The NCAA tournament's Final Four is not what most college basketball fans anticipated when filling out their March Madness brackets, but they can now throw out their damaged picks and enjoy some hoops.
Sure, it didn't take a genius to choose Florida as one of the last four teams standing, but kudos to those that picked Wisconsin upending Arizona, Kentucky surviving the tournament's toughest region and Connecticut becoming the first No. 7 seed to join the Final Four.
All Your Bracket Essentials
Florida vs. Connecticut
|Final Four Schedule|
|Sat., April 5||No. 1 Florida vs. No. 7 Connecticut||6:09 p.m.||TBS||FLA (-6.5)|
|Sat., April 5||No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Kentucky||8:49 p.m.||TBS||KY (-1.5)|
|Mon., April 7||National Championship (Teams TBD)||9:10 p.m.||CBS|
|Odds courtesy of Vegas Insider|
The odds are in favor of the only remaining No. 1 seed advancing. While that hardly stamps Florida's ticket to Monday's title clash, Vegas knows what it is doing.
Florida hasn't lost since Dec. 2, when Connecticut captured a last-second victory to hand the Gators one of their two losses on the year. Head coach Kevin Ollie knows beating Florida is a big deal, and he talked about the task of doing it again with Florida Today's David Jones:
We took a lot from that game. The resiliency that we had, we got down in that game and came back. We played hard. We played scrappy. They are a tough team to face. Their experience in being in Elite Eights three straight years, now finally making it to the Final Four. How hard they play, the respect I have for Coach (Billy) Donovan is out of this roof, the way he’s built that program, took it over, took it to another level.
Although the victory proved UConn can hang tough with the nation's No. 1-ranked team, it should not be pointed to as evidence for the same result occurring. The Huskies needed a wild last sequence that saw the ball tap perfectly back to an open Shabazz Napier after stopping their first shot attempt.
Florida ranks first on KenPom's overall team ratings and adjusted defensive efficiency scale. Offensively, they provide a well-balanced attack, boasting four players who average double-digit scoring. That group is led by Casey Prather's 13.8 points per game on an incredibly efficient 60.3 percent field-goal percentage.
Meanwhile, the Huskies will once again turn to Napier to carry them past the nation's stingiest defense. It happened before, but don't expect UConn to win again.
Prediction: Florida 68, UConn 61
Wisconsin vs. Kentucky
The Kentucky Wildcats are not just part of the Final Four; they're favored to advance another round.
Despite their No. 8 seed, John Calipari's young squad currently touts the spread edge over Wisconsin, a No. 2 seed with a better record and higher team rating on KenPom.
Kentucky is the bigger name with the high-profile coach and future NBA lottery pick in Julius Randle. There's also a growing notion that the freshmen are figuring everything out at the right time. That's certainly a concept Calipari has preached all year, most recently to ESPN.com's Myron Medcalf.
"It's a process," Calipari said. "Every year, it's a process. Some guys get it quicker than others. It took these guys a little longer, and it took me a little longer to figure them out."
Another explanation: The inexperienced team is streaky. This marks Kentucky's fourth four-game winning streak, with two of them ending there and another halting at five. Instead of peaking at the perfect time, the Wildcats just may be enjoying an opportune hot hand.
The Wildcats have played exceptional basketball to beat Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan, but none of those wins came by more than five points. That's a scary stat for a team that shoots 68.2 percent from the foul line.
The less flashy Badgers enter as the underdogs, but they'll prove their worth behind the surging Frank Kaminsky in a high-scoring bout.
Prediction: Wisconsin 77, Kentucky 75
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