Mar 30, 2014; New York, NY, USA; The Connecticut Huskies celebrate after beating the Michigan State Spartans in the finals of the east regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Final Four Lines & Predictions


Mar 30, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Aaron Harrison (2) shoots and makes the winning three-point basket in the final seconds of the finals of the midwest regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament against the Michigan Wolverines at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After two crazy weekends of NCAA basketball, the 2014 men’s Final Four stage is finally set. There have been upsets, disappointments, overtime thrillers, Cinderellas, and outstanding performances, but now all that remains are the four teams entering the weekend to face off in Arlington, Texas. Many people expected the Florida Gators to be in this position, given that they entered the tournament as the number one overall seed, but the same cannot be said for the other three teams. Joining the Gators are the only two teams to defeat them this season: the Wisconsin Badgers and the Connecticut Huskies. Rounding out the Final Four are the Kentucky Wildcats, the preseason number one team in the nation. At times the Wildcats looked underwhelming throughout the regular season, yet they have put it all together after 38 games and it turns out, they are who we thought they were. We’ll preview each team and their Saturday match-up, but first, some fun facts about the Final Four from RJ Bell at Pregame.com:

  • The Final Four has now included either one or two #1 seeds 24 of last 30 years.
  • Only ONE TEAM seeded worse than #6 has made the Finals in the last 28 years.
  • The National Champion has been #4 seed or better for 25 straight years. 

 

THE TEAMS:

(1) Florida Gators (36-2)

Coach: Billy Donovan

Final Four Appearances: 4

National Championships: 2 (2006, 2007)

Path to the Final Four: (16) Albany (67-55), (9) Pitt (61-45), (4) UCLA (79-68), (11) Dayton (62-52)

MVP: Scottie Wilbekin

Odds to Win the Title (at start of tournament): 5/1 ($100 wins $500)

Current Odds to Win the Title: 1/1 ($100 wins $100)

 

(2) Wisconsin Badgers (30-7)

Mar 29, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Bo Ryan addresses the media in a press conference after the finals of the west regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament at Honda Center. The Badgers defeated the Wildcats 64-63. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Coach: Bo Ryan

Final Four Appearances: 2

National Championships: 1 (1941)

Path to the Final Four: (15) American (75-35), (7) Oregon (85-77), (6) Baylor (69-52), (1) Arizona (64-63 OT)

MVP: Frank Kaminsky

Odds to Win the Title (at start of tournament): 25/1 ($100 wins $2,500)

Current Odds to Win the Title: 3/1 ($100 wins $300)

 

(7) Connecticut Huskies (30-8)

Coach: Kevin Ollie

Final Four Appearances: 4

National Championships: 3 (1999, 2004, 2011)

Path to the Final Four: (10) St. Joseph’s (89-81 OT), (2) Villanova (77-65), (3) Iowa State (81-76), (4) Michigan State (60-54)

MVP: Shabazz Napier

Odds to Win the Title (at start of tournament): 100/1 ($100 wins $10,000)

Current Odds to Win the Title: 8/1 ($100 wins $800)

 

(8) Kentucky Wildcats (28-10)

Coach: John Calipari

Final Four Appearances: 15

National Championships: 8 (1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998, 2012)

Path to the Final Four: (9) Kansas State (56-49), (1) Wichita State (78-76), (4) Louisville (74-69), (2) Michigan (75-72)

MVP: Julius Randle

Odds to Win the Title (at start of tournament): 50/1 ($100 wins $5,000)

Current Odds to Win the Title: 2.5/1 ($100 wins $250)

 

Mar 29, 2014; Memphis, TN, USA; Florida Gators guard Scottie Wilbekin addresses the media after defeating the Dayton Flyers in the finals of the south regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament at FedEx Forum. Florida won 62-52. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

THE GAMES:

Florida Gators vs. UConn Huskies

6:09 p.m. EST on TBS

Line: Opened at Florida (-5); Currently at Florida (-6.5)

Analysis & Prediction: This Final Four semifinal features a rematch of the December 2nd match-up between these teams that ended with a Shabazz Napier game winning shot as time expired. Looking back on that play, Florida played great defense, trapping Napier and forcing him into a challenging first attempt. Unfortunately for the Gators, the ball bounced UConn’s way that fateful evening, and Napier found himself in the right place at the right time for a second try. That game feels like ages ago, and both teams have improved and matured throughout the season. Napier is drawing comparisons to Kemba Walker’s title run in 2011, and the Gators are riding a school record 30 game win streak. Florida boasts the top ranked defense in the country per Ken Pomeroy, as well as a top 20 offense; UConn enters the game with a top ten defense, and an offense that ranks just inside the top 50. Napier is the heart and soul of the Huskies, and containing him will be a key factor in the game. The difference maker? SEC Player of the Year Scottie Wilbekin. Scottie left the match-up in Storrs with just over 3 minutes remaining in the game after rolling his ankle. Without Wilbekin’s great defense, Napier was able to lead the Huskies to victory. The Gators, who’ve beaten each team they’ve faced thus far in the tournament by double-digits, will rely on Wilbekin’s leadership and defensive stopping power to advance to the National Championship. Florida 72 – UConn 60

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Kentucky Wildcats

8:49 p.m. EST on TBS

Line: Opened at Kentucky (-1); Currently at Kentucky (-1.5)

Analysis & Prediction: The Badgers and Wildcats earned their ticket to the Final Four with victories in two of the most exciting games of the tournament. No one can question whether or not these teams are battle tested, especially Kentucky, who has faced one of the most difficult roads to the Final Four in recent memory. As for Wisconsin, well…

Bo Ryan has the Badgers playing some exciting basketball (when did you every think you’d read that?!?) and the team appears to be having fun along the way. They’ve averaged 73.5 points per game throughout the tournament, which is right in line with their regular season average. This game could end up being an offensive shootout, as Kentucky enters having scored 70+ in their past three games. It is worth noting that the Wildcats have won all four of their tournament games by a combined 17 points, while Wisconsin beat Baylor by 17 in their Sweet Sixteen match-up. Bo Ryan’s first trip to the Final Four pits two very different team cultures against one another (Kentucky starts 5 freshman, Wisconsin starts none), but these teams are surprisingly evenly matched. Frank Kaminsky will be the difference maker, and the face-off between him and Julius Randle will be an instant classic. Wisconsin 72 – Kentucky 70

 

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