While very much the ultimate display of team basketball, the 2014 NCAA tournament—like all others before it—has several individual stars who have shined the brightest and who will ultimately dictate the outcome of the Big Dance now that the Final Four is set.
On the biggest stage of them all, it is the star players who must step up or otherwise take the bevy of the blame for a premature tournament exit.
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Each sure-to-be-classic contest has a key matchup to watch, as the victors of the showdowns will ultimately shape the title bout.
|4/5/14||Florida vs. UConn||6:09 p.m.||TBS||Florida|
|4/5/14||Wisconsin vs. Kentucky||8:49 p.m.||TBS||Kentucky|
(8) Kentucky vs. (2) Wisconsin
Julius Randle vs. Frank Kaminsky
When Kentucky and Wisconsin clash in the battle that proves seeds mean little, there will be a heavyweight bout that takes place below the rim.
Make no mistake, both the Wildcats and Badgers have plenty of fine players on the outside, but Kentucky's Julius Randle and Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky are two NBA-ready players who have shown thus far they have what it takes to win a title.
It'll be a chess battle between the two, as Randle loves to bang on the low block while Kaminsky has a tendency to hang around the perimeter and take shots from deep. That versatility has the eye of the nation, including CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein:
Skilled, savvy and unbelievably adept at getting his shot off in different areas on the floor, Kaminsky has a game that's similar to former NBA big man Brad Miller when he was with the Sacramento Kings and the Indiana Pacers. A great passer with deep range, Kaminsky is the primary reason why Wisconsin is headed to the Final Four for the first time in Bo Ryan's tenure in Madison.
Who wins the matchup?
Kaminsky hit three shots from long range in the Elite Eight against Arizona and tallied 28 points and 11 rebounds overall. Randle was just as effective as he bullied his way around beneath the rim with his 16 points and 11 rebounds against Michigan.
It's easy to give the nod to Kaminsky because he can force Randle outside of the box, but that approach may not work if Randle continues to dominate anyone who crosses his path down low. Keep a watchful eye on both.
(7) UConn vs. (1) Florida
Scottie Wilbekin vs. Shabazz Napier
The last time Scottie Wilbekin and Shabazz Napier danced was on December 2—the last time the Florida Gators lost.
In that fateful contest, Napier scored 26 points and hit the game-winning shot while Wilbekin could only watch as his 15 points were simply not enough.
Both have been playing at a high level as of late, but it is Napier that rightfully gets all of the attention. He just dropped 25 points with six rebounds and four assists on Michigan State in one of the bracket's bigger upsets.
Who wins the matchup?
Napier's drive was infectious for UConn, as one of his opponents pointed out, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN: "His will to win -- you could just see it," said Michigan State's Gary Harris, who led the Spartans with 22 points. "He wasn't going to let his team lose."
As a senior, Wilbekin is in no way a slouch, and he won't be negatively impacted by the weight of the moment considering he has had some heroics of his own so far. The result is a heavyweight bout between two elite guards and the focal point of a showdown between two teams that know each other well.
Fasten those seat belts.