And then there were four.
The 2014 NCAA tournament is nearing its conclusion now that the initial field of 68 teams has dwindled down to four. This year's Final Four is shaping up to be thrilling. The teams remaining have gone through stiff competition to make it this far.
Now, all they'll need is one more win to play for the NCAA title.
It's never easy predicting how March Madness is going to play out. This tournament has been proof of that. Regardless, I'm going to take a crack at predicting how the Final Four is going to go.
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Predictions and Odds
|Date||National Semifinals||Time (ET)||TV||Odds||Predictions|
|Sat, April 5||(7) Connecticut vs. (1) Florida||6:09 p.m.||TBS||Fla. -6.5||Florida|
|Sat, April 5||(8) Kentucky vs. (2) Wisconsin||8:49 p.m.||TBS||Ky. -2||Kentucky|
NCAA.com and VegasInsider.com
No. 7 UConn vs. No. 1 Florida
Connecticut and Florida have both been must-watch teams in the NCAA tournament, leading many to assume that this game will be the better of the two Final Four matchups.
Individual players can often take over in the Final Four, and that's what has happened for both the Huskies and the Gators. Shabazz Napier has been unstoppable through four tournament games. He has point totals of 24, 25, 19 and 25, but he hasn't just been a scorer. Through four games, he's also totaled 24 rebounds and 18 assists.
Scottie Wilbekin, on the other hand, has been mostly just a scorer. His four point totals are 10, 21, 13 and 23. The pace and outcome of the game will be dictated by the two scorers.
In a shootout, though, Napier definitely has the advantage. Dana O'Neil of ESPN.com chronicles what makes Napier so special:
Of course Napier has done the impossible. It's what he does. He makes shots that aren't supposed to go in; he slices passes that don't have a sliver of an opening. He takes a team that no one thought much about all season and turns it into a national semifinalist because he believes in himself, but more, because he believes in his teammates.
When Napier takes over, the Gators will have to go to a team approach to both limit his opportunities and score when on offense. Luckily, the Gators have a wealth of talent. Patric Young, Michael Frazier II and Casey Prather can all get the ball in the basket—albeit in different ways.
While UConn attempts to ride Napier into the NCAA title game, Florida will rely on its depth and overall talent. Individual players can take over in the tourney, but I don't think Napier will be enough for UConn.
Florida is simply too deep and too well-coached to drop this one.
No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 2 Wisconsin
The Kentucky Wildcats might not have made it to the Final Four had it not been for this clutch last-second three from Aaron Harrison:
The preseason No. 1, Kentucky has re-gained its edge and has played extraordinarily well in the tournament. Kansas State, Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan have all fallen victim to the Wildcats, and their ability to best top-notch competition is what makes them scary to the remainder of the field.
With multiple talented freshmen—Julius Randle, James Young and the Harrison twins (Aaron and Andrew)—Kentucky boasts a young, fast rotation that can stick with anybody.
Cal, on his weekly radio show, says Aaron Harrison over the last five games has been "an assassin."— CoachCal.com (@CoachCalDotCom) March 31, 2014
Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky will create difficult matchup problems for the Wildcats, however. The Badgers' 7-footer is averaging 20.8 points per game in the tournament on 54.5 percent shooting. Not all of that has come in the paint, though. Kaminsky can stretch the defense and hit from three.
This will be a nightmare for Kentucky. Randle will likely be covering Kaminsky, and while he's a good interior defender, it remains to be seen how he'll fare on the perimeter.
Frank Kaminsky can play in the NBA.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) March 30, 2014
Despite this tough matchup, I think Kentucky will pull out the win. It shouldn't be considered an upset, however. Kentucky's seed is essentially negligible at this point. The Wildcats are finally playing like the preseason No. 1.
That spells bad news for Wisconsin and whichever team wins the other Final Four matchup.