With the talent and diversity offered up by this Final Four, I can't wait for Saturday's game. Both contests are supremely intriguing.
Which team will win the championship?
No. 1 Florida and No. 7 Connecticut will get us started as the two are scheduled to tip off at 6:09 ET. No. 8 Kentucky will then take on No. 2 Wisconsin at the conclusion of the first game.
After a dominant season saw them enter the tournament as the No. 1 overall seed and then justified that standing in each round, the Florida Gators are strong favorites to win the championship.
To do that, they'll have to get past Connecticut first. Have a look at the schedule and the championship odds for each team, and then I'll offer up a prediction for the two semifinal games.
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|Saturday, April 5||(1) Florida vs. (7) Connecticut||6:09 p.m.||TBS||Florida -6.5|
|Saturday, April 5||(2) Wisconsin vs. (8) Kentucky||8:49 p.m.||TBS||Kentucky -1.5|
|Monday, April 7||National Championship||9:10 p.m.||CBS|
Source: Odds Shark
Source: Vegas Insider
Florida vs. Connecticut
Florida lost just twice all season. One of those losses was to Connecticut in a thriller.
That was way back on Dec. 2. The Huskies hosted the Gators and pulled out a 65-64 win after Shabazz Napier hit a buzzer-beating jumper. Before you start pointing to that game as a reason to pick the Huskies in this one, a few things should be considered.
For starters, this game will be on a neutral court. The lack of home-court advantage alone is enough to make up that one-point difference, but there's more.
CBS Sports' Gregg Doyel helps explain:
I'm not here to say the Huskies' 65-64 victory against Florida on Dec. 2 was a fluke, but.... No, wait. That's exactly what I'm saying. The one-point win was a fluke. It was the flukiest fluke that ever did fluke.
Doyel has many points. The most relevant to the rematch is that in the last game, SEC Player of the Year Scottie Wilbekin was forced from action around the three-minute mark and couldn't return.
This made life easier on Napier, and it helped create a thrilling finish. The last game was a bit of a perfect storm for Connecticut, and Florida won't let them wrestle any momentum in this one.
The Gators will dominate the interior. In the first meeting, Florida center Patric Young contributed 17 points and seven rebounds in one of his best games of the year. With Young and Dorian Finney-Smith controlling the boards, Florida will make the most of its possessions in a low-scoring game.
Prediction: Florida 63, Connecticut 59
Wisconsin vs. Kentucky
With the contrasting styles of these two teams, this game is difficult to project. Wisconsin is a deliberate and experienced team that has played great all season. Kentucky is more of a fast-paced and young team that is peaking after an inconsistent season.
Both of these teams are balanced and are capable in the paint and outside. Kentucky likes to establish dominance in the interior. Led by freshman Julius Randle, the Wildcats are one of the nation's best rebounding teams. Kentucky's frontcourt, however, isn't likely to be at full strength.
USA Today's Nicole Auerbach passed along this quote from Kentucky coach John Calipari on the playing status of his mobile big man:
Calipari on Willie Cauley-Stein: "I doubt he plays. He will be on our bench cheering like crazy."— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) March 31, 2014
His absence will be felt in this game because Wisconsin's best weapon is center Frank Kaminsky. The 7-footer has been on a tear this tournament. Against Arizona in the Elite Eight, he dumped in 28 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.
What makes Kaminsky a difficult matchup for Kentucky is the multitude of ways he can score. He has great footwork and a nice touch around the rim. Kaminsky has range that extends beyond the three-point line.
Wisconsin will create quality possessions by running its offense through Kaminsky. This will help open up space on the perimeter for Wisconsin's shooters like Ben Brust and Josh Gasser.
This will allow the Badgers to control the pace of the game and pull out the victory.
Prediction: Wisconsin 68, Kentucky 63