Final Four Predictions
We are down to the Final Four of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. There have been some huge surprises along the way as No. 7 Connecticut from the East Region and No. 8 Kentucky from the Midwest are each still alive. They’ll be joined by No. 1 Florida from the South and No. 2 Wisconsin from the West.
The Final Four will take place at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, TX. I’ll go through and pick the winner in each of Saturday’s matchups along with Monday’s National Championship Game. Here is how I expect the Final Four to play out.
No. 1 Florida Defeats No. 7 Connecticut
The Gators have now won 30 straight games, including four straight in the NCAA Tournament all by double-digits. They have easily been the most dominant team in the big dance, and I look for it to continue to be that way against the Huskies on Saturday.
Billy Donovan has the luxury of getting an entire week to prepare for Shabazz Napier and UConn. The Huskies played last Saturday and had Sunday off, while UConn was beating Michigan State on Sunday. That clearly allowed Donovan the chance to scout with nothing else on his mind. Kevin Ollie did not get to focus in on Florida playing Saturday, so the coaching edge clearly goes to the Gators. Plus, Donovan has won two national titles before.
Florida’s head coach uses man-to-man, several different zones, and a full-court press at times. The Gators do everything great on this side of the ball, ranking 3rd in the country in scoring defense at 57.6 points per game. The key to beating UConn will be stopping Shabazz Napier, and you can bet that Donovan will make sure that someone else beats them if they are going to go down. Napier has been on fire, but he’ll face his stiffest test yet Saturday.
No. 8 Kentucky Defeats No. 2 Wisconsin
I am fully on board with Kentucky right now. This team showed signs of brilliance in the SEC Championship when it lost to Florida by a single point. How good does that loss look now? The Wildcats have carried over their impressive play into the NCAA Tournament.
They beat Kansas State (56-49) in a game that was a bigger blowout than the final score would indicate. They would then knock off No. 1 Wichita State (78-76) to prove that they were for real. If that wasn’t enough, they topped No. 4 Louisville (74-69) and No. 2 Michigan (75-72) to get here. This is a young team loaded with freshmen who simply took most of the season to come together, which can be expected for such a youthful bunch.
Wisconsin has validated its No. 2 seed to this point, but it was lucky to get by Oregon in the second round as it needed to erase a double-digit second half deficit to get there. The Ducks’ athleticism got to them, but they haven’t seen anything like the athletes they will see on the floor Saturday. I look for Kentucky to use that athleticism to their advantage and to dominate the offensive glass, which will be the key to victory.
No. 1 Florida Defeats No. 8 Kentucky
Remarkably, this title game would signify a fourth and final meeting between these SEC rivals. Florida won both regular season meetings by double-digits before topping Kentucky by a single point (61-60) in the SEC Championship. While the Wildcats showed they could play with the Gators in that contest, in a winner-take-all, I’m going to go with the veteran Gators, who have been the most complete team all season.