Don’t let Connecticut’s No. 7 seed or Kentucky’s No. 8 seed distract from this: These schools, along with No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Wisconsin, comprise a Final Four of perennially-elite programs. All four have captured an NCAA title, and they have a combined 14 championships overall — including eight of the past 18. Only Wisconsin doesn’t have a championship in that span, but this is their second Final Four trip since beginning a streak of 16-consecutive NCAA Tournament berths — tied for seventh-best in history.
Here’s a look at the national semifinal games taking place on Saturday.
Florida vs. Connecticut
It’s no secret that UConn handed the Gators one of their two losses this season. What might be lost on some is that the Huskies were ahead of Florida in the polls at the time. Shabazz Napier was terrific (26 points, 5-of-8 from 3-point range, three steals) and netted the game-winner in that game, and he’s coming off a 25-point effort in the Elite 8. Count on he and the Huskies to control the tempo and gut out a hard-earned victory in North Texas.
Wisconsin vs. Kentucky
The Wildcats are proving their preseason No. 1 ranking was deserved, but they’re about to hit a wall. The Badgers defense is looks ferocious and junior 7-footer Frank Kaminsky is on a tear (22 ppg over the past three games). Keeping Kentucky’s Julius Randle off the glass won’t be easy, but Kaminsky should be up to the task. The expected absence of the Wildcats’ Willie Cauley-Stein won’t help Randle, either. Look for Wisconsin to emerge from this grinder and reach its first title game since 1941.