It’s all set — the NCAA Men’s Final Four in North Texas this weekend features the best that college basketball has to offer. The Final Four is one of the most anticipated events of the year in college basketball. The East, South, Midwest and West region champions are headed to Arlington, Texas.
All four teams, champions of their respective regions — No.1 Florida, Wisconsin, Connecticut and pre-season No.1 Kentucky — have won four in a row in the tournament to reach the Final Four, and all four teams believe they can win it.
Let’s break down the finalists. Since 1985, only five times have teams seeded number seven or higher ever reached the Final Four. This year, two teams are wearing the gold slippers.
Connecticut (30-8), a seven seed, beat favorite Michigan State 60-54 thanks in part to the spectacular guard play of senior Shabazz Napier, whose game-high 25 points carried the Huskies.
Wisconsin won their first 16 games of the year, including a win over No.1 Florida, then dropped seven games in the Big Ten, one of which was to Minnesota. But they have caught fire again just in the nick of time and have taken veteran Coach Bo Ryan to his first Final Four. After 13 straight trips to the tournament, the Badgers have a shot at winning college basketball’s grand prize.
Kentucky wears the other gold slipper and an eight seed but is a pre-season No.1 with a squad loaded with diaper dandies who have grown up fast and won arguably the toughest region, the Midwest. The Wildcats have beaten previously unbeaten Wichita State, 2013 champion Louisville, and Big Ten regular season and 2013 NCAA Finalist Michigan to reach the Final Four.
But the favorite to win it all is No.1 Florida from the SEC, the conference of champions. The Gators are impressive winners of 30 in a row and have beaten Kentucky three times already. Coach Billy Donovan has twice won NCAA titles and with a third could move into elite company with legendary coaches like John Wooden, Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke. Florida is 36-2; their losses were at Wisconsin (59-53) and at Connecticut (65-64). That makes them 3-2 vs. the Final Four field.
The Gators have an eight-man rotation — they wear you down, led by senior guard Scottie Wibekin. This should be a great showcase of the best in college basketball.
Florida gets to avenge one of their two losses, first vs. Connecticut in Saturday’s first National Semi-Final, and the second features the physical Badgers vs. Kentucky. Buckle up — it’s college basketball at it’s best in big D with a national title on the line.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.
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