The second weekend of March Madness is over and we have our Final Four teams heading to Dallas next weekend. Florida Gators vs. Connecticut Huskies will be the first national semifinal, tipping off at 6:09 p.m. ET Saturday, followed by Wisconsin Badgers vs. Kentucky Wildcats. Florida is the only #1 seed to reach the Final Four.
Here’s my thoughts:
Wildcats vs Badgers – Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan has his team running like a well-oiled machine; players are where they are supposed to be, they make sound passes and the right players take the right shots. Their policy is “keep mistakes at a minimum” (the Badgers average eight turnovers a game). They have always been known for their defense in the past, but now they have players with good offensive skill sets and are willing to play as a team unconditionally. They are going as far as forward Frank Kaminsky can take them. The 7-foot junior has been accumulated 28 points and 11 rebounds when they beat Arizona.
At the beginning of the season, it was hard to see the Kentucky Wildcats in the Final Four. They had a bunch of elite freshmen with an abundance of extraordinary talent, but they didn’t seem to be able to put it all together until now. During the tournament they were put through the fire with the games between Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan and they came out with a poise of a team that has been together for a couple of years. Kentucky’s size and talent makes them one of the nation’s best offensive rebounding teams. Julius Randle will take advantage of you down low, now they have shooters who can hit clutch shot at a moment notice.
The result: This will be another good game, Badgers will give it their best shot by staying with the fundamentals and playing sound basketball, but with the athletic talent the Wildcats have and how they are coming together as a team and controlling the glass on both sides of the floor, I give the advantage to the Wildcats over the Badgers.
Huskies vs. Gators – I gotta give credit where it is due. Kevin Ollie has done a helluva job with a program he has inherited from his mentor, Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun, whom he played for when he was at UConn . He has been the head coach for two years; the first year he was handicapped with players who were on academic suspensions, but circled the wagons the beginning of this season and had the team on board on what they can accomplish if they stick together and buy in on what they can accomplish as a team. The senior point guard Shabazz Napier has been sensational all season, but especially in the NCAA tournament. Florida is well aware of that; on Dec. 2 the Gators fell victim to a Napier buzzer-beater.
Florida might be the best all-around team in the Final Four. They are in the top 10 for both offensive and defensive efficiency. Its offensive attack is spread out and four different players average double-digit scoring. Their weak spot is the free throw shooting, Florida’s free-throw percentage is the lowest of the Final Four teams. The only way the Huskies can succeed and move on to the NCAA Championship is to get the Gators into foul trouble.
The result: Connecticut has to come at the Gators hard at the tip-off and don’t let up; that is the ONLY chance they have to succeed and move on. Coach Ollie might have that as a game plan, but writing it on the white board and putting it out on the court is two different things. The Huskies are going to give the Gators a hell of a fight, but I think the coach Donovan and his team are going to thwart the onslaught and come out of the game with the “W”.
I predict the Florida Gators and the Kentucky Wildcats will play each other Monday for the championship. Give me your thoughts.