After another wild NCAA tournament, the teams left standing are seeded Nos. 1, 2, 7 and 8. Raise your hand if you had all four of these teams in you Final Four. Now put your arm back down because I don't believe you.
This is an exciting Final Four that very few brackets saw coming. I know mine certainly didn't. Although, I did have Florida as the national champions, and (spoiler alert) I have not changed in that stance.
The Gators have looked fantastic in their run to Dallas and are rightful favorites to win the title. The competition will be fierce, however.
Connecticut features the best player in the tournament in Shabazz Napier. Wisconsin boasts of a dominant 7-footer in Frank Kaminsky and ample experience. Meanwhile, Kentucky has the most talented, albeit young, team in the country.
Have a look at all the bracket information you need, and then I'll dig into the two semifinal matchups.
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|Date||National Semifinals||Time (ET)||TV||Odds||Picks|
|Sat, April 5||(7) Connecticut vs. (1) Florida||6:09 p.m.||TBS||Fla. -6.5||Florida wins but doesn't cover|
|Sat, April 5||(8) Kentucky vs. (2) Wisconsin||8:49 p.m.||TBS||Ky. -2||Wisconsin|
|Date||National Championship||Time (ET)||TV||Odds||Picks|
|Mon, April 7||National Championship - TBD||9:10 p.m.||CBS||N/A||Florida|
Source: NCAA.com and VegasInsider.com
No. 1 Florida vs. No. 7 Connecticut
One of the Gators' two losses this season came to Connecticut in a 65-64 defeat on Dec. 2. The Huskies hosted that thriller, which ended with a Napier buzzer-beater.
Which team will win the championship?
I expect a similarly outstanding game this time around, which makes the points the Huskies are getting an attractive bet. What has to be considered in that play is that both of these teams bring high-quality defense and will keep the score down, which adds value to any points.
The Gators will win, they just won't be able to cover.
The biggest difference between this meeting and the one the Huskies prevailed in earlier in the season is that this time the Gators will have the services of senior Scottie Wilbekin down the stretch.
He is Florida's best perimeter defender, and although he is not going to be able to shut down Napier, the Gators will just need him to slow down Napier a bit.
As for stopping Napier? Forget about it. There is no stopping him. CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein helps highlight just how wonderful the guard has been:
Shabazz Napier has just cemented his legacy as one of the best players in UConn history. Took a team on his back to the Final Four.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 30, 2014
With DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright the Huskies have other scorers to lighten Napier's load. Both players average double digits in scoring for the season. Although this will be enough to keep the Huskies right with Florida, it won't be enough to lead them to victory.
Florida has all the talent, experience and momentum it needs to advance.
Prediction: Florida 62, UConn 59
No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 2 Wisconsin
It's been a wild journey for the young Wildcats, but after a season where this team failed to live up to expectations, John Calipari has his young men peaking at the right time. They will need to be at their best to handle Wisconsin.
The Badgers are a fairly bland Final Four team. They aren't overly flashy or filled with athletes who produce highlight after highlight. They are an amazing basketball team, however. Check out NBA legend Charles Barkley's thoughts, shared by Basketball Insider's Alex Kennedy, on Wisconsin:
Charles Barkley on Wisconsin: "They're the best team in Milwaukee right now. Let me tell you right now, that team would beat the Bucks."— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) March 30, 2014
Led by 7-footer Frank Kaminsky, the Badgers can present a serious matchup problem. They certainly did for Arizona in the Elite Eight when Kaminsky went for 28 points.
He is sure to find life a little tougher against Kentucky.
In a quote provided by Nicole Auerbach in USA Today, Kentucky coach John Calipari said: "We're going in a little bit blind, but I'm going to tell you, we've got good skill. We've got good size. We've got good toughness."
Kentucky certainly has the size, but that frontcourt isn't looking like it will be at full strength. Freshman rim-protector Willie Cauley-Stein missed the Elite Eight with an injury, and his early prognosis for the Final Four is not good.
Eye on College BBall tweeted this Calipari quote regarding his mobile big man:
John Calipari on Willie Cauley-Stein: ‘I doubt he plays’ http://t.co/CQ8RyQCqp3— Eye on College BBall (@EyeOnCBB) March 31, 2014
The Wildcats proved they have the depth to withstand Cauley-Stein's absence by beating Michigan, but Wisconsin will provide a much stiffer test in the frontcourt.
This is going to be a close game, but Wisconsin will wear Kentucky down and pull out a thrilling victory.
Prediction: Wisconsin 74, Kentucky 70