co/I9lmKkiRg5— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) March 30, 2014
Of course, if which team was favored to win anything mattered, the Final Four would look a little different. Have a look at the results from the Elite Eight, and then we'll fix our gaze on the Final Four.
|No. 2 Wisconsin 64||No. 1 Arizona 63|
|No. 1 Florida 62||No. 11 Dayton 52|
|No. 8 Kentucky 75||No. 2 Michigan 72|
|No. 7 Connecticut 60||No. 4 Michigan State 54|
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|Date||National Semifinals||Spread||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|Sat, April 5||Florida vs. UConn||Florida -7||6 p.m.||TBS, TNT, truTV||March Madness Live|
|Sat, April 5||Wisconsin vs. Kentucky||Kentucky -2.5||8:30 p.m.||TBS, TNT, truTV||March Madness Live|
Schedule source: NCAA.com
UConn-Florida point spread via VegasInsider.com; Wisconsin-Kentucky point spread via Todd Fuhrman of Don Best Sports.
UConn +7 over Florida
I'm not a big fan of taking points in basketball if I'm not confident the underdog is going to win, and in those cases, it's typically smarter to bet on the money line. There are too many meaningless buckets at the end of games that have more than one- or two-possession differentials.
This game needs to be an exception. The Gators are going to win this game, but they won't win it by seven. Not that winning by seven or more, as ESPN points out, has been a challenge for Florida:
Florida is 1st team to win 4 straight NCAA Tourn games by 10+ points since Kentucky in 2012... a team that won the title. (@eliassports)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 30, 2014
The Huskies advanced to the Final Four by beating Michigan State 60-54. More than that, however, is the way these two match up. Both teams play quality defense.
The Huskies are 38th in the nation in points allowed, and the Gators are third. Since the score should be kept down, that makes seven points even more valuable, and it's not like the Huskies will be hopeless to score.
UConn's Shabazz Napier has been the best player in this tournament. CBS Sports Jon Rothstein helps highlight this:
Shabazz Napier has just cemented his legacy as one of the best players in UConn history. Took a team on his back to the Final Four.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 30, 2014
With excellent team defense and strength, Napier is going to have a hard time carrying the burden of the scoring load without some help for an entire game.
The Huskies do have other scorers, however. Both DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright scored in double digits against the Spartans in the Elite Eight and average double-digit scoring for the season.
This trio will help keep this game tight. In the end, however, Florida's collective talent and experience will make the difference. That will lead the Gators to victory, but not to the cover.
Prediction: Florida 62, UConn 59
No. 8 Kentucky -2.5 over No. 2 Wisconsin
I'm not going to lie. I wrote Kentucky off at the start of this tournament. This talented group had shown way too much inconsistency to be trusted in the NCAA tournament.
That was a poor assumption. Kentucky is rolling. The Wildcats advanced in a thrilling game over Michigan, 75-72, and they did so without the services of injured big man Willie Cauley-Stein.
No worry for the Wildcats. They rose to the challenge and played well beyond their experience in crunch time. Freshman reserve Marcus Lee, who didn't even appear in the first two tournament games, wound up coming off the bench and scoring 10 points while grabbing eight rebounds.
This fearless young team is full of confidence and will now be playing a battle-tested Wisconsin team.
As Basketball Insider's Alex Kennedy tweets, basketball legend Charles Barkley believes in Wisconsin:
Charles Barkley on Wisconsin: "They're the best team in Milwaukee right now. Let me tell you right now, that team would beat the Bucks."— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) March 30, 2014
Kentucky matches up well with Wisconsin. Against Arizona, Wisconsin rode the talent of center Frank Kaminsky. The 7-footer dropped 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Kaminsky is a tough matchup for any team, and he will be especially tough for Kentucky if it doesn't get Cauley-Stein back.
CatsIllustrated.com's Aaron Smith passed along this injury update on Cauley-Stein:
Willie Cauley-Stein said he "hopes" he can recover and play in the Final Four. Said he'll ice it this week. (Didn't specify injury.)— Aaron Smith (@ASmithRivals) March 30, 2014
Obviously, anyone looking to place a wager on this one should monitor the health of Kentucky's rim protector, but don't be shy about placing money on Kentucky. Even if Cauley-Stein can't go, the Wildcats have the length to disrupt Kaminsky.
Wisconsin has the experience edge, but the Wildcats have proven in this run that their lack of experience won't hold them back.
Kentucky has the diversity and balance to pull out another big win.
Prediction: Kentucky 76, Wisconsin 70