The lengthy wait for the Final Four can be excruciating for fans, but it's hard to complain as March Madness annually matches the pre-tournament expectations.
No other major sporting event can tout such consistency. Look at the debacle in the most recent Super Bowl. Now fast-forward to this March, where upsets galore have resulted in two Cinderellas making the Final Four. Fans around the globe have a vested interest regardless of whether their team has made it to Dallas.
|2014 Final Four|
|4/5/14||Florida vs. UConn||6:09 p.m.||TBS||Florida|
|4/5/14||Wisconsin vs. Kentucky||8:49 p.m.||TBS||Kentucky|
For example, look at the matchup between Wisconsin and Kentucky—perhaps the most polarizing team in the nation as John Calipari continues to prove that his one-and-done recruiting formula simply works.
By definition, the Wildcats are a Cinderella based on the No. 8 seed. Although some, such as Boston.com's Adam Kaufman, would like a word with those who label Kentucky as such:
But the fact remains that Kentucky played itself into the role as the group of freshmen were consistently bested after that preseason No. 1 label. SEC play was ugly, as Calipari's group was exploited by the likes of Arkansas (10-8 in SEC play) twice and even LSU (9-9) once.
Credit Calipari for the transformation. He recognized the team buying into its own hype and got everyone back on the same page, according to Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News:
This was very difficult on all of us. It was difficult because my choice coaching them was to allow them the body language, the effort less than it needed to be, the focus less than it needed to be, at time selfishness. And I became a little mean because we had to get it changed.
But at the end of the day, you could see this team is empowered. It’s their team. It’s not my team. I’m just there to call a timeout to settle them down, to pick them up, to sit guys out when they’re not doing what they need to do for their team. Their job is to go play and have a ball playing and that’s what they are doing now.
That's a comeback story most would love. Led by big man and double-double machine Julius Randle beneath the rim, in tandem with the Harrison twins on the outside, the Wildcats have an inside-out attack that is hard to match.
However, purists will flock to Frank Kaminsky and Wisconsin. The Badgers run a traditional attack with Kaminsky, who can bang down low on the block or sneak outside and hit long-range shots with stunning accuracy.
In his team's Elite Eight triumph over Arizona, Kaminsky scored a game-high 28 points and knocked down three shots from long range. His duel with Randle both in the paint and out may be the best individual matchup of the tournament.
Flip to the other side of the bracket, which has a more suitable Cinderella in Kevin Ollie's Connecticut Huskies.
For all the credit rightfully heaped on Calipari, Ollie has done an even better job with fewer resources. His first tournament has been a resounding success, as SportsCenter helps to illustrate:
Much of UConn's success falls directly on the shoulders of point guard Shabazz Napier, who scored 25 points in the team's upset over Michigan State. He has scored a minimum of 19 points in each game thus far and is more than up to the task against Florida.
Speaking of Florida, the Gators have cruised to the Final Four in a somewhat boring fashion—as expected of the No. 1 team in the land. But Billy Donovan's squad has to have early December on the mind going into Saturday, as Napier downed the game-winning shot early in that month to upset the Gators.
Florida has not lost since, and Scottie Wilbekin remains a strong counter to Napier. Despite a No. 7 seed, it is only right that UConn is the team that is tasked with taking down the Gators once more.
Once again the Big Dance delivers with stunning underlying narratives, noteworthy individual matchups and spars between battle-tested teams in top form. Don't miss the action on Saturday.
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