The 2014 NCAA tournament has arguably been one of the best in the history of the event, and now fans get to see the elite teams compete at the Final Four on Saturday.
Wisconsin and Connecticut will try their best to prevent an all-SEC championship game, but considering the way Kentucky and Florida are playing right now, that will be much easier said than done.
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Chances are, whichever team gets a better performance from its superstars will advance to the national title contest. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some marquee names to watch in Saturday’s Final Four contests.
You don’t have to go too far back in the history books to find a Connecticut point guard who led his team to the Final Four.
ESPN Stats & Info points out the comparison between Shabazz Napier’s play in the 2014 NCAA tournament and that of Kemba Walker during the 2011 national title run:
Napier led the Huskies in points, assists, rebounds and steals during the season and has been an absolute catalyst for the team in the Big Dance. He has scored 24, 25, 19 and 25 points in the four tournament games, all while contributing on the glass and in the assist department.
He already has a game-winning shot over Florida from the regular season under his belt and provides Connecticut with its best chance to beat the mighty Gators again on Saturday. Unlike the regular season, though, he will have to deal with an elite point guard on the other side.
That Florida point guard is Scottie Wilbekin, who has steered the Gators to four easy victories in the tournament.
Every time it appeared as if Florida was going to be tested thus far in the Big Dance, Wilbekin answered with a critical play. Never was that more apparent than in the Elite Eight. The point guard ended the half against Dayton with a buzzer-beating three-pointer that almost served as a metaphorical dagger in the Flyers’ Cinderella hopes.
Wilbekin has scored in double figures in every postseason game, but his overall presence as a leader on the floor has been far more important for the Gators.
The term "intangibles" may be thrown around a bit too liberally this time of year, but it certainly applies to Wilbekin. He is an extension of Billy Donovan on the floor, and it’s hard to imagine Florida would have lost that regular-season contest to Connecticut had Wilbekin played.
Fortunately for Gators fans, Wilbekin and his team will have an opportunity to test that theory come Saturday.
Any Big Ten fan could tell you that Frank Kaminsky is a formidable presence for Wisconsin both down low and on the outside.
However, he introduced himself to the nation in the Badgers’ Elite Eight overtime victory over Arizona. He scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and continuously provided clutch play after clutch play when the game was on the line.
For his part, Kaminsky is not done, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN.com: "We want a national championship now. We have made it to the opportunity to get there, so why not go get it?"
The thing that makes Kaminsky such a difficult matchup for Julius Randle and the rest of the Kentucky bigs is the fact that he can stretch the floor and shoot from the outside. He hit three shots from behind the three-point line against the Wildcats in the Elite Eight, and if Randle or Dakari Johnson cheat too much to the perimeter, he can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim.
It’s easy to point to the All-Americans who litter Kentucky’s roster, but don’t be surprised if it is Kaminsky who proves to be the ultimate difference come Saturday.