NCAA Tournament 2014: Winners and Losers of the Final Four
No. 7 Connecticut will face No. 8 Kentucky for the 2014 NCAA championship on Monday night after the blue-blood schools emerged victorious in the Final Four, but there were more than just two winners and two losers on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.
The first game between Connecticut and Florida was an even bigger blowout than we were expecting—and it was the underdog that pulled off the 10-point upset! What an incredible tournament run it has been for Kevin Ollie, DeAndre Daniels and the rest of the Huskies.
And the second game of the night was Kentucky's fourth consecutive instant classic. In 18.5 months when he's old enough to do so, Aaron Harrison will never be paying for a drink in Lexington again.
Here are the rest of your winners and losers from the Final Four.
Winner: Kevin Ollie
Phil Martelli. Jay Wright. Fred Hoiberg. Tom Izzo. Billy Donovan.
Aside from being among the most respected coaches in the game today, one other thing they share in common is a winless record against Kevin Ollie in the 2014 tournament.
Connecticut was down 16-4 early against Florida. The Huskies looked timid on offense and helpless on defense. But Ollie didn't let them give up.
After the game, Ollie told sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson, "Everybody was at a level five. Whoever I put in the game was positive and productive...Everybody had 10 toes in. I told you, they're fighters. When we get down, we keep fighting and we keep believing in each other."
As great as his guys played, Ollie simply outcoached Donovan on Saturday.
When Florida went to a 1-3-1 defensive zone, Connecticut was ready to lob it over the top to DeAndre Daniels at the bottom of the 2-1-2 offensive attack. Knowing Florida's defense would be focused on shutting down Shabazz Napier, he allowed Daniels and Ryan Boatright to become a more focal part of the offense.
Napier attempted just six field goals on the night. It was the first time in more than four months that he attempted less than nine field goals in a game decided by less than 27 points.
The best chess players know how to win with their knights and rooks while letting the queen serve as a decoy. That's exactly what Ollie did to get to the national championship.
Loser: 35-Second Shot Clock
The points started piling up near the end as Patric Young got open buckets and Florida pushed the issue to try to make a comeback, but Connecticut and Florida were averaging one point for every 23.4 seconds at the under-8:00 media timeout in the second half.
There were three shot-clock violations in the first half, despite the fact that the teams had 35 seconds to hit the rim.
Both teams played fantastic defense, but neither showed any urgency to get into its half-court offense.
There were long stretches of the game during which I was having flashbacks to the 57-possession 2011 UConn-Butler title game. That's not a good thing.
The NCAA altered some rules this past summer in hopes of creating more free-flowing and high-scoring games, but it might really want to look into finally reducing the shot clock this offseason.
Winner: DeAndre Daniels
I had DeAndre Daniels at No. 5 on my list of the 20 most important players in the Final Four.
Clearly, that was way too low.
Daniels finished the game with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and really got the team going early in the game. Daniels scored eight of Connecticut's first 15 points, including a pair of three-pointers that quickly brought the Huskies back from an early 16-4 deficit.
After the game, Daniels told sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson, "I talked to coach Jim Calhoun yesterday. He was like 'Man, nobody's talking about you.' I said, 'Don't worry about it. Everyone's going to be talking about me after Saturday.'"
At least he knew what to expect in his first Final Four game. Considering Florida was a seven-point favorite, Daniels was one of the only ones with a functioning crystal ball.
Loser: Pregame Hype
With the way we all talked up these games, you would've thought it'd be Shabazz Napier and Scottie Wilbekin scoring every bucket while eight other guys stood on the court in awe of their greatness.
However, those two guys ended up turning into role players as Patric Young single-handedly got Connecticut's entire frontcourt into foul trouble, and DeAndre Daniels finally received proper recognition as a serious NBA prospect.
If anything, Wilbekin was an X-factor because of how poorly he played. He was clearly hampered by cramps and knee issues, but he didn't score a single point in the final 29:50. In the second half, he was 0-of-4 with no points, assists, steals or rebounds, committing three turnovers and four fouls.
Similarly, Michael Frazier II didn't even attempt a field goal in the final 30 minutes.
Pretty sure no one was predicting that Kasey Hill would score as many points as Frazier and Wilbekin combined.
Winner: Patric Young
It's sometimes hard to pick individual winners from a team that loses by 10 points, but Florida might have lost by 40 if not for Patric Young.
Not only did Young have 19 points, five rebounds and one of the most emphatic blocks of the entire tournament, but he didn't commit a single personal foul while Connecticut's four frontcourt players combined to commit 13.
Young had just three points at the half, but went to work after the intermission. He shot 6-of-8 from the field and 4-of-4 from the free-throw line in the second half.
The 19 points were the most that Young had scored in a game all season. It's hard to lose as a senior, but at least he went out with a bang.
Loser: Florida's Point Guards
Coming into the Final Four, Kasey Hill and Scottie Wilbekin had a combined assist-to-turnover ratio of 27-to-6 in the tournament. They were one of the most efficient backcourt duos over the past few weeks.
But that all disappeared against Connecticut's aggressive backcourt.
Hill and Wilbekin combined for one assist and seven turnovers. And frankly, it's difficult to decide which of those numbers was more disturbing.
On the year, Hill had an assist rate (percentage of assists on made field goals by teammates while the player is on the court) of 27.5 and Wilbekin's was 22.5, according to KenPom.com (subscription required). They were averaging 5.8 assists per game, and Florida was recording an assist on 54.5 percent of its made field goals this season.
The Gators had two assists in the first 75 seconds, and then only recorded one more the rest of the game. Connecticut's backcourt was simply impenetrable.
Winner: John Calipari's Early Timeout in Second Half
Despite a halftime that seemed to last at least half an hour, Kentucky came out in the second half looking like it spent the entire intermission doing anything other than planning for the second half.
On the Wildcats' first possession, Julius Randle got rejected. At the other end of the court, Ben Brust missed a wide-open three-pointer, but Frank Kaminsky got an offensive rebound to set up Sam Dekker to make a wide-open three-pointer of his own.
Over the next 3:08 after that timeout, Kentucky went on a 15-0 run and grabbed eight consecutive rebounds.
It was one of those extended sequences that reminded us that Kentucky was supposed to go 40-0 this year.
Loser: Regular-Season Basketball
On Selection Sunday, the committee decided that Connecticut had the 26th-best overall resume while Kentucky's ranked 29th in the country.
In other words, 25 teams had better seasons than either of the teams competing for the national championship.
Putting it in college football standards, that would be the equivalent of 9-4 USC and 8-4 Vanderbilt squaring off for the BCS Championship.
Before the season began, Kentucky was the favorite to win it all. The Wildcats struggled mightily throughout the season, but were apparently just saving their energy for a championship run.
So did the four months before the tournament mean anything?
Certainly, both Connecticut and Kentucky needed those first 32 games to evolve into the tournament juggernauts they have become. But I get the feeling that the crazier the tournament gets, the harder it is to convince casual fans to watch games in November and December.
Nothing we saw from Kentucky before the SEC tournament could have possibly prepared us for this run. The Wildcats entered the tournament with a 1-6 record against teams that received a No. 10 seed or better.
Naturally, they have now won five straight games against that collection of opponents.
Winner: Wisconsin's Bench
Frank the Tank was nowhere to be found in the first half. At halftime, Kaminsky had just two points on one field-goal attempt.
No need to fear, because it opened up the door for a new player with a rhyming nickname to emerge. "Wisconsin" Bronson Koenig came off the bench and scored 11 points in the first 16 minutes of the game. In less than one half, it was already his third-highest point total of the season.
From that point forward, Koenig didn't do anything. Over the final 24 minutes, he was 0-of-3 from the field with two turnovers, one foul and nary a point, assist, rebound or steal.
However, he was exactly the spark that the Badgers needed to get to halftime with a four-point lead.
In Wisconsin Bronson's effective absence in the second half, Duje Dukan stepped up. Dukan had just one rebound and one assist at the half, but finished the game with eight points, five rebounds and two assists.
Dukan had a grand total of 12 points in Wisconsin's first four tournament games. It was the first time since the season opener against St. John's that he scored more than seven points in a game.
Among all the unpredictable things that happened in this tournament, Dukan and Koenig combining for 19 points in a Final Four game has to rank near the top of the list.
Loser: Andrew Harrison
Without Andrew Harrison, Kentucky never would have gotten to this point. He had 20 huge points against Wichita State and did an incredible job of controlling the game against Louisville, finishing the night with 14 points, seven assists and only two turnovers.
But Saturday was not his night.
Harrison finished the night shooting just 4-of-14 from the field for nine points. He did have the assist on the game-winning bucket by his brother Aaron Harrison, but it's his fault they even needed to come from behind in that possession.
On Wisconsin's previous possession, the shot clock was moments from expiring in a tie game when Andrew Harrison bailed out Wisconsin by fouling Traevon Jackson shooting a three-pointer.
Granted, Jackson pretty clearly traveled on the replay, but that doesn't excuse even putting oneself in that position.
Harrison wasn't even on the court when Wisconsin attempted its final shot. At several points throughout the game, John Calipari was seen yelling at Harrison on the sideline about his poor body language.
Maybe he'll play looser and better in the championship game.
Winner: Aaron Harrison
Some day in the future, we'll figure out how to measure how clutch a basketball player is. And on that day, we'll look back on this tournament and remember the most clutch individual run of all time.
Kentucky has played in four consecutive incredible games. In the latter three games, Aaron Harrison was the man of the hour.
Trailing Louisville by one point with 40 seconds remaining, Harrison hit a three-pointer to give Kentucky the lead once and for all.
Tied with Michigan with 2.3 seconds remaining, he drained a three-pointer to advance to the Final Four.
And now in the Final Four, trailing by two points in the final 5.6 seconds, Harrison sank another triple to send the Wildcats to the national championship.
He only scored eight points in the game, but he was the hero. As usual.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.
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