If the Final Four plays out the way SEC fans hope it does, college basketball enthusiasts may be treated to a rematch of the Florida and Kentucky tilt they saw in the league title game. However, Wisconsin and Connecticut have different plans.
All Your Bracket Essentials:
Before digging into a couple of key storylines, let’s look at the television and live stream information for Saturday’s games:
|2014 NCAA Tournament Final Four Schedule|
|Date||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|Sat, April 5||(7) Connecticut vs. (1) Florida||6:09 p.m.||TBS||March Madness Live|
|Sat, April 5||(8) Kentucky vs. (2) Wisconsin||8:49 p.m.||TBS||March Madness Live|
|2014 NCAA Tournament Championship Odds|
If you tune in, you certainly won’t be the only one, as Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports pointed out:
Now that we know what the schedule looks like for the Final Four, let’s take a look at a couple of key storylines for the two contests.
Shabazz Napier vs. Scottie Wilbekin
The Florida Gators only lost two games the entire season, and one of those just so happened to come against their Final Four opponent.
Connecticut knocked off the Gators, although that game deserves something of an asterisk because superstar Scottie Wilbekin did not play. Shabazz Napier took advantage by scoring 26 points, grabbing four rebounds, tallying three steals and dishing out two assists, and he also hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer.
Napier said he felt like Superman after the game, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN.com: “Growing up I wanted to be Superman. Everyone wants to be a hero. I just felt I was fortunate enough to be in the right spot at the right time."
If Napier is going to feel like Superman again, he will have to do so against Wilbekin. Every time Florida has needed a play the entire NCAA tournament, Wilbekin has come through in the clutch with a critical basket or dazzling assist.
He is the epitome of a senior leader, and fans will be treated to a legitimate showdown between two floor generals.
Looking forward, whichever point guard is able to emerge from Saturday’s showdown will have even more confidence heading into the national title game against Wisconsin or Kentucky.
Not to take anything away from the Harrison twins of the Wildcats or Traevon Jackson of the Badgers, but the Final Four will arguably provide an even stiffer test for either Wilbekin or Napier than the title game will on Monday.
Will the Loss of Willie Cauley-Stein Catch Up to Kentucky?
Kentucky was not only able to survive the absence of Willie Cauley-Stein against Michigan in the Elite Eight, it dominated down low.
Julius Randle and company out-rebounded the Wolverines 35-24. In fact, no Michigan player grabbed more than four rebounds as an individual, which ultimately cost it the game and an appearance in the Final Four despite Nik Stauskas’ impressive offensive performance.
Wisconsin will offer more resistance than Michigan did down low in the form of Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes. Kaminsky and Dekker combined for 19 rebounds against Arizona in the Elite Eight and will pose a problem for Kentucky’s bigs because of their ability to stretch the floor and hit from the outside.
A key to the game will be whether the Wildcats can still hold a notable advantage on the glass even without Cauley-Stein. If they do, they may find themselves lined up against the formidable Florida Gators for the fourth time this year.
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