beat UConn on Dec. 2 in Storrs. Can the Huskies pull off another upset in the Final Four? (Hartford
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I'll spare everyone the Aerosmith "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" opening paragraph I had intended to write for the Final Four viewing guide, but now you have it stuck in your head anyway. I'm sorry -- that really wasn't my intention. If it's any consolation it's stuck in my head now too (#NoDisrespectToBenAffleck). We're here, and basketball is slipping away. The Final Four is for celebrating though, not for wearing all black and looking forlorn. We'll have plenty of time for that when it's the middle of July and we're watching the Astros play the Angels for the 15th time.
While this isn't the last four teams most people had slotted into their brackets, there is enough intrigue and excitement to make for a pair of really good games. UConn's "never say die" run, Florida's experienced march through March, Kentucky's maturation and Wisconsin's flawless execution all give us separate angles to explore and enjoy.
Set your TV for TBS (very funny) on Saturday, make a extra big bowl of guac and get ready. This is the last Saturday of the college basketball season.
No. 7 UConn (30-8, 12-6 in AAC) vs. No. 1 Florida (36-2, 18-0 in SEC)
How to watch: 6:09 p.m. ET, TBS
What to watch for: You don't need me to tell you who to watch on UConn. It's Shabazz Napier. He's the one who makes the Huskies go, and he's the one being compared endlessly to Kemba Walker even though Napier doesn't seem thrilled about it. In the New York Daily News this week, Napier said:
“I’m not really thinking of it,” Napier said of the comparisons to Walker on Tuesday at Gampel Pavilion, just hours before the team boarded an NCAA-chartered plane to Texas. “Honestly, I don’t watch enough TV. I don’t — I just like to answer you guys’ questions. I don’t take it home with me. I understand it’s your guys’ job to see a resemblance and I’m not going to shy away from it. If you guys believe I’m kind of like Kemba, then that’s cool. I’m not going to say you’re wrong. I just live with it. I’m not too worried about it.”
That's not going to stop anybody, especially if he keeps it up on Saturday. Napier is averaging 23.25 points on 45 percent shooting (45 percent from three) to go with six rebounds and 4.5 assists in the NCAA tournament, and he's getting help from Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels as well.
Those two will need to pick up the slack against an incredibly experienced Florida team. The Gators were the No. 1 overall seed for a lot of reasons, and they haven't lost a game in more than four months. The last time they notched one in the "L" column, naturally, it was against UConn (because narratives and whatnot). Scottie Wilbekin has to avoid trying to get in a shooting contest with Napier and just spread the ball around, while Patric Young should have a good chance to impose his will assuming he can stay out of foul trouble.
No. 8 Kentucky (28-10, 12-6 in SEC) vs. No. 2 Wisconsin (30-7, 12-6 in Big Ten)
How to watch: 8:49 p.m. ET, TBS
What to watch for: The little Wildcats are all grown up. Heading into the SEC championship, Kentucky had lost three of its last four games including an 84-65 drubbing by Florida. The Wildcats weren't communicating, were playing too much one-on-one ball and were trying to do too much instead of letting their athleticism and talent come naturally. John Calipari had to get through to them somehow, or this jewel of a recruiting class would risk bowing out of the tournament early. We've heard plenty about the famous tweak, but it worked.
UK made it to the SEC championship game and dropped a 61-60 heartbreaker to Florida (the Gators have beaten Kentucky three times this season), and the team looked transformed once the NCAA tournament started. You could see it in the game against Wichita State. The Shockers were one of the best-coached teams in basketball and gave Kentucky everything they could, but the Wildcats pulled it out. Just look at the road from there: Louisville and Michigan. It's not as if UK backed its way into the Final Four. It needed every single thing it got out of Julius Randle, the Harrison twins, James Young and others.
So it's only fitting to get to the championship game, the Wildcats will have to beat Wisconsin. The Badgers are a Swiss watch of a basketball team, with all the moving parts working in unison in perfect time. The movements are accurate, and when you look inside into the mechanisms, there's a quiet beauty. Wisconsin has a rare luxury in Frank Kaminsky. He allows the Badgers to play inside-out, and even when that first shot doesn't go, there's a real threat of a putback or a kickout.
Wisconsin will have its hands full against a supremely gifted Kentucky team, but the Badgers have already knocked off super athletic teams in Oregon
. This one should be a heck of a lot of fun to watch.