Even though there are some surprises, this year's Final Four contains the four best teams in the nation at this point in the season.
Obviously, both Kentucky and Connecticut had up-and-down years to force them into middling seeds heading into the NCAA tournament. However, they each turned it on late and made key shots at the right times to survive and advance through difficult brackets.
Meanwhile, Florida has been dominant throughout most of the season, heading into the Final Four with a 30-game winning streak. Wisconsin had a few more poor showings, but the squad still had high expectations coming into the postseason and has lived up to them.
At this point, though, it does not matter what a team's record is or who it beat during the regular season. All that counts is who performs better going forward.
Here is a look at what to expect in the upcoming Final Four battles.
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No. 1 Florida vs. No. 7 Connecticut
While Connecticut surprised many people with its run to the Final Four, the squad proved early in the season that it was capable of beating anyone. In fact, the Huskies are the last team to beat Florida with a 65-64 home win in December.
In that game, UConn forced 16 turnovers to keep it a low-scoring battle before Shabazz Napier was able to finish it with a game-winning shot:
The bad news for Florida is this is how most games seem to play out. According to KenPom.com, the Gators currently have the No. 1 defense in college basketball, but the games usually remain close throughout.
Connecticut has also shown the ability finish tough games thanks to the consistent play of Napier. The point guard has been great all year, but he has stepped up his effort in the NCAA tournament, according to Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv:
Shabazz Napier accounts for 45 percent of UConn's offense in the NCAAS on scoring and assists, per @milessimon— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) April 2, 2014
Brad Evans of Yahoo! Sports also pointed out another skill that has helped them:
UConn hits 95% from the free-throw line. You rarely see that in this day and age of college basketball. Refreshing.— Brad Evans (@YahooNoise) March 30, 2014
While the Gators cannot match the free-throw shooting, they can even things up with the point guard battle. Scottie Wilbekin has been just as impressive in this tournament, coming through in big moments while remaining turnover-free for the past 2.5 games.
Add in the veteran presence of Casey Prather, Will Yeguete and Patric Young—as well as the contributions of Michael Frazier, Dorian Finney-Smith and others—and Florida has too deep of a roster for Connecticut to contain.
This will be another low-scoring battle, but Florida has too good of athletes to allow Connecticut to get the advantage. Wilbekin will be able to outplay Napier in the final moments to ensure his team's place in the title game.
No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Kentucky
The pace of this game will be slow, but you can expect a high rate of scoring for every trip down the court.
Wisconsin utilizes a great team-first attitude to make sure both sides of the ball are as efficient as possible. Kentucky coach John Calipari explains the tough task ahead of him, via Derek Forrest of WLKY:
Great, great, great passing team, movement team. Keep you on defense. Make you stay in a stance. The minute you fall asleep, like if you have a lot of young guys, then someone is falling asleep. You got to play 30 seconds. They are a defensive rebounding team. I would imagine their whole thing is, they're getting one shot at the basket and that's it. We're not getting offensive rebounds and we are all going in here, and it's probably. They'll probably have four days of scrum around the basket to make sure that we are not offensive rebounding.
He is exactly correct in discussing how the Badgers offense will continue to pass the ball until the team finds a perfect shot. The Badgers also rank first in the country with just 8.1 turnovers per game.
However, Kentucky has the athletes and the length to keep things difficult for Wisconsin offensively. With the way the Harrison twins and James Young can close on shooters on the perimeter, there will be fewer open shots than usual.
Still, the other part of Calipari's statement is completely wrong. Wisconsin ranks just 261st in the nation in rebounding, and this major weakness could cause problems against Kentucky.
Pete Gillen of CBS Sports notes the difference in the Elite Eight game:
Kentucky could not stop Michigan and Michigan could not defend Kentucky.The Difference was that Kentucky controlled the Boards.Rebounding!!!— Pete Gillen (@Gillenhoops) March 31, 2014
The Wildcats finished with 17 offensive rebounds while Michigan had just 10 defensive rebounds. Even without Willie Cauley-Stein, Marcus Lee took over with big moments like this:
Kentucky ranks fifth in the country in offensive rebounding, and this ability to get second-chance points will help get past the Badgers in the national semifinal.
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