Mar 31, 2014, 12:29 AM EST
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.
Dec 18, 2014, 10:45 PM EST
Also of note was Ole Miss avoiding what would have been their fourth home loss of the season.
Dec 18, 2014, 8:44 PM EST
Jabari McGhee suffered the injury in Tennessee’s loss to NC State on Wednesday.
Dec 18, 2014, 7:09 PM EST
Branden Dawson is the team’s leading rebounder, as he’s grabbing 8.7 boards per contest.
Dec 18, 2014, 5:59 PM EST
Gaston Diedhiou was denied admission to Minnesota during the summer, and he is now eligible immediately after passing an English proficiency exam.
Dec 18, 2014, 5:08 PM EST
While the focus has been on the Aztecs’ shooting percentages, their ability to find quality looks has been a big reason why they’ve struggled.
Dec 18, 2014, 3:45 PM EST
When do we start counting Duke-UConn as a rivalry?
Dec 18, 2014, 3:33 PM EST
Agau was buried on the Louisville bench with a number of young guys in front of him.
Dec 18, 2014, 2:34 PM EST
A deep look into the early-season struggles of Marcus Paige and whether or not they are fixable.
Dec 18, 2014, 12:48 PM EST
The last two times these teams have squared off in big games, the outcome has been memorable.
Dec 18, 2014, 10:53 AM EST
Three-point shooting might be the key to the Virginia season.
Dec 18, 2014, 9:59 AM EST
She may not be playing anymore, but Lauren’s time with the basketball program has not yet come to an end.
Dec 18, 2014, 8:45 AM EST
David Nwaba scored 11 second-half points to help lead the Mustangs back from a 14-points halftime deficit. Here are two of those points.
Dec 18, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
Doolin finished the game with 15 points, three assists and no turnovers, and made two huge plays to get UNLV the two-point win over Portland.
Dec 18, 2014, 12:04 AM EST
This is the first win that the American has landed over a ranked team.
Dec 18, 2014, 12:00 AM EST
Dawson’s injury occurred on the same night that freshman Javon Bess made his regular season debut for the Spartans.
Dec 17, 2014, 10:33 PM EST
Copes played in just four games this season due to injury.
Dec 17, 2014, 10:07 PM EST
The best part is that it was very much intentional
Dec 17, 2014, 9:20 PM EST
Delaware State’s Amere May scored more points than anyone in college basketball has this season.
Dec 17, 2014, 8:19 PM EST
With Lavon Long and Brett Bisping now sidelined, the Saints are without their two best rebounders.
Dec 17, 2014, 6:55 PM EST
Defense and turnovers will be the keys for Texas when Big 12 play begins.
- Michigan State starting forward to miss next two games with non-displaced wrist fracture 0
- Film Session: What’s plaguing Marcus Paige? 1
- Throwback Thursday: UConn ‘Shocks The World’ against Duke (VIDEO) 1
- New Year’s Resolutions: Virginia Cavaliers 1
- Chase for 180: So far, so good for Virginia’s Justin Anderson 0
- New Year’s Resolutions: Kansas Jayhawks 1
- Wichita State’s offensive struggles highlighted by come-from-behind win vs. Alabama 2
- Gregg Marshall writes to Wichita State students after seeing empty seats in student section (PHOTO) (7)
- Report: David Robinson’s son will be preferred walk-on at Duke in 2015-16 (VIDEO) (6)
- West Virginia’s Bob Huggins torches Marshall after coach calls Huggs ‘afraid’ (5)
- Without Alex Poythress, No. 1 Kentucky’s offense looks comfortable in win over No. 21 North Carolina (4)
- Lauren Hill’s playing career over, to become honorary coach (4)