That was probably the best Elite Eight I’ve ever witnessed in terms of pure entertainment value, and I’m hoping for more of the same this weekend as I prepare to give you my NCAA Tournament Final Four picks. Both games air on CBS this Saturday, April 5th beginning in the evening. So clear your plans and get ready for two titanic matchups.
2014 NCAA Tournament Final Four Picks
The Florida Gators continue to be the team to beat in the tournament, and have remained undefeated since December 2nd. And get ready to hear a lot about their last loss because it was against these Huskies and Shabazz Napier.
The problem with leveraging them as a play in NCAA Tournament Final Four picks is that they’re also 4-3 ATS. They barely missed a cover against Dayton as -10.5 favorites in a 62-52 win but that just goes to show that the oddsmakers have them dead to rights as a massive public team and a commodity in general.
Part of the issue with betting on Florida is that they love winning close games. They trust their defense, their ability to execute and they milk possessions on both ends of the floor. That doesn’t leave a ton of scoring opportunity on either end of the floor depending on the opponent. You should be wary of the Gators in terms of betting, but they’re a virtual shoe-in when it comes to winning straight up.
The reason I’m leaning away from them in NCAA Tournament Final Four picks has everything to do with what I just said, but it also has a ton to do with Shabazz Napier who is perhaps the best overall player left. Napier has blossomed in to his own both as a scorer and play maker, and the Huskies have responded in kind. Part of me HATES the Huskies when they play physical, frontcourt teams and there’s perhaps no team that has a better arsenal in that department than Florida. But the explosion by Napier has created an awakening of sorts with DeAndre Daniels and this UConn team in general.
The fact that they were murdered against a similar team – Louisville – in two recent matchups doesn’t make me love UConn in this particular matchup. But I’m choosing to ride the hot hand and that belongs to Shabazz. The Huskies have also gone 3-0 SU and ATS in their last three games as underdogs which is another reason to lean on UConn.
Since the start of the post season, which includes Championship Week, the Wildcats have been a profit churning beast on and off the court. The Harrison Twins have been clutch while Julius Randle continues to be a workhorse under the rim. In the process, they’ve become one of the most electrifying teams in the entire tournament and are a strong lean in early NCAA Tournament Final Four Picks as a slight favorite over Wisconsin.
That’s a by-product of them going 6-1 SU and ATS in their last 7 games, but it also helps when that one loss was by one point to the one team everyone’s scared to death of. Obviously that team is Florida. Wins over the defending champion, last year’s NCAA Tournament runner-up and the only undefeated team in the polls have certainly legitimized their momentum leading up to a take in the Final Four.
So does their talent, which is ultimately the reason that the Wildcats are winning. They have not played perfect basketball and have clawed their way back from some brutal deficits in all three of those games using a relentless nature that could only succeed given the outright athletic talent that Kentucky boasts.
That doesn’t mean Wisconsin is a bad play in NCAA Tournament Final Four picks. It’s hard not to fall in love with Bo Ryan’s dependency on team defense, and the breakout play of Frank Kaminsky, who has notched two double-doubles in his last two games. For their part, Wisconsin is 5-1 SU and ATS in their last 6 games during the post season and a strict attention to defense has paid off handsomely. They’ve suffocated teams.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Wisconsin’s trademark stopping comes out in this game and frustrates a young Kentucky team to the point that they break mentally. However, surviving three furious games against Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan has likely galvanized Kentucky. It’s impossible to bet against talent that’s playing at the work rate and level that the Wildcats have shown. They’re my NCAA Tournament Final Four pick in this matchup even though Wisconsin has shown a similar tenacity. I just don’t think they ultimately have the legs to outpace Kentucky. Frankly, nobody does. Not even with Kaminsky in the fold.