Final Four Predictions

Posted: 04/05/2014 by levcohen in Basketball, NCAA

This final four is absolutely full of storylines. So much so, in fact, that the best team in the country, Florida, is the least talked about team. The three most talked about topics, at least from what I have been seeing, are:

  • Kentucky: youth, poor regular season, peaking at the right time
  • Wisconsin: Bo Ryan finally gets a trip to the final four after going every year with his father, who died last year
  • Connecticut: Shabazz Napier. Shabazz Napier. Shabazz Napier.

To me, the most interesting part of this field of four is related to Florida. The 36-2 Gators are joined in the Final Four by the two teams they lost to, and their arch rival in the SEC, a Kentucky team they have already beaten three times. Both teams are favored to make it to Monday, so we could see a fourth matchup between the schools. Either way, if the Gators cut the nets down on Monday, they’ll have either avenged both of their losses, or avenged one and beaten a team with anywhere from six future NBA players to even more four times. If that’s not impressive, I don’t know what is. To me, that would make the Gators one of the best team in NCAA history. I don’t think they’d be remembered as such, though, because they don’t have a future NBA star on their roster. When you remember the best college basketball teams, you remember them first and foremost by their NBA success. What Florida has done without a future star might be unprecedented, which makes this even more impressive. I don’t think there is any debating that Florida is the best team left. But the best team doesn’t always win, and the others also have things going for them. Connecticut has the best player, Kentucky has the most talent and is peaking at the right time, and Wisconsin is the most steady.

1 Florida (36-2) vs 7 Connecticut (30-8)
Spread: Florida favored by 7
Florida is a much better team than Connecticut is, and have been all year. But UConn is a scary team to play right now. They are forcing turnovers (opposing teams are actually shooting just about as well as they are in the tournament, but they’ve won by getting transition buckets), and of course they have Shabazz Napier. They should be in this game for throughout, and I wouldn’t bet against Napier at the end of the game. I just think that, in the end, Florida will win this game. They are much bigger than UConn is, and I think they’ll be able to destroy the Huskies, whose leading scorer is Napier, the point guard, on the boards. Since they are the best team in the country, it was hard for me to find ways to beat them. They don’t turn it over much, they are tall, and they defend well. Basically, they should overpower Connecticut. But I don’t think they will, because UConn has Shabazz Napier. Florida has won each of their first four games comfortably, but they haven’t really won a blowout. I see that continuing here. Florida wins 74-68.

2 Wisconsin (30-7) vs 8 Kentucky (28-10)
Spread: Kentucky favored by 1
Frankly, I was surprised at the spread. With the way Kentucky is playing, it’s hard to imagine that they are just a one point favorite against Wisconsin, another team that is playing pretty well themselves. We all knew that Kentucky had this in them. I just wasn’t sure they’d put it all together in time. They have, and it looks like they will totally outmatch this Wisconsin team. On the offensive glass, Kentucky is terrific. They also are a lot more talented than Wisconsin is, and have beaten three consecutive top 10 teams in Wichita State, Louisville, and Michigan. However, there are still some concerns. It’s not as if Kentucky crushed any of those three teams. All were close and came down to the wire. And I think people are discounting the Wisconsin Badgers. I certainly have been. They just beat an Arizona team I thought would go all the way to the championship game. They also have Frank Kaminsky, who had a huge game against Arizona, can shoot the three, and can post up. Kaminsky is the most improved player in the country, and I think Wisconsin is good enough to keep it close against Kentucky. But the Wildcats’ physicality and tenacity on the boards should be enough to win the game. Kentucky wins 70-67

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