Connecticut beat top-ranked Florida 63-53 Saturday to earn a spot in the championship game of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The Huskies will play Monday night against the winner of the Wisconsin-Kentucky game. The second Final Four game will be played at 8:50 p.m. Saturday.
Florida was the top seed for the entire tournament and held a 12-point lead midway through the first half.
Connecticut, a No. 7 seed in its region, roared back, taking a slight lead at the half and expanding the bulge early in the second half.
The championship game will be played in Arlington, Texas.
The Final Four of college basketball can be a harsh proving ground for players. The pressure is immense.
When CNN’s Rachel Nichols asked Kentucky coach John Calipari how his freshman-laden team would respond during its game Saturday night, the coach quipped: “They’re gonna go out in front of 75,000 and probably pee down their leg to start the game.”
The Final Four can make or break a coach’s career, too.
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan has never coached in a Final Four, though he’s come close several times. Connecticut coach Kevin OIlie has a chance to create his own legend; he took over the storied program in 2012 when Jim Calhoun retired.
These semifinals help answer one of the constant questions of the college game: Who will go pro? A strong performance on the big stage can boost an underclassman’s value in the NBA draft.
One player decided a while back not to turn pro. Senior Shabazz Napier of Connecticut stuck around because his mother made him promise to earn his college degree.
“She always taught me basketball is second to school,” Napier told Nichols. “And I always believed it.”
This year people are also asking if a coach, Billy Donovan of Florida, will jump to the NBA.
When Nichols asked Donovan about that, he didn’t rule it out, saying, “There is an intrigue in terms of the fact that in the NBA, I’m a basketball coach. I love basketball. I was a gym-rat player, I love being around the game, I like it all the time. Sometimes in college, you don’t get a chance to do that, you know?”
By Ralph Ellis