Remarkable, but the NCAA tournament tops itself almost every year. This version of March Madness produced countless dramatic finishes, upsets, surprises and heroes. Only a quartet of teams remaimn standing, a Final Four in Texas that has the makings for something special.
Here’s how No 1. Florida, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Connecticut advanced to the biggest weekend of A NCAA basketball season, where the Gators will face surprising UConn, and UK, with five freshmen starters, will take on the deliberate Badgers:
* Kentucky outlasted Michigan, 75-72, on Aaron Harrison’s 25-foot three-point shot with 2.6 seconds remaining. It was a thrilling game that put the Wildcats in rarified air: The Wildcats are the first set of five freshmen starters to advance to the Final Four since Michigan’s renown “Fab Five” in 1992. Also, Kentucky is the first team in NCAA Tournament history to defeat both participants of the previous year’s championship game (Michigan and Louisville).
* Shabazz Napier of Connecticut was dazzling in leading UConn to a 60-54 victory over Michigan State, the team picked by many to win the title. Napier scored 17 of his 25 points in the final 20 minutes. His three free throws with 37.6 seconds left were typical of the clutch play he exhibited. And so, the Huskies came back from nine down in the second half to make it to next week against Florida.
* Florida was too big, too strong, too talented and too determined to allow Dayton to derail the Gators’ championship aspirations. Florida won 62-52, and the outcome never really was in doubt. Florida controlled the pace of the game and limited Dayton’s transition opportunities. The Flyers had been running and gunning in their three previous tournament wins, but scored just eight transition points on Saturday thanks to Florida’s full-court pressure defense.
* Wisconsin’s tough defense and deliberate pace were key factors in the Badgers advancing past No. 1-seed Arizona, 64-63, in overtime. Center Frank Kaminsky had 28 points, six in OT, and 11 rebounds and scored from inside and outside, including three 3-pointers, for the No. 2 seed Badgers (30-7). It’s Wisconsin’s first Final Four appearance since 2000, and first for 66-year-old coach Bo Ryan, who earned his 704th career victory.