ARLINGTON, Texas – There are a variety of Final Four storylines that deserve a mention. But I can’t wait to see if Shabazz Napier finishes this thing. He’s been the best player in the Big Dance thus far. Will the veteran guard end his college career with two more otherworldly performances and a national championship ring? We’ll see.
UConn versus Florida
What to watch: When these two teams met Dec. 2, Napier was just too much for a good Gators squad. There was a lot of postgame chatter about Scottie Wilbekin’s absence in the final minutes of that game, which ended when Napier hit a buzzer-beater to win 65-64. It’s important to note that the Gators also shot 49 percent from the field. They committed 16 turnovers, though. Florida has been a better ballhandling team throughout the NCAA tournament. But the Gators are ranked 115th nationally with turnovers on 17.5 percent of their possessions, according to Ken Pomeroy. Another sloppy night could lead to a loss. Good news for Florida? Wilbekin has two turnovers in four tournament games.
Who to watch: Napier. That’s all. He’s magic. He has put together a remarkable run and carried UConn to the Final Four. There have been a multitude of Kemba Walker comparisons, and they’re all legit. We’re watching something, someone special. And even though Florida has the better team, UConn has the best player on the floor. The best player in North Texas.
Key matchup: There’s been a lot of talk about Napier versus Wilbekin. That’s obviously a key matchup. But Patric Young and DeAndre Daniels battled in the first game. This matchup will be critical on Saturday, too.
Who wins: I just think Florida has the weapons to finish strong and secure the victory. I say Florida 68, UConn 64.
Kentucky versus Wisconsin
What to watch: There’s so much talk about pace. Wisconsin is generally viewed as a plodding team that tries to slow the game down and lure opponents into the gritty games that it has won all season. But Kentucky beat Michigan in a 57-possession affair in the Elite Eight. Kentucky can go slow. This game will center on efficiency and execution, on offense and defense, in the half court. It won’t be a track meet.
Who to watch: Frank Kaminsky is a 7-footer who has made 38 percent of his 3-pointers this season. He scored 28 points and registered 11 rebounds against Arizona, which was ranked No. 1 in adjusted defensive efficiency by Ken Pomeroy. Kentucky has a bunch of talented athletes. But Kaminsky is unique. He’s a perplexing athlete for any defense.
Key matchup: Kaminsky versus the Wildcats. Maybe John Calipari will put Julius Randle on Kaminsky. He could also go with Dakari Johnson or Alex Poythress. It’s not an easy matchup. Arizona tried Kaleb Tarczewski and Aaron Gordon. Didn’t work. This is the matchup, whatever it ultimately looks like, that will decide the outcome.
Who wins: Kentucky is just on a different level right now. I’ll say Kentucky 72, Wisconsin 67.