Final Four Odds: Handicapping Saturday's NCAA Tournament Clashes

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistApril 3, 2014

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 29:  Frank Kaminsky #44 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates after making a three-pointer in the second half while taking on the Arizona Wildcats during the West Regional Final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Honda Center on March 29, 2014 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The NCAA tournament's five-day hiatus will end when the Final Four kicks off in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday.

Two teams will join the field of eliminated squads, while the other two will occupy the grand stage during Monday's championship showdown. With only one No. 1 seed in the fold, the remaining schools provide a diverse assortment of favorites and surprises.

The bracket also aligned nicely to set up a rematch between Florida and Connecticut, the team that handed the Gators their last loss. While those teams rely on stout defenses, Kentucky and Wisconsin represent two of college basketball's premier scoring clubs.

Saturday night should be a doozy for college hoops, so let's take a deeper look at each Final Four showdown.

Final Four Schedule
DateMatchupTime (ET)TV
Sat., April 5No. 1 Florida (-6.5) vs. No. 7 Connecticut6:09 p.m.TBS
Sat., April 5No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Kentucky (-1.5)8:49 p.m.TBS
Mon., April 7National Championship (Teams TBD)9:10 p.m.CBS, Odds courtesy of Vegas Insider

Odds are courtesy of Vegas Insider and updated as of Wednesday, April 2.


Wisconsin vs. Kentucky

The simplest tasks can often be the hardest. If the Kentucky Wildcats are not careful, foul shooting could spell their demise against the Wisconsin Badgers.

On the season, Kentucky has earned more trips to the charity stripe than any other NCAA squad. But it converts just 68.2 percent of those attempts, an inefficient mark that could make all the difference in a close contest.

Foul shooting saved Kentucky in its Sweet 16 bout against Louisville, though. While the Wildcats uncharacteristically made 22 of their 27 free throws, the Cardinals made just 13 of 23.

Wisconsin appears to be catching a huge break, as Willie Cauley-Stein is likely unavailable due to a left ankle injury.

"I doubt he plays," head coach John Calipari said Monday, per USA Today's Kyle Tucker. "He will be on our bench cheering like crazy."

Nothing against team spirit, but the big man would be much more valuable on the court, where he averages 2.9 blocks per game. Kentucky's interior enforcer would have been instrumental in slowing down Frank Kaminski, who is this tournament's breakout star. He has 66 points through the past three games.

Dakari Johnson will now have to figure out how to slow down Kaminski, who is blossoming under an expanded role for the Badgers. The surging Harrison twins, Aaron and Andrew, will need to maintain their hot hands for Kentucky. Wisconsin will depend on Josh Gasser, who shoots a deadly 43.5 percent from downtown.

The oddsmakers are right to tab this game with a close spread, but it's a bit surprising to see the lower seed favored without one its vital contributors.


Florida vs. Connecticut

The winner of this contest will hope that old saying about defense and championships rings true

KenPom ranks Florida No. 1 with an 88.5 adjusted defense rating, and Connecticut rounds out the top 10 with a 92.9 mark. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news for UConn, but the Gators also sport a higher offensive efficiency rating (116.1) than the Huskies (111.6).

You don't win 30 straight games accidentally. The Gators are one of basketball's most well-rounded squads, filled with strong players on both sides and few weaknesses.

But foul shooting could emerge as a fatal flaw for Florida. It's like teenagers feel pressure when they're the sole focus on the court and in a packed arena.

GAINESVILLE, FL - FEBRUARY 01: Patric Young #4 of the Florida Gators shoots a free-throw during the first half of play against the Texas A&M Aggies at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on February 01, 2014 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty
Rob Foldy/Getty Images

The Gators shoot 67.3 percent from the charity stripe, but the Huskies fare much better at 77.4 percent. If Florida had made one or more of the six foul shots it missed among its 17 attempts against Connecticut, UConn's past victory might not be a popular talking point.

The Huskies also sport an advantage from three-point range, which was pivotal in their December victory. They shoot 38.9 percent from behind the arc to Florida's 36.1 percentnot that deep shooting is a crucial cog in Billy Donovan's plan.

Considering Florida is the superior team on paper, UConn will need some luck in those two areas to pull off the upset.