The stage is set for two incredible games in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament. The four teams left standing are #1 Florida, #2 Wisconsin, #7 UConn, and #8 Kentucky. All of these teams have the potential to advance to the National Championship, but as we all know, only two of them will. Let’s thoroughly dissect each matchup and analyze each team’s chance of moving on to the championship game.
#1 Florida vs. #7 UConn: Wow. What a matchup we have here. The Florida Gators, a team on a 30-game winning streak and a group of experienced seniors, going up against a red-hot UConn Huskies team with arguably one of the best performer’s of this year’s tournament, Shabazz Napier. This is sure to be the better of the two games in the Final Four. Even though the Gators are coming into this game having won their last 30 games in a row, guess who their last loss was to? That’s right, UConn. In that game, Shabazz Napier had 26 points for the Huskies and Casey Prather had 19 points for the Gators. Not that UConn’s win back on December 2nd means a lot at the current moment; it is just something to consider. It was a 1-point victory for the Huskies and these teams have come a long way since that game.
A matchup to look forward to is Scottie Wilbekin against Shabazz Napier. These are two very talented point guards. In the tournament, Napier averages 23.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 2.0 steals per game. Wilbekin averages 16.8 points per game in the tournament. Another interesting matchup will be down low where Florida’s Patric Young and Will Yeguete loom. They will indeed have their hands full with DeAndre Daniels, who is playing spectacular basketball as of late. In the tournament, Daniels is averaging 19.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. Ryan Boatright has also proved to be a solid scoring option in UConn’s backcourt, as he is averaging 16.3 points per game in the tournament. If he can pose this scoring threat against Florida, it takes some defensive pressure off of Napier, and really opens the floor up. This is how UConn can win this game.
For the Gators to win this game, they need to step it up a little. They have played great basketball in the tournament, but a team does not make it to the National Championship without taking it to the next level. If Wilbekin can score at least 20 points and Young and Yeguete can be a big factor on the boards, then Florida has a great chance of winning.
When choosing a winner for the matchup, I had to think very hard. My heart is telling me to go with the hot Huskies, but my head is telling me there is no way they can take down Florida. This group of seniors on the Gators is determined to make their last year a memorable one, and they will not settle for anything less than a National Championship. This is why Florida will win the game, however, it will come to down to the wire.
#2 Wisconsin vs. #8 Kentucky: This is a very interesting matchup. Much like UConn, Kentucky is getting hot at the right moment. It’s been proven in sports that sometimes the hot team can go all the way. The 2010 Green Bay Packers and 2011 St. Louis Cardinals both snuck into the playoffs as wild card teams and then won the championship. They got hot at the right time.
Kentucky is hot right now because they are jelling together. Their players have learned their roles. One of the main reasons why people did not give Kentucky a chance at making it this far in the tournament (at least I didn’t think they would make it this year), is because its starting lineup consists of all freshman. Even though they have extremely talented players who are sure to be in the NBA in the coming years, basketball is a team sport. Five talented players who do not play as a team are not going to beat an average team with fantastic chemistry. It’s just how basketball works. Kentucky proved these people wrong as they came together as a team. Per ESPN, Kentucky is the first team to win an Elite Eight game with 5 freshman starters since Michigan’s Fab Five in 1992.
Wisconsin is a very sound basketball team. They also have great depth, which is a big reason why the Badgers have had a very successful season this year. 4 out of their 5 starters average double-digit points per game. Then, there is Frank Kaminsky. A 7-footer who can work in the paint, distribute the ball when he needs to, and step outside to drain a shot. Simply put, he is a complete basketball player. He also plays with great confidence. Kaminsky is averaging 18.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game in the tournament.
It was extremely hard for me to pick a winner of this matchup but after a lot of thought, I am going with the Kentucky to win the game and meet Florida in the National Championship for a rematch of the SEC championship game.
The action begins Saturday at 6:09 p.m. with Florida vs. UConn as the first game, and then Wisconsin vs. Kentucky following at 8:49 p.m.