Nobody bet on these Final Four matchups

  • Updated: April 4, 2014 - 12:28 AM
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Kentucky Wildcats forward Julius Randle (30) celebrates the win as Louisville Cardinals guard/forward Luke Hancock (11) looks on. The Kentucky Wildcats defeated Louisville 74-69 in the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Region semifinal at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Friday, March 28, 2014. (Sam Riche/MCT) ORG XMIT: 1151010

It turns out Warren Buffet made a pretty good bet when he put $1 billion on the table for any completely accurate bracket.

There aren’t any left.

The overhyped contest, in fact, didn’t even make it to the tourney’s opening weekend, dying on the first Friday.

What there has been no shortage of, however, is postseason drama and intrigue. Three Big Ten teams survived the first two weekends to comprise nearly half of the Elite Eight. Two of those squads — Michigan and Michigan State — fell Sunday, and in their undoings a 7 seed (Connecticut) and an 8 seed (Kentucky) held on in upsets. Now, the cards have been laid for a Final Four next to no one predicted. If the theme of the tournament continues, we’re in for more big performances and tight games. To that I say, “Giddy up.”

Now that Michigan State — the champ by my estimation in early March — has fallen, who’s the next man up? Let’s rank the remaining contenders, shall we?

Kentucky: How hot have the Wildcats been? Blazing enough to surpass the likes of Florida and Wisconsin on this list — both of whom have been rock solid all the way through. No one has had a tougher path. Kentucky has gone through essentially all of the loaded Midwest Region favorites in Kansas State, Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan to get here. The Wildcats have certainly seen their share of dynamic offenses. Yet they’ve found a way to top them all, even without Willie Cauley-Stein on Sunday.

 

Florida: The Gators shouldn’t be discredited for the fact that they haven’t had to prove as much as the rest to get here. Billy Donovan’s squad has spent the past four months demonstrating that it belongs. Now, Scottie Wilbekin — who nearly didn’t return to the team this year after a summer full of off-court drama — has been as clutch as ever. Their No. 1-ranked defense harasses opponents on every possession. As Connecticut will soon learn, no shot comes easy.

 

Wisconsin: Center Frank Kaminsky, a mismatch for just about every opponent, is leading a Badgers team that is about as special as any in Bo Ryan’s tenure. Perennially a defensive stalwart, it’s Wisconsin’s offense — a versatile, three-point-heavy firestorm — that has garnered the praise. That’s worked out pretty well, as the squad has carried its coach to his first Final Four appearance.

 

UConn: With Shabazz Napier on the roster, anything is possible. But the past two weeks, the brilliant offensive star has been flanked by some incredible performances from Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels, who are both out over their skis a little bit. Can the Huskies keep up the balanced attack with the championship game on the line? If so, their top-10 defense that smothered Michigan State will play a big role.

AMELIA RAYNO







 

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  • Kentucky head coach John Calipari speaks as Florida forward Will Yeguete (15) and Scottie Wilbekin (5) walk on the court during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Championship round of the Southeastern Conference men's tournament, Sunday, March 16, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

  • Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier (13) grabs his right leg after he was hurt on a play during the second half of a third-round game against Villanova in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Buffalo, N.Y., Saturday, March 22, 2014. Connecticut won the game 77-65. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

  • clockwise: Kentucky forward Julius Randle, Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin, Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier and Wisconsin center No. 44 Frank Kaminsky all stand out on teams still standing.

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