Most Amazing Moments from the Final Four
The unexpected duo of UConn and Kentucky laughed at their original seeds, and they will play for the national championship Monday night.
Connecticut, seeded seventh, fell in a deep hole early against powerful Florida and came back from an early 12-point deficit to pin a 63-53 defeat on the No. 1 overall seed and end the Gators' 30-game winning streak.
Stop if you've heard this one before. Eighth-seeded Kentucky used the clutch shooting of Aaron Harrison to get by Wisconsin and earn its spot in the title game. Harrison hit an NBA-length three-pointer with 5.7 seconds remaining to give the Wildcats a 74-73 victory over Wisconsin. Harrison's clutch shooting gave Kentucky a victory over Michigan in the regional finals, and he was money once again versus yet another Big Ten opponent.
Here's a look at the most amazing moments from both Final Four games.
Kentucky Fab 5 Creates Its Own Identity
Kentucky was in deep trouble. Or perhaps the Wildcats had the Wisconsin Badgers just where they wanted them.
Traevon Jackson had just knocked down two of three free throws with 16 seconds remaining to give Wisconsin a 73-71 lead. Kentucky certainly had an opportunity to tie the game or take the lead with a three-pointer, but the Wildcats would have their hands full getting open against Wisconsin's aggressive and hard-edged defense.
As the clock ticked down, Kentucky kept its cool. Freshman Andrew Harrison had the ball in his hands, and he eventually dribbled into the corner, where he looked as if he might be in trouble for an instant. However, he did what he is accustomed to doing. He passed the ball to twin brother Aaron Harrison, who was stationed on the left wing, well beyond the three-point arc.
With the Badgers' Josh Gasser in his face, Harrison rose up to take his shot. Gasser's hand was inches from the ball, and his body was clearly in Harrison's field of vision. Nevertheless, the ball rattled in, and Kentucky had a 74-73 lead with 5.7 seconds remaining.
Wisconsin had its opportunity to win, and Jackson had the ball in his hands as he dribbled up court. He got a good look from the left side, but the ball rimmed out, and Kentucky's fabulous crew of freshmen stars had earned its chance to play for the national title.
Daniels' Monster Game Propels Huskies
Even though UConn had been impressive in beating Iowa State and Michigan State to earn its spot in the Final Four, it appeared the Huskies were in deep trouble against Florida.
The Gators were the No. 1 overall seed and were on a monstrous 30-game winning streak. Florida also appeared to have a huge edge in the frontcourt with powerful Patric Young, Will Yeguete, Casey Prather and Dorian Finney-Smith.
However, UConn had DeAndre Daniels, and his presence and ability turned the game in the Huskies' favor. Daniels put on a memorable show with 20 points and 10 rebounds. UConn took control of the game in the second half and never let go.
Daniels made 9-of-14 shots from the field, and his ability to come up with key rebounds seemed to deflate the Gators. UConn ended up outrebounding Florida 27-26, and that unexpected edge was a primary reason why the Huskies not only came up with the upset but managed to do it by 10 points.
UConn head coach Kevin Ollie credited Daniels with leading the Huskies past the favored Gators. "DeAndre was huge for us," Ollie told reporters after the game (h/t CBS Sports). "He stepped up and really rebounded for us and was pretty much unstoppable."
Wildcats' 15-0 2nd-Half Run Turns Game Around
Wisconsin had played an excellent first half, and the Badgers appeared to be well on their way to putting their signature on their Final Four game against Kentucky.
After taking a 40-36 lead into the locker room, Wisconsin extended the lead to 43-36, and Kentucky head coach John Calipari quickly called timeout because the message he had given his players had not gotten through to them at halftime.
Calipari didn't like his team's body language and execution. He must have chosen the right words to get through to his players during the timeout, as the 'Cats went on a 15-0 run to take an eight-point lead. While Wisconsin would bounce back, take the lead and push Kentucky to the limit, the Wildcats turned the game around with that explosive early second-half run.
James Young scored six points in that spurt, and that enabled his teammates to play with confidence the rest of the way.
UConn Guards Shut Down Gators
Florida was supposed to have the X-factor in this game. If Billy Donovan's team was involved in a close game, the Gators were going to have the edge in the final minutes because they had Scottie Wilbekin to make the key plays down the stretch.
Wilbekin projected a sense of cool throughout the 30-game winning streak. He had size and leaping ability and always seemed to know what to do with the ball in his hands when the game was on the line. If it was hitting the outside shot, driving to the hoop or making the pass, Wilbekin was ready.
But the UConn guard tandem of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright was not about to concede anything. Napier was perhaps the quickest and most explosive point guard in the tournament, and Boatright was the perfect wingman.
Those two won the battle against Wilbekin and Michael Frazier II. Napier did not have his best offensive game, but he had 12 points, six assists and a script-altering four steals. Boatright had 13 points, six rebounds, three assists and one steal.
Wilbekin was under pressure throughout the game and made just 2-of-9 shots from the field for four points, and he also had three turnovers. Frazier was ineffective, making just 1-of-3 shots from the field in 32 minutes of action.
The Huskies built a 59-47 lead with 2:07 remaining, and the Huskies never allowed the Gators to climb back in the game in the late stages. Wilbekin may have had a magical run, but UConn's duo of Napier and Boatright stole the show.
Badgers' Bench Nearly Gets It Done
From a talent standpoint, Kentucky's sensational freshman class appeared to have a big edge on Wisconsin. The Wildcats were bigger, faster and stronger, and if Bo Ryan's group was going to hang in there, it was going to have to execute in sensational fashion.
The physical edge appeared to be even greater when the bench crews of the two teams were compared. But the Badgers have heard all the critics before, and they did not care if the experts didn't believe in them. The Badgers went out and fought for 40 minutes, and it came down to one missed shot.
Wisconsin's bench crew of Bronson Koenig, Duje Dukan and Nigel Hayes combined for 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Meanwhile, Kentucky's bench contributed just 14 points, even though forward Alex Poythress made all four of his shots from the field.
That edge allowed Wisconsin to hang in and nearly steal the game from the Wildcats.