Final Four 2014: Updated Bracket and Predictions for National Semifinals

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Final Four 2014: Updated Bracket and Predictions for National Semifinals
Jae C. Hong

So, how does your bracket look?

Mine is looking, well, not so hot. I had Florida in the Final Four, but that is it. Kentucky beating Louisville surprised me, though once they did that, I expected them to get past Michigan.

Wisconsin beating Arizona wasn't a huge shocker, but I had the Wildcats. And UConn beating Michigan State, well, did anyone see that coming?

But these are the four teams set to clash, and both matchups are really intriguing. Below, you'll find everything you need to know about the Final Four, including my picks and analysis. Let's break these games down.

 

All Your Bracket Essentials

 

Final Four Schedule
When (ET) Matchup TV Streaming Prediction
Saturday at 6:09 p.m. Florida vs. UConn TBS March Madness Live Florida
Saturday at 8:49 p.m. Wisconsin vs. Kentucky TBS March Madness Live Kentucky

 

Analysis

Remember back in the round of 64, when UConn needed overtime to get past St. Joseph's? Did anyone think at the time this Huskies team was about to begin a run to the Final Four?

If you did, good on you. I certainly wasn't expecting this. Yes, with Shabazz Napier leading the way, I knew UConn was dangerous. I knew if Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels stepped up, the Huskies would be a tough out. And I knew if they continued to play stellar defense and shorten games with their ball-control style on offense, they might be able to pull off a few upsets.

But to have come this far, well, it's hugely impressive.

Now, they'll face a Florida team they beat on Dec. 2, 65-64. UConn will take confidence knowing it knocked the Gators off already this season, though Florida has since won 30 straight games following that loss. Yes, 30 straight.

Florida has a veteran side that plays suffocating defense and is highly efficient on the offensive end. It also has a coach in Billy Donovan, who has two titles under his belt, and the Gators are a much better rebounding team than UConn. 

This game will likely come down to which guard, Napier or Scottie Wilbekin, comes up bigger for their team. Your instinct might be to assume Napier will have the bigger game—and statistically, he probably will—but nobody has been more clutch down the stretch than Wilbekin in this tournament. 

Florida is the better overall team, and I think it'll prove that against UConn this time around.

Wisconsin versus Kentucky is another intriguing bout. Frank Kaminsky has been brilliant for the Badgers, a team that is versatile on offense and rarely wastes a possession. They have generally been a solid rebounding team, though the length and athletic ability of Kentucky will be tough to overcome on the boards. 

Kentucky's youth is probably its biggest detraction, but the Wildcats' ability to bang on the boards and protect the rim—even without Willie Cauley-Stein, if he can't play—is a major advantage. The Harrison twins also will have a major size advantage on Wisconsin's guards, and it's hard to envision the Badgers preventing Julius Randle from posting another double-double. 

What is so scary about Kentucky is that, on paper, it easily has the most talent in college basketball. There are multiple future professionals on this team. But it took the Wildcats a while to become a team, a process their head coach, John Calipari, elaborated on after they beat Michigan via Joanne C. Gerstner of The New York Times:

It’s hard when all seven of them, who scored 28 in a game in high school, give up something. Then you’re looking at the other guy, and when they just settled in and lost themselves in the team, the game became easier. They became better. They had more fun. They became more confident.

And all of a sudden, this is what you have. But it took us four months.

Wisconsin is a really good team, and Kentucky will have its hands full on defense. But the Wildcats are so good on the boards, they can literally just chuck shots up to the rim and expect their bigs to come down with the rebound and score easy putbacks

It's Kentucky's length and the quality of its depth I think will be the difference. The Wildcats have finally put it all together, and that makes them really, really scary.

That leaves one question to be answered: Can Florida beat Kentucky for a fourth time this season, and in the process, win a national championship?

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to find out.

 

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