The 2014 NCAA tournament will reach fever pitch on Saturday when the Final Four tips off and the madness picks back up from North Texas.
Louisville's exit in the Sweet 16 means that there'll be a new champion crowned this spring. But before Monday night's national championship game, there are two monumental semifinal showdowns that could potentially result in even more busted brackets.
With tipoff fast approaching, here we'll get you ready with everything you need to know to make sure you don't miss a minute of this weekend's action.
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|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|
Updated 2014 NCAA Tournament Bracket
|Sweet 16||Elite Eight||Final Four||National Championship|
|(4) Michigan State|
|(4) Michigan State|
|(3) Iowa State|
|(4) San Diego State|
No. 1 Florida (-6) vs. No. 7 Connecticut
Saturday's first Final Four matchup will pit two decorated programs against one another as Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators look to move one step closer to the school's third national championship since 2006.
Meanwhile, Connecticut is one win away from playing for its second national title in four years.
Oddly enough, the Huskies are one of only two teams to beat the Gators this season, surviving on a Shabazz Napier buzzer-beater in Storrs back on Dec. 2. But Florida has won 30 straight games since and is the favorite to cut down the nets on Monday.
According to Covers.com, the overall top seed is a six-point favorite in Saturday's game against seventh-seeded Connecticut.
And although the play of Kevin Ollie's squad, especially senior point guard Shabazz Napier, has been remarkable since the tournament began, Florida's dominant defense should prove to be the difference. Only Virginia and San Diego State have given up fewer points on average this season, and Florida's previous four tournament opponents have averaged just 55 points per 40 minutes.
An SI.com scout breaks down what makes Florida so tough to beat:
The Gators set more ball screens than anyone in the country. When their four man screens — it can be Will Yeguete, Casey Prather or Dorian Finney-Smith — he pops out and drives the heck out of it. If you switch, then you have your four man guarding the MVP of the SEC, Scottie Wilbekin. Not a good matchup.
Florida’s press is designed more to slow you down than turn you over. They’ll switch defenses; they went to a 1-3-1 for two possessions each against UCLA and Dayton, all of which were stops. That can be the difference in a Final Four game.
With a healthy Scottie Wilbekin to throw at Napier and one of the country's most fearsome defenses to fall back on, it's easy to see why so many love the Gators to keep on dancing this weekend.
No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Kentucky (-1.5)
Before the season began, no one would have been surprised if you had said that John Calipari's Wildcats would be within two wins from winning the national championship. However, a rocky regular season forced Kentucky to settle for a No. 8 seed and an extremely difficult road to the Final Four.
But after impressive wins over 2013 Final Four teams Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan, the Wildcats find themselves favored to beat second-seeded Wisconsin on Saturday night.
The Badgers, who are in the Final Four for the first time since 2000, have made it this far thanks to excellent ball movement and defense. Wisconsin is tied with Connecticut for the 37th-best scoring defense in the country this season, allowing fewer than 64 points per game.
But if there's a team capable of toppling Wisconsin, it's Kentucky, a team loaded with talent that's coming together at the ideal time, according to Calipari via USA Today's Nancy Armour:
It's hard when all seven (freshmen) scored 28 a game in high school, to give up something. When they all 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.
The Wildcats are led by freshman forward Julius Randle, a walking double-double who sets the tone with his physical play on the boards and inside the paint.
With Randle and his fellow freshmen playing with toughness and poise this spring, Wisconsin will have its hands full from the opening tip on Saturday night. And although Bo Ryan's squad has the edge in terms of experience, expect talent to win out this weekend.
*All spread info according to Covers.com.
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