Previewing the 2014 Final Four Matchups: Can UConn Beat the Odds?

Shabazz Napier has been on fire all tournament long.

And then there were four.

After falling in three straight Elite Eights, Florida became the fourth one seed since 2010 to reach the Final Four. Over that stretch, the other three (2010 Duke, 2012 Kentucky, 2013 Louisville) have all cut down the nets at the end of the season. The Gators haven’t lost since December 2nd, having now won 30 in a row since losing to Connecticut.

But speaking of the Huskies, that's who Florida will play on Saturday, after they became the first seven seed to ever reach the Final Four. They were able to knock off Michigan State, making the class of 2014 Spartans the first four-year class to miss the tournament's final weekend under head coach Tom Izzo.

On the other side of the bracket is two-seeded Wisconsin, who enter having narrowly knocked off the nERDiest team in the tournament, Arizona, in overtime. The Badgers will face Kentucky, an eight seed that was extremely under-seeded by the Selection Committee, and a team that is as talented as anyone in the country. For the Wildcats, its their third Final Four appearance in four years, though it's not as if they have much continuity from previous teams.

These four teams are talented in their own ways, and will each have to play "their" game in order to win on Saturday. What can we expect? Let's dig in.

Want to know who will surprise, who will bust out, and who will take the tournament? Check out our bracket picks, our game simulator, and more!

Check It Out

Florida (1) vs. Connecticut (7)

TeamnERD ScorenERD RankOffensive RankDefensive RankPace

The Gators and Huskies met in back in December in Connecticut, in a contest won by Shabazz Napier and the Huskies at the buzzer. Napier scored a game-high 26 in that game, and enters this one averaging over 23 points per game in the tournament.

In that game, Connecticut had an ORtg of 100, which is nearly nine points per 100 possessions higher than the average Florida allowed on the season (91.4). UConn also had an effective field goal percentage of 53.8%, which is roughly nine points higher than the Gators allowed during the season (44.9%).

But the Gators were uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball that game, turning it over in more than once ever five possessions. Even with all of this and home court, the Huskies barely knocked off Florida and would’ve lost had Napier not gotten a second chance at winning the game

Of course Napier will draw comparison’s to UConn’s Kemba Walker, who led the Huskies to the National Championship back in 2011, though as we’ve noted, it hasn't only been Napier thus far for UConn. Make no mistake, Napier is the best player left in the tournament, but the Gators are the all-around best team left according to our nERD metric, and should be chomping at the opportunity to avenge their loss from earlier in the season.

Looking deeper at the numbers, Florida is expected to win by roughly 4.5 points in terms of nERD, which makes sense considering the fact that they are the better team on both sides of the court. Florida has never lost in the semifinals under Billy Donovan, though the Huskies have won their last two titles in Texas (2004 San Antonio, 2011 Houston).

This one could make for another classic game like in December, but it’s hard to see the Gators losing due to their incredible defensive play. The Gators just can't play as careless as they did against UConn earlier in the season.

Wisconsin (2) vs. Kentucky (8)

TeamnERD ScorenERD RankOffensive RankDefensive RankPace

It was only a matter of time before the Wildcats finally started clicking, and once they did, everyone knew they were going to be really difficult to beat. This squad was number one in the preseason for a reason, as they are probably the most talented (albeit one of the youngest) team in the country. Led by Julius Randle (who has recorded a double-double in all four tourney games thus far) and the Harrison twins, they’ve knocked off three of our top 14 teams in the country over their last three games. They ended up winning the tourney’s toughest region facing the hardest schedule imaginable.

The Badgers, on the other hand, enter led by walking mismatch Frank Kaminsky, who stands 7’0” and can stroke it from behind the arc. Much like Napier, Kaminsky has carried his team through the tournament, averaging 22 points in his last three games. He made Wisconsin’s last three shots against ‘Zona in overtime, including the eventual game winner with just over a minute left.

The Badgers averaged 103.2 points per 100 possessions, which is 13 points more than Arizona averaged allowing for the season. They enter this contest with by far the top offense left in the field, which is incredible considering how Bo Ryan’s squads are usually all about defense.

On a neutral floor and according to nERD (not taking specific matchups into consideration), the Badgers would be expected to win by about a point and a half, and enter as the better team in our offensive and defensive ratings. The biggest matchup to watch in this one will be on the glass, as Kentucky has out-rebounded their opponents throughout the tournament, and entered the Big Dance with the best offensive rebounding rate in the country. Wisconsin, however, is a top 20 team on the defensive glass, making the battle one that could determine the outcome of this game.