The Two-Way
11:46 am
Sat April 5, 2014

NCAA Men's Final Four: Showdown In Texas

March Madness lives on into April. There are only four teams left in the men's NCAA bracket, as Kentucky, Connecticut, Florida, and Wisconsin vie for spots in Monday night's championship game.

Here are the tip-off times for today's Final Four; the two games will air on TBS (all times Eastern):

  • Florida vs. Connectucit: 6:09 p.m.
  • Wisconsin vs Kentucky: 8:49 p.m.

Here are some highlights of coverage we're seeing:

Connecticut fans are hoping the Huskies and their star guard Shabazz Napier can get past No. 1 Florida again, as they did in December. That win required late heroics from Napier.

"For us to beat a team like that," coach Kevin Ollie said recently, "we couldn't relax for one minute."

UConn's "other" guard, Ryan Boatright, will need to play well, and forward Niels Giffey will need to hit three-pointers to open up Florida's zone defense, in the view of The Courant of Storrs, Ct.

Analyst Pete Thamiel of Sports Illustrated is among those picking Florida to win.

"Florida lost to UConn without Kasey Hill and Chris Walker, who have proven to be vital pieces for head coach Billy Donovan," he says. "Expect the Gators to roll at full strength and face their other in-season nemesis — Wisconsin — in the final."

Florida is riding a 30-game winning streak into tonight's game. To UConn's Napier, the Gators will counter with its own star guard, Scottie Wilbekin. But the AP reminds us that both players are surrounded with talent and are good at getting others involved.

"Kentucky is 17-2 in the NCAA tournament under John Calipari," the NCAA says, adding that in the 2014 tournament, the Wildcats "personally evicted" three teams who were in last year's Final Four: Louisville, Michigan, and Wichita State.

With a starting lineup of five freshmen, Kentucky has lived up to its preseason No. 1 billing during the tournament. At 6'9" and 250 pounds, forward Julius Randle has been more than a handful for opposing teams. The matchup with the defensively sound Badgers should be a good one to watch, especially as Wisconsin has its own talented big man in seven-footer Frank Kaminsky.

"Wisconsin is the only team in the nation this year to win a game while scoring in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 100s," the NCAA reports. "They are 182-12 when scoring at least 70 points during Bo Ryan's years."

Ryan, the Badgers coach, says the talk of contrasts between his team and Kentucky is overblown.

"Kentucky's trying to put the ball in the hole," Ryan said Monday. "We're trying to put the ball in the hole. We're trying to keep them from doing it. They're trying to keep us from doing it. I didn't know there were that many styles."

If you think this year's tournament has been a great one, you're not wrong, says USA Today. The newspaper explains:

"This year's tourney is averaging 9.8 million viewers, the highest viewership in 21 years, according to Nielsen Media Research. And the games have been noticeably more competitive: The average margin of victory in Sweet 16 games, 6.5 points, was the lowest since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, according to Stats Inc."

At least two coaches had thoughts of football running through their minds as they prepared to play in AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. One was Connecticut's Kevin Ollie, who is a Cowboys fan; the other was Florida's Billy Donovan, who decidedly is not.

"As soon as I walked out on the court for practice, I was blown away. I am a Giants fan, and we don't really like the Cowboys too much," Donovan said.

This year's men's Final Four is the fourth in a row that doesn't have a team from the ACC, something that hadn't happened in 53 years, the NCAA says.

The women's Final Four will get going Sunday in Nashville.

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