2014 Final Four: 5 Best Individual Matchups to Watch
There is a reason they call it March Madness.
The first two weeks of the tournament have exceeded all expectations, and now we're down to just four teams.
Florida, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Kentucky each have a 25 percent chance to etch their names into college basketball lore.
Next weekend in North Texas, the arena will be filled with stars such as Scottie Wilbekin, Shabazz Napier, Frank Kaminsky and Julius Randle. But role players such as Casey Prather, DeAndre Daniels, Sam Dekker and the Harrison twins are equally as capable of taking over a game.
Many intriguing individual matchups will be on display during the final weekend of this memorable college basketball season, so here are the five best ones.
5. James Young vs. Sam Dekker
These two players provide a steady diet of both inside and outside scoring, which is what makes them so dangerous as combo guards/forwards.
Neither is the go-to offensive option on their team, so the numbers may not be as eye-popping as some of their teammates, but both Dekker and Young are capable of double-digit scoring totals on any night.
Dekker has hit one three in each tournament game so far and grabbed 24 rebounds in Wisconsin's four games. Young has hit six threes in Kentucky's four games while also showing the ability to penetrate and score.
Dekker is more of a stationary scorer, in that the "drive and score" is left to the likes of Traevon Jackson and Ben Brust. Young is equally as capable as the Harrison twins to get into the lane and finish, which is what gives him a slight edge.
4. Aaron Harrison vs. Ben Brust
Aaron Harrison is the reason Kentucky is in the Final Four.
His three-pointer with just under three seconds left against Michigan not only advanced the Wildcats, but also ensured Harrison has scored in double digits in each tournament game thus far.
Brust started off the tournament with three games in double figures but faltered a bit against Arizona, only scoring five points on 2-of-7 shooting.
Both players thrive from beyond the arc, as 13 of Harrison's 19 field goals in the tournament have been threes, and 12 of Brust's 17 have been from long distance.
Harrison does a better job of creating his own shot, and there may not be a better team in the country right now than Kentucky because of him.
3. Casey Prather vs. DeAndre Daniels
There may not be any bigger X-factor to his team than Daniels is to Connecticut right now.
This matchup played out fairly evenly when UConn defeated Florida at the buzzer back on Dec. 2 in Storrs, Conn. Prather had 19 points and seven rebounds, and Daniels scored 14 to go along with seven boards.
Three months later, the small forwards are on relatively level ground again. Daniels is coming off of a 12-point, eight-rebound outing against Michigan State, while Prather only had six points but seven rebounds against Dayton.
Although Daniels recently turned in his best performance of the season, scoring 27 points and grabbing 10 rebounds against Iowa State, Prather is the more complete player. He has often taken a backseat to fellow seniors Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young, hence his slightly lower numbers than Daniels as of late.
Daniels is called on more often, as he has been the second option to Shabazz Napier for the majority of the tournament, but because of the higher defensive prowess of Prather, this matchup goes to Florida's senior.
2. Frank Kaminsky vs. Julius Randle
These two big men may not play exactly the same position, but they may very well be matched up against each other simply because they're the best players on their respective teams.
The styles of Kaminsky and Randle are in stark contrast, as Kaminsky likes to step outside more while Randle grinds and pounds on the low block. Randle's sheer strength will overpower Kaminsky down low, but if Randle is drawn out to the perimeter to guard a Kaminsky jumper, the advantage goes to the Badgers.
Kaminsky is coming off of an extraordinary performance against Arizona, scoring 28 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the overtime victory. Randle wasn't too shabby in his Elite Eight game, either, also logging a double-double with 16 points and 11 boards.
All seven of Randle's field goals came inside the arc, while Kaminsky hit three three-pointers in his last game. Because of the edge in versatility that belongs to Kaminsky, the overall edge has to go to the Wisconsin big man as well.
1. Scottie Wilbekin vs. Shabazz Napier
Last time these two dynamic point guards squared off, Napier edged out Wilbekin in Storrs, Conn.
Napier's last-second heroics carried the then-No. 12 Huskies to a buzzer-beating victory over the then-No. 15 Gators, 65-64. Now, the stakes are much higher, as each team is trying to get to the biggest stage in college basketball.
Back on Dec. 2 at Gampel Pavilion, Napier had 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including a 5-of-8 mark from beyond the arc. Wilbekin went for 15, shooting 6-of-14 from the field.
Fast-forward three months and both players are at the top of their games, but there may be nobody in the country playing better than the general for Connecticut. He's coming off of a 27-point, six-rebound, four-assist effort in the Huskies' upset of Michigan State and has been the emotional and physical leader of this team the entire season.
As for Wilbekin, he hasn't been slouching lately either, dropping 23 in the Gators' Elite Eight win over Dayton.
Florida's last loss came on Dec. 2 against UConn, and even though they may be the better, more balanced team, Napier once again has the edge in this individual matchup.
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