In many ways, this is one of the most anonymous Final Fours in recent years, at least as far as players are concerned.
But even without household names, such as Wiggins, or Parker, or Gordon, or Embiid, this could end up being one of the most intriguing Final Fours in history.
Final Four schedule
» Connecticut vs. Florida, 4:09 p.m., TBS
» Kentucky vs. Wisconsin, 6:49 p.m., TBS
» National championship, 7:10 p.m., Ch. 2
You have the traditional juggernaut in Kentucky — Big Blue Nation, if you will. You have Wisconsin, the offensively boring team, which has happened to turn into the feel-good story of the NCAA Tournament.
There’s UConn, with Shabazz Napier doing his finest Kemba Walker impersonation, a small guard single-handedly willing his team toward a national title. And then there’s Florida, a team without a sure-fire NBA first round pick, but the best team remaining in the field.
On Saturday night, the parity of college basketball will be on display. Don’t be surprised if both games boil down to the final minutes and possessions. Don’t be shocked if someone we don’t know heading into the weekend becomes well known by Monday night.
UConn vs. Florida
STARTERS » In Shabazz Napier, the Huskies will have the best player on the floor. They will have the best point guard in the country, and the only guy who is a lock to play at the NBA level next season. But the Gators have the best team. Scottie Wilbekin has been fantastic in his final NCAA Tournament run. Casey Prather is one of the best wings in the country, and UConn doesn’t have an answer to Patric Young on the interior. While the Huskies have the best player, Florida has so much more depth and athleticism. ADVANTAGE: Florida
BENCH » Unlike UConn, Florida has a nice backcourt rotation. Kasey Hill takes a ton of ballhandling pressure off Wilbekin. Chris Walker is the future in the frontcourt, a 6-foot-10 athlete who makes hustle plays and blocks shots. Dorian Finney-Smith has played well in his first season with the Gators. Florida, in other words, is stacked. The Gators are deep, and this will eventually wear the Huskies down. ADVANTAGE: Florida
COACHING » We love Kevin Ollie for his smarts, his intensity, his acumen at such a young age. Simply put, he’s a future superstar in the profession. But Billy Donovan is a coaching superstar right now. He’s built himself a juggernaut down in Gainesville, and that won’t slow down any time soon. He has Final Four experience, and Ollie doesn’t. That’s the difference, here. ADVANTAGE: Florida
WATCH OUT FOR » DeAndre Daniels has been on a tear the last few weeks, finally living up to his high school all-american potential. He can be a game-changer for the Huskies with his ability to score inside and out. If he’s on top of his game, he’s a difficult matchup for the Gators.
PREDICTION » Yes, UConn defeated the Gators early in the season. But Florida is just too deep, too good defensively and too big inside to lose again. The Huskies have one hope in this: Shabazz Napier turns in a super-human performance. Florida 72, UConn 62.
Kentucky vs. Wisconsin
STARTERS » As the Wildcats have shown in the past two weeks, they have maybe the most talented starting five in America, so the advantage goes to Kentucky. But it’s not that simple. Wisconsin is a team in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And for one of the only times in the Bo Ryan era, the Badgers have serious star power in Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky. The barometer here is talent against experience. Which will win out? ADVANTAGE: Kentucky
BENCH » Both teams rely a ton on their starters. Kentucky did get a tremendous lift from Marcus Lee in the regional final victory over Michigan. Other than that, both teams will play their five guys for as many as 35 minutes. The key is tempo. If the Wildcats are able to make this a full-court game, Wisconsin is in trouble. But the Badgers have been masterful at limiting possessions, so don’t expect the game to be sped up significantly. ADVANTAGE: Even
COACHING » The prevailing theory is that John Calipari rolls out the ball and lets his talent take over. Fact is, the Kentucky coach has done a wonderful job of coaching in this tournament. He’s finally gotten his players on the same page, and the Wildcats have taken off because of it. Bo Ryan has simply done one of his best jobs. Wisconsin has always been a good team. But with the added talent, the Badgers have gone to another level. ADVANTAGE: Wisconsin (by a hair)
WATCH OUT FOR » The Harrison twins. Aaron and Andrew have been the key for the Wildcats with their shooting and playmaking. They’ve been playing their best basketball, and if they continue to do so, Kentucky will be awfully difficult to beat.
Prediction » The Harrison twins prove to be too much at the end, and Julius Randle proves to be the one ingredient inside that Wisconsin has no answer for. After a season of everyone bashing the Southeastern Conference, we get an all-SEC national title game on Monday night. Kentucky 64, Wisconsin 60.
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