No. 8 Kentucky (28-10) vs. No. 2 Wisconsin (30-7)
TV: 8:49 p.m. Saturday; TBS, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas.
Offense: Kentucky’s athleticism is hard to match at every position. Guard Aaron Harrison has been clutch on 3-pointers in the tournament. The Wildcats’ post players get easy baskets inside. The Badgers benefit from a proven offensive system that stresses discipline but is more adaptable this season. Wisconsin averages more points (73.5) this season than in any other under coach Bo Ryan. Edge: Kentucky.
Defense: In the tournament, the Badgers have limited opponents to 37.8 percent shooting and 56.8 points per game. Despite their size, the Wildcats will have a tough time guarding 7-footer Frank Kaminsky, who moves well and has a soft shooting touch. The (probable) loss of Kentucky 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein to injury won’t help matters. Edge: Wisconsin.
Coaching: Until this year, Ryan was one of the best coaches never to reach the Final Four. He’s well-respected, but this is John Calipari’s territory. The Kentucky coach is making his sixth trip to the Final Four, working to repeat the 2012 championship. He has been able to mold freshmen into champions before. Edge: Kentucky.
Intangibles: The Wildcats’ confidence is at a season high after proving doubters wrong by advancing as a No. 8 seed. They also are battle-tested with victories over a talented ninth-seeded Kansas State team, top-seeded Wichita State, defending tournament champion Louisville and Michigan, last season’s runner-up. Kentucky has staged comebacks in each of its tournament victories. Edge: Kentucky.
Players to watch: Kentucky: Julius Randle, 6-9, forward, freshman. With a double-double in every tournament game and 24 on the season, Randle is a near-impossible load to contain. He averages 15.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Wisconsin: Kaminsky, 7-0, forward, junior. He took over the Elite Eight game to beat top-seeded Arizona in overtime. He’s averaging 22 points in the last three tournament games.
The pick: Kentucky.
No. 7 Connecticut (30-8) vs. No. 1 Florida (36-2)
TV: 6:09 p.m. Saturday; TBS, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas.
Offense: Connecticut has averaged 76.8 points per game in the tournament, up nearly five points from the regular season. The Huskies are known for Shabazz Napier’s heart-stopping play, but they have other star power in DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright. Florida is a balanced team, averaging 71 points per game. An epic point guard showdown between Napier and Scottie Wilbekin will take center stage. Edge: Connecticut.
Defense: The Gators limit opponents to 57.6 points per game. They rank in the top 50 in rebounding percentage, while beating opponents on the boards by more than five per game. The Huskies aren’t a great rebounding team, which should create more second-chance opportunities for Florida. Edge: Florida.
Coaching: Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie, a former NBA player, is the new kid on the block. Just two years on the job as head coach, this is new territory for him. Florida coach Billy Donovan is the veteran. He won back-to-back titles with the Gators in 2006 and 2007. Edge: Florida.
Intangibles: The Gators are experienced and have leadership. They’re motivated after falling short the last two seasons in the Elite Eight and will make the most of this Final Four trip. Don’t forget Florida has some revenge on its mind as well, hoping to pay back Connecticut for its one-point loss to the Huskies in December. Edge: Florida.
Players to watch: Connecticut: Napier, 6-1, senior, point guard. He’s averaging 23.3 points in the tournament, drawing comparisons to former Huskies star Kemba Walker for his clutch shooting. Florida: Wilbekin, 6-2, senior, point guard. The SEC player of the year ranks second on the team at 13.4 points per game along with 3.7 assists per game.
The pick: Florida.
— Shannon Ryan, Chicago Tribune