By Angel L. Quiles Jr.,
In the words of former Dallas Cowboy Terrell Owens, “get your popcorn ready!” The Final Four will be taking flight in Arlington, Texas this Saturday April 5th, 2014 from the gigantic house that Jerry Jones built, AT&T stadium. North Dallas will be bracing itself for hoards of fans wanting to feast on the NCAA madness. 2014 is shaking up to be one of the loudest. AT&T stadium can hold around 80,000 fans, and college fans are famous for being some of most rambunctious in the world.
This year’s participants the Florida Gators, Wisconsin Badgers, Kentucky Wildcats, and UConn Huskies have all been on a wild rides, as to be expected from single elimination tournaments. Only the Florida Gators were expected by NCAA tournament experts to make it to Texas. Wisconsin a two seed, was good all year but their lack of big time runs in the NCAA’s had people throwing them by the waste side. Kentucky always a basketball powerhouse, was “left for dead” according to coach John Calipari because of the nine freshman on their team. The Huskies always in the mix, changed from the Big East Conference to the American Athletic Conference and were under the radar most all season.
The first game Saturday night scheduled for 6:09pm eastern, pins the Florida Gators against the UConn Huskies. The Gators (36-2) have been on a rampage winning their last 30 games of the season heading into the Final Four. However, the last game they lost was on Dec 2nd, 2013 to the Huskies (30-8), on a buzzer beater by UConn’s leader Shabazz Napier in Storrs, Connecticut. Therefore, there will be no intimidation factor even though the Huskies are 6.5-point underdogs. Huskies forward DeAndre Daniels said Friday, “We feel great… I feel like nobody is playing is playing harder than us right now. We are just out there having fun and not playing for ourselves. But playing for each other.” Daniels had 14 points and seven rebounds in the last meeting, and must step up again. Florida will be loading up defensively on UConn’s biggest star Napier, so Daniels has to stay out foul trouble and help shoulder the load. Napier who leads the club in points (18.1), rebounding (5.9), and assist (4.9) has to find a way to stay composed during the game because he will surely see a pressure defense ready to drive him crazy. Florida the number one overall seed should be the most confident team in the tournament. They have a two-time NCAA champion head coach in Billy Donavan who will surely have them prepared for the task at hand. In addition, they sport one of the best defenses in the tournament crushing every opponent they faced by double figures. Florida’s strength and the reason they will most likely win is their experience. They have four great players in their senior years. Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather and Will Yeguete who will be hell bent on winning a championship before finishing their collegiate careers.
The following game features a historically successful basketball university, the Kentucky Wildcats (28-10), against a team who hasn’t made a run this long since 2000, in the Wisconsin Badgers (30-7). The Badgers head coach Bo Ryan has coached in in the state of Wisconsin for three decades, and has been the Wisconsin Badgers leading man for the last thirteen years. He apparently still gets one hundred and fifty dollars from his wife as an “allowance”, a far cry from Kentucky’s John Calipari who is one of the highest paid coaches in the NCAA. However, college basketball is about passion and not money. Kentucky showcases a lineup of upstart freshman, some of whom will leave early for the N.B.A. Something Calipari’s been chastised for by critics who say his one and done strategy, represents the negative in college basketball. You can’t argue with his success, as the wildcats have made it to the Final Four in three of the last four seasons. Wisconsin will pose a huge threat to Calipari’s Wildcats because of their experience, camaraderie and desire to put Wisconsin on the map. Kentucky showcases explosive talent in Julius Randle and the Harrison twins. However, with Wisconsin’s sharp shooter Frank Kaminsky in the zone right now, and an offense that scores more than seventy plus points per game, the Badgers may have too much punch for the young Wildcats.