On Saturday, a week of buildup will finally give way to Final Four day at last. Here's one last look at some of the keys to Saturday's two national semifinals:
No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Kentucky (8:45 p.m. EST, TBS)
How the Badgers got here: Won the West Regional by defeating No. 15 American, No. 7 Oregon, No. 6 Baylor, No. 1 Arizona
How the Wildcats got here: Won the Midwest Regional by defeating No. 9 Kansas State, No. 1 Wichita State, No. 4 Louisville, No. 2 Michigan
Did you know? Kentucky is trying to become the second No. 8 seed to win a national championship. Of the five No. 8 seeds to reach the Final Four before Kentucky, 1985 Villanova was the only one to win the title.
Three keys to the game:
1. Will Kentucky's torrid outside shooting continue? The biggest reason Kentucky has redeemed itself after a disappointing regular season isn't its dominant offensive rebounding, its increased confidence or the self-described "tweak" John Calipari made before the postseason. It's that the Wildcats are hitting outside shots at a much higher pace than they were during the regular season.
Kentucky shot only 31.9 percent from behind the arc in SEC play, sinking six or more threes in a game just four times. The Wildcats have shot 39.1 percent from behind the arc in the SEC and NCAA tournaments, burying six or more threes in four of the seven games. Aaron Harrison, in particular, has been torrid, hitting 14 of 27 threes in the NCAA tournament, including game-winners in the final minute against Louisville and Michigan.
There will probably be chances for Kentucky to hoist threes against Wisconsin, if only because the Badgers will want to double in the paint and wall off driving lanes. Whether the Wildcats can continue to knock down a high percentage of outside shots could be the determining factor between who plays for a championship Monday night and who goes home early.
2. How will Kentucky defend Frank Kaminsky? On a multifaceted Wisconsin offense with numerous threats to score, Kaminsky has emerged as the most dangerous weapon in the postseason. Not only has he averaged 22 points per game in Wisconsin's last three victories, the 7-foot junior has done it from both the paint and the perimeter.
When Arizona used fellow 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski to guard Kaminsky, the Wisconsin big man floated to the perimeter and rained down threes via pick-and-pops. When Arizona adjusted by switching screens or putting a more mobile player on Kaminsky, he countered by backing that defender down in the low post.
Guarding Kaminsky on the perimeter promises to be a challenge for Kentucky, especially with Dakari Johnson likely to get heavy minutes at center in Willie Cauley-Stein's absence. The Wildcats will probably need to deny Kaminsky the ball as much as possible and lean on their guards to close out on him on the perimeter to make up for the fact that Johnson is unaccustomed to defending so far from the rim.
3. Can Wisconsin keep Kentucky off the foul line and the offensive glass? If superior outside shooting has been the biggest difference between regular-season Kentucky and postseason Kentucky, drawing fouls and racking up offensive boards have been the Wildcats' most notable year-long strengths.
They draw fouls at an incredible rate via the bullish drives of Andrew and Aaron Harrison and the brute strength of Julius Randle around the rim. They also parlay their size, strength and athleticism into numerous second-chance shots, collecting a national-best 42.5 percent of their misses during the season and an astonishing 63 percent of their misses in a three-point Elite Eight win over Michigan.
Wisconsin is one of the nation's best defensive rebounding teams, so perhaps the Badgers will have more success in this area than previous Kentucky foes. Defending the dribble hasn't been a strength of Wisconsin's this season, so that could be more of an issue, especially if Kentucky is able to get out in transition or sink enough jump shots to force the Badgers to extend their man-to-man defense.
Quote to note: "When somebody asks me about one and done, all I remember is when my mom would give me a pork chop or a piece of meat loaf. I would ask for another piece and she would say, 'No, one and done.'" -- Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, when asked about the differences between his approach to assembling a team and Kentucky's
Prediction: Kentucky 69, Wisconsin 66
No. 1 Florida vs. No. 7 UConn (6 p.m. EST, TBS)
How the Gators got here: Won the South Regional by defeating No. 16 Albany, No. 9 Pittsburgh, No. 4 UCLA, No. 11 Dayton
How the Huskies got here: Won the East Regional by defeating No. 10 St. Joseph's, No. 2 Villanova, No. 3 Iowa State, No. 4 Michigan State
Did you know? The only two teams to beat Florida this season both join the Gators in Arlington, Texas, this weekend. A late Traveon Jackson jump shot clinched Wisconsin's mid-November win over Florida at the Kohl Center, while a Shabazz Napier jump shot at the buzzer was the difference in UConn's home win a few weeks later.
Three keys to the game:
1. Can Florida slow down Shabazz Napier? If the NCAA tournament ended today, Napier would be one of the leading candidates for most outstanding player. In four games, the dynamic senior guard is averaging 23.3 points and 4.5 assists, he has hit nearly four threes per game and he is shooting at a respectable 45 percent clip from the field. He also has gotten to the foul line 31 times and made 93 percent of his free throws.
What will help Florida is that it boasts one of the nation's best perimeter defenders in point guard Scottie Wilbekin. The SEC player of the year will also have help from the other members of a team that allows very few fast-break chances and is one of the best defensive squads in the nation.
Florida knows firsthand how good Napier can be. He lit up the Gators for 26 points in November, including the winning jump shot at the buzzer, in a game in which Wilbekin missed the last four minutes because of a left ankle injury.
2. Can Florida hurt UConn on the offensive glass? It's a sure sign UConn isn't a great rebounding team when Napier is the Huskies' leading rebounder this season. Some of that is due to Napier playing far more minutes than any frontcourt player. Some of that is due to the fact he is an excellent rebounder for a guard. But that is also a sign that the Huskies are susceptible in that area, too.
Florida is a good but not elite team on the offensive glass, ranking 49th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. With advantages in size and strength, it might not be a bad idea for Florida to send more guys to the glass early in the game and see if that generates some second-chance opportunities.
3. Will Deandre Daniels continue to be an effective secondary scorer? For all the talk about Napier's brilliant tournament, he has been this good all season long. One of the biggest reasons the Huskies have gotten better in the postseason is that other guys such as Daniels have stepped up.
In four NCAA tournament games, Daniels is averaging 17 points and is showcasing an ability to do more than merely knock down spot-up jump shots. The 6-foot-9 junior had 27 points and 10 rebounds in the Sweet 16 against Iowa State despite only hitting a pair of 3-pointers, a sign that his ability to get to the rim has improved.
When Daniels and Ryan Boatright score consistently, it makes UConn much more difficult to defend because it can spread the floor and make teams pay for keying on Napier. Those two again will be key against a defense as formidable as Florida's.
Quote to note: "Shabazz, to me, is as good as any point guard in this country. I've got a lot of respect for his leadership. I've got a lot of respect for his competitiveness. The confidence that he gives the rest of those guys, his willingness to take big shots and make big shots. His willingness to be unselfish and to play the right way. He is a heck of a player and a heck of a talent, as good as anybody in the country." -- Billy Donovan on Shabazz Napier
Prediction: Florida 68, UConn 60
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