NCAA Tournament 2014: Critical Storylines to Watch in Final Four

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NCAA Tournament 2014: Critical Storylines to Watch in Final Four
John Bazemore

Four teams have emerged from the group of 68 and now take a trip to Dallas for a chance at the title.

Thanks to major stars like Shabazz Napier and Julius Randle, not to mention legendary coaches such as John Calipari and Billy Donovan, both the expected and unexpected teams are set to make the trip to Dallas.

 

All Your Bracket Essentials

 

As fans can probably guess, the storylines surrounding the remainder of the Big Dance abound. There is plenty of time to prepare with the games later in the week, but most fans have to be fatigued by the wealth of action that has occurred to date.

So kick back, recharge those batteries and refresh on the biggest storylines to know before the weekend.

2014 Final Four
Date Matchup Time (ET) Channel Predicted Winner
4/5/14 Florida vs. UConn 6:09 p.m. TBS Florida
4/5/14 Wisconsin vs. Kentucky 8:49 p.m. TBS Kentucky

NCAA.

 

The Maturation of the Wildcats

David J. Phillip

The preseason No. 1 has sure taken its time in living up to that billing, but after entering the Big Dance as a No. 8 seed, Kentucky is finally matching the hype.

It was easy to forgive the Wildcats for losses early in the regular season. After all, Calipari was tasked with properly meshing a number of freshmen together in order to counteract more experienced squads.

Will Kentucky upset Wisconsin?

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Now, Kentucky is scary as the group is playing with cohesiveness equal to that of its talent. Randle is near unstoppable down low. The Harrison twins are playing at an elite level, with Aaron having put the team on his back in the Elite Eight by hitting the game-winner.

He told reporters after the fact, via Nancy Armour of USA Today, that toughness is key for the Wildcats:

"We're just a tough group of young guys, doesn't matter about the age or anything anymore. We just try to go out and fight and keep our heads down and swing the whole game, and we just fight so hard."

Kentucky has more talent than any team left in the Big Dance. It has a legendary coach who has now proven that the one-and-done approach to recruiting works. CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein concurs:

The Wildcats are now one game away from the title game after sputtering through SEC play. Let that sink in—and then prepare, because this matured roster has the look of a champion.

 

The Shabazz Napier Show

Frank Franklin II

Individual performances have suddenly become the name of the game as of late, with Connecticut's  Napier being the poster boy for team-on-his-back efforts.

ESPN helps to put Napier's tournament run into perspective:

Napier has scored a minimum of 19 points in each tournament game so far and put forth his greatest act of all against the elite defense of Michigan State with 25 points, six rebounds and four assists to get UConn to the Final Four.

Now Napier may be the only thing standing in Florida's way. He hit the game-winner against the Gators back in December—the last time Florida lost a game this season.

Napier's solo act has been a thing of beauty:

It's been a historic stretch for Napier, who may be just getting started. If one player can take down the juggernaut that is Florida, it's him—he already has.

 

Can Anything Stop the SEC?

Steve Helber

Who would have thought this would be a serious question a week before the Final Four?

Of course, it's a tough nut to crack. On one hand, it's great the SEC—a football powerhouse—is well represented, but does it mean anything? Here's a startling comparison for those with the blinders on, courtesy of CBS Sports' Gary Parrish: 

Will the SEC win the title?

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Yikes. Regardless, fans may be well on their way to an all-SEC title game. This is the first time the conference has had two teams in the Final Four since 1996, and it has won the title each time the rarity has occurred.

Kentucky can move past Wisconsin as long as it continues its mentally strong play, while Florida remains the most dominant team in the nation and a far cry from the squad that lost on a buzzer-beater to UConn in December.

Fans who root for other conferences may want to skip the rest of the tournament, as it appears the SEC will grab the title this year.

 

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