Mar 31, 2014, 12:29 AM EDT
That was fun, wasn’t it?
The tournament’s thrilling first weekend led to an exhilarating, heart-wrenching, I-have-no-more-fingernails-left second weekend which has given us a Final Four that includes a No. 7 seed and a No. 8 seed, even though those two team just so happen to have won two of the last three national titles.
We’ll be churning out preview and review content all week long, but for now, here is our Final Four primer:
- 6:09 p.m. ET: No. 1 Florida vs. No. 7 UConn (TBS)
- 8:49 p.m. ET: No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Kentucky (TBS)
FOUR STORY LINES TO FOLLOW:
1. Kentucky has now reached the Final Four for the third time in the past four years. And while the last two times they made it this far the Wildcats relied on veterans just as much as they did freshmen, this group starts five players that were in high school a season ago. That’s a story in and of itself, before you even touch on the fact that the Wildcats didn’t start playing like a title contender until the start of this tournament.
2. Kemba Walker quickly became one of the most popular UConn Huskies in the history of the program when he led them to the national title in 2011. Shabazz Napier, who started along side Kemba during that tournament run, is looking to do the same for the Huskies this season, a year after the program was more or less left for dead.
3. Billy Donovan has won two national titles in his career. He’s two wins away from his third.
4. Bo Ryan and his father, Butch, were incredibly tight. They made an annual tradition of going to the Final Four as fans because Bo had never gotten there as a coach. He made his first Final Four this season. His father passed away in August.
WHO WERE NBCSPORTS.COM’S REGIONAL MVPS?
- 1. Shabazz Napier (East Region): 23.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.5 apg, 2.0 spg, 14-31 3′s, 25-27 FTs
- 2. Aaron Harrison (Midwest Region): 16.0 ppg, game-winners in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8.
- 3. Frank Kaminsky (West Region): 19.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 66 points in his last three games
- 4. Scottie Wilbekin (South Region): 16.8 ppg, 3.0 apg, 9-24 3′s
FINAL FOUR POWER RANKINGS:
1. Florida: The Gators entered the tournament as the No. 1 team in the country and the No. 1 overall seed, and they’ve rolled through their first four games without really being tested. They can lock up defensively and they have Scottie Wilbekin for crunch time. They have to be considered the favorite until they lose.
2. Kentucky: To be frank, I toyed with the idea of putting Kentucky at No. 1 on this list. That’s how well they’re playing right now, and there isn’t even an assurance that Willie Cauley-Stein will be available. There is a reason that we all had this team at No. 1 in the country in the preseason, and they’re finally playing like it.
3. Wisconsin: We didn’t think that the Badgers would be able to get past Arizona, but they did thanks almost entirely to the play of Frank Kaminsky, who now holds the title of the most difficult matchup left in the tournament. Will the Wildcats find a way to slow him down?
4. UConn: The run that the Huskies have made to the national title game just doesn’t make all that much sense when you think about it. Shabazz Napier has been outstanding all season long, but Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels were pillars of inconsistency. The last two weeks, however, they’ve been terrific.
AND WHO WILL BE CUTTING DOWN THE NETS IN NORTH TEXAS?: Florida. Right about now I’m really regretting ignoring the fact that they have been the best team in the country for the past two months.
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