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Raise your hand if you have all four of the Final Four teams alive heading to Dallas this week?
Not all at once.
Prior to the tournament, if you picked Florida and Wisconsin you were probably not alone. But if you add in Kentucky and Connecticut, then you probably lose most everyone. While those two names have a rich history in college basketball and are certainly big names, the regular season was absolutely no indication of a potential Final Four run.
But it’s about peaking at the right time, and the Wildcats and Huskies find themselves with a huge opportunity.
Of the four, Florida was expected to be in this position. While Wisconsin is a No.2 seed, they were still seen as a team with plenty to prove, as head coach Bo Ryan sought his first Final Four appearance. The Badgers knocked off Arizona and cut down the nets in the West Regional and will face Kentucky for the right to play in the national championship. Florida will play UConn in the other matchup, meaning that it is possible to get a rematch of the SEC Championship (Kentucky vs. Florida) as the national title game.
It’s not a surprise that the Gators are big favorites to win the 2014 national championship according to Bovada Sportsbook. Florida is the No.1 overall seed and is one win away from making it 30-straight victories. The Gators are big, fast, physical, and deep; all attributes that make up a championship player.
At -110, a wager on Florida to win it all is actually paying out less than even money ($1.10 wins $1). Following the Gators is Kentucky, installed at +250 ($1 wins $2.50). The young Wildcats are clicking and have the potential to beat anyone. They were after all the preseason No.1 team in the country, before struggling to find an identity for much of the season. Kentucky’s Final Four opponent Wisconsin is set at +325 to win the title. That leaves UConn, a team that came from nowhere to upset Michigan State in the Elite 8, a team that was high on everyone’s list to win the title. At +700 though, the Huskies possess the longest odds, facing Florida in the national semifinal.
Coverage of the 2014 Final Four will begin this Saturday April 5. UConn and Florida will tip off first from Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, scheduled for 6:09pm ET. Kentucky and Wisconsin will begin at approximately 8:49pm ET, but could stretch further into the night depending on the first matchup.
The matchup between the Gators and the Huskies obviously favors Florida on the betting line. The Gators have been set as six-point favorites. It’s a very interesting matchup though. There isn’t a player in the country that has had a bigger impact on his team than Shabazz Napier. The UConn guard is the backbone of the team during this run, and Florida doesn’t have a player that matches up with him well. At the six-point line, the Gators will need to win by at least seven points to cover.
The second matchup has the lower-seeded team favored. Let’s not forget that Kentucky is a No.8 seed, while Wisconsin is a No.2 seed. But that hasn’t stopped oddsmakers from listing the Wildcats a two-point favorites. It’s safe to say that seeding can be thrown out the window now.
Kentucky has the all-star freshman lineup that some called the best recruiting class in the history of college basketball. But even that takes time to come together; approximately 35 games. What the freshman have now more than anything is confidence, and a belief that they can win big games in tight situations. They can expect to get a tough challenge against a resilient Wisconsin team that beat a very good Arizona squad in the Elite 8. The Badgers will present some tough mismatches for Kentucky. Wisconsin is extremely disciplined and well coached, which the Wildcat freshman will have to recognize.
The 2014 national championship game will be played two days later on Monday night, April 7. The game lines for that will be up shortly after the national semifinals are completed Saturday night. Below, LatestBettingOdds.com has the game lines that Bovada has released, which will update to the national championship once the game is set.
Final Four + National Championship Game Lines