AP Photo

Final Four Primer: Are we headed for an SEC title game rematch?


That was fun, wasn’t it?

The tournament’s thrilling first weekend led to an exhilarating, heart-wrenching, I-have-no-more-fingernails-left second weekend which has given us a Final Four that includes a No. 7 seed and a No. 8 seed, even though those two team just so happen to have won two of the last three national titles.

We’ll be churning out preview and review content all week long, but for now, here is our Final Four primer:


  • 6:09 p.m. ET: No. 1 Florida vs. No. 7 UConn (TBS)
  • 8:49 p.m. ET: No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Kentucky (TBS)


1. Kentucky has now reached the Final Four for the third time in the past four years. And while the last two times they made it this far the Wildcats relied on veterans just as much as they did freshmen, this group starts five players that were in high school a season ago. That’s a story in and of itself, before you even touch on the fact that the Wildcats didn’t start playing like a title contender until the start of this tournament.

2. Kemba Walker quickly became one of the most popular UConn Huskies in the history of the program when he led them to the national title in 2011. Shabazz Napier, who started along side Kemba during that tournament run, is looking to do the same for the Huskies this season, a year after the program was more or less left for dead.

MORE: Kevin Ollie’s revival of UConn | Michigan State’s trying season ends | Aaron Harrison tho

3. Billy Donovan has won two national titles in his career. He’s two wins away from his third.

4. Bo Ryan and his father, Butch, were incredibly tight. They made an annual tradition of going to the Final Four as fans because Bo had never gotten there as a coach. He made his first Final Four this season. His father passed away in August.


  • 1. Shabazz Napier (East Region): 23.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.5 apg, 2.0 spg, 14-31 3’s, 25-27 FTs
  • 2. Aaron Harrison (Midwest Region): 16.0 ppg, game-winners in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8.
  • 3. Frank Kaminsky (West Region): 19.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 66 points in his last three games
  • 4. Scottie Wilbekin (South Region): 16.8 ppg, 3.0 apg, 9-24 3’s


1. Florida: The Gators entered the tournament as the No. 1 team in the country and the No. 1 overall seed, and they’ve rolled through their first four games without really being tested. They can lock up defensively and they have Scottie Wilbekin for crunch time. They have to be considered the favorite until they lose.

2. Kentucky: To be frank, I toyed with the idea of putting Kentucky at No. 1 on this list. That’s how well they’re playing right now, and there isn’t even an assurance that Willie Cauley-Stein will be available. There is a reason that we all had this team at No. 1 in the country in the preseason, and they’re finally playing like it.

RELATED: All of our coverage from the NCAA tournament’s second weekend

3. Wisconsin: We didn’t think that the Badgers would be able to get past Arizona, but they did thanks almost entirely to the play of Frank Kaminsky, who now holds the title of the most difficult matchup left in the tournament. Will the Wildcats find a way to slow him down?

4. UConn: The run that the Huskies have made to the national title game just doesn’t make all that much sense when you think about it. Shabazz Napier has been outstanding all season long, but Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels were pillars of inconsistency. The last two weeks, however, they’ve been terrific.

AND WHO WILL BE CUTTING DOWN THE NETS IN NORTH TEXAS?: Florida. Right about now I’m really regretting ignoring the fact that they have been the best team in the country for the past two months.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Syracuse wins, Miami loses, Valentine is nation’s best?

Leave a comment

(This will be updated throughout the day.)

GAME OF THE DAY: Syracuse 74, No. 25 Texas A&M 67

The Orange got 20 points from Michael Gbinije and 15 points and five assists from Trevor Cooney as they won the Battle 4 Atlantis title on Friday afternoon. We wrote on this game earlier. Are the Orange for real this year?


Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: 32 points, nine boards, six assists

No. 3 Michigan State beat Boise State 77-67 in the semifinals of the Wooden Legacy out in California, but the result of that game is less important than the result of Valentine’s night. A night after notching his second triple-double of the season, Valentine took over another way on Friday, hitting five straight threes in the span of about five minutes to put the Spartans up double-figures in a game they were struggling to take control of.

In three games against high-major competition, Valentine is now averaging 30.0 points, 10.7 boards and 9.3 assists. He has been, unequivocally, the best player in college basketball this season.

No. 10 Gonzaga 73, No. 17 UConn 70: Eric McClellan and Kyle Dranginis made some big plays down the stretch as the Bulldogs held on to win a game they led by as much as 21 in the second half. Kyle Wiltjer scored a team-best 17 points for Gonzaga, which finished third at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Rob Dauster wrote more about the Bulldogs and their second-half performance here.

Alabama 64, No. 20 Wichita State 60: Not only did the Shockers drop their second straight at the AdvoCare Invitational, but they also saw Anton Grady leave the game on a stretcher after being involved in a scary second-half collision. He was awake and alert shortly after leaving the court. While the Shockers’ losses to USC and Alabama don’t help them from an NCAA tournament standpoint, the bigger issue is the team’s health.


Quincy Ford, Northeastern: Not only did he score 24 points in the upset win over No. 15 Miami, but he hit the game-winning jumper, too. Video here.


Wichita State’s bigs: Five of them (Anton Grady, Zach Brown, Rashard Kelly, Bush Wakumota, Eric Hamilton) finished a combined 3-for-21 from the floor with 14 points and 14 fouls. Wakumota shot one of the worst threes you’ll ever see with Wichita State down 62-60 with 10 seconds left.

Grady suffered a scary neck injury late in the game, but early reports sound positive.


  • Jamal Murray went for 21 points and three assists without a turnover at No. 1 Kentucky rolled over South Florida. The big question: How bad is Tyler Ulis’ elbow injury?
  • Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart both had 13 points as No. 8 Villanova knocked off Georgia Tech to win the Preseason NIT, 69-52.
  • No. 23 Xavier raced out of the gates against USC and led by as much as 32, going on to win 87-77 in Orlando. Trevon Bluiett led four Musketeers in double figures with 16 points and James Farr added 12 to go along with nine rebounds off the bench.


  • Stanford finished third at the Preseason NIT with a 69-66 win over Arkansas, closing the game on a stunning 21-1 run. Rosco Allen scored eight of his career-high 25 points during that run, and Marcus Allen’s goal-tended layup with 2.6 seconds remaining gave the Cardinal the lead for good.

Good luck Goodluck: UNLV’s Okonoboh to transfer

Goodluck Okonoboh
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
Leave a comment

UNLV sophomore Goodluck Okonoboh is transferring out of the program, a source told NBCSports.com.

The 6-foot-10 center was the No. 31 recruit in the Class of 2014, but he never was able to find a place in the UNLV rotation. He averaged 2.9 blocks as a freshman, but is a career 34 percent free throw shooter that never proved he could be more than just an athlete.

With Ben Carter getting eligible and UNLV landing Stephen Zimmerman this season, Okonoboh’s minutes dried up. He played just 19 minutes total against UCLA and Indiana.