TIME College Basketball

Duke Dismisses Junior Guard Rasheed Sulaimon

Rasheed Sulaimon of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates against the Louisville Cardinals in the first half of the game at KFC Yum! Center on Jan. 17, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Rasheed Sulaimon of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates against the Louisville Cardinals in the first half of the game at KFC Yum! Center on Jan. 17, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky. Joe Robbins—Getty Images

He's in good academic standing and expected to finish the spring semester

Duke has dismissed guard Rasheed Sulaimon, the school announced on Thursday.

Over 20 games this season, Sulaimon has averaged 7.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists. The junior was shooting 41.3 percent from the field and 40.4 percent from three-point range.

His playing time has decreased since his freshman season, from 29.2 minutes per game to 19.3. Sulaimon had scored only seven points on 2-of-9 shooting combined over Duke’s last two games.

“Rasheed has been unable to consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a news release. “It is a privilege to represent Duke University and with that privilege comes the responsibility to conduct oneself in a certain manner. After Rasheed repeatedly struggled to meet the necessary obligations, it became apparent that it was time to dismiss him from the program.”

The release notes that Sulaimon is in good academic standing, and is expected to finish the spring semester.

The No. 4 Blue Devils lost at No. 8 Notre Dame on Wednesday and will face No. 2 Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME College Basketball

Duke Basketball Coach Is First to Get 1,000 Wins

Duke v St John's
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates with teamates after his 1000th career win after the game against the St. John's Red Storm at Madison Square Garden on January 25, 2015 in New York City. Nate Shron—Getty Images

A big day for Mike Krzyzewski

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski became the first NCAA Division I men’s coach to reach 1,000 career wins on Sunday when the Blue Devils defeated St. John’s 77-68 at Madison Square Garden.

Duke surged to an early lead before falling behind by as many as 10 points with 10:51 remaining in the game, but the Blue Devils rallied, closing out the game on a 28-9 run. The Blue Devils finished behind 22 points from Tyus Jones and 17 from star forward Jahlil Okafor. Sir’Dominic Pointer poured in 21 points and nine rebounds for the Red Storm.

Krzyzewski credited the shift in the game to the play of Marshall Plumlee.

“It was tough to get involved with 1,000,” Krzyzewski said. “I was just trying to survive this game.”

“Outside of Cameron, this is the best, because it’s revered,” he said of reaching the milestone in Madison Square Garden. “This is the palace. This is the best place. For a long time today I didn’t think it would end up with a win.”

Had St. John’s held on to the lead down the stretch, one play late in the first half might have made a history-altering difference.

With seconds remaining in the first half, St. John’s guard D’Angelo Harrisoncaught a pass from Rysheed Jordan and made a three-point attempt after the shot clock expired.

As several commentators noted, the made shot was ruled good and officials did not review the replay despite it taking place after the shot clock expired.

Rule 11, Section 2, Article 1, Subsection E of the NCAA rule book states that replay equipment may be used:

In the last two minutes of the second period and overtime(s), to determine the following: 1. Whether a shot clock violation occurred. 2. Which team caused the ball to go out of bounds when there is a deflection involving two or more players.

The shot ended up not mattering, and Krzyzewski reached 1,000 victories on the same court where he surpassed his mentor, former Indiana coach Bobby Knight, in the career wins column.

Duke will play Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., on Wednesday.

 

TIME Sports

How the NBA’s Age Limit Helps Colleges But Hurts Players

Kentucky v Louisville
Terry Rozier #0 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at KFC YUM! Center on December 27, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. Andy Lyons—Getty Images

David Berri is a professor of economics at Southern Utah University.

The Kentucky Wildcat's recruiting system, in which team members play for only a year, disproportionately benefits the school and coach

With Saturday’s victory over in-state rival Louisville, some observers now expect the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team to finish the season undefeated. Although it is probably too early to make this prediction, it is not too early to think Kentucky has a very good basketball team.

Under coach John Calipari, this is hardly an unusual result. Kentucky won 80.4% of their games in Calipari’s first five seasons (2009-10 to 2013-14). Not since the first five years of Adolph Rupp’s career (1930-31 to 1934-35) has a Kentucky coach had this much success in his first five years with the Wildcats.

As is probably true for most college coaches, a big part of Calipari’s success is recruiting. And Calipari’s recruiting is probably unique in the history of college basketball. Calipari doesn’t just recruit talented players. He has a tendency to recruit players who play only a single season for the coach.

The 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement in the NBA, imposed an age limit on players entering the draft. Beginning with the 2006 NBA draft, players had be 19 years of age (and a year out of high school) before being eligible to be selected. This limit meant that players — like Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James — would no longer enter the NBA straight from high school. Now a player had to play at least one year of college first.

This restriction has created a class of players called the one-and-done. And no coach has employed more of these than Calipari. At the University of Memphis, Calipari had three one-and-done players (Shawnee Williams, Derrick Rose, and Tyreke Evans). When he moved on to Kentucky in 2009, the one-and-done player became a staple of his squads. Of the 43 one-and-done players drafted from 2010 to 2014, 13 of these were recruited by Calipari at Kentucky.

And these one-and-done players have been crucial to Calipari’s success. We can translate the standard box score statistics tracked for players into a measure of how many wins a player produces for his college team (the method is essentially the same as what has been done for the NBA). When we look at the productivity of the one-and-done players at Kentucky, we see that these players have produced 63.7 wins for Calipari. This represents more than 40% of the team’s wins in Calipari’s first five seasons.

The impact of these players is not just seen on the court. Kentucky basketball also generates substantial revenue for the university. According to the Department of Education, men’s basketball at Kentucky generated $16.7 million in revenue the year before John Calipari arrived. Across the next four seasons, revenue increased each year, with the team earning $23.7 million in revenue in 2012-13 (the last year data is reported).

Professional sports leagues in North America – like Major League Baseball and the National Football League — pay about 50% of their revenue to their players (a similar story is told in the NBA and the NHL). If we argue that:

  • Kentucky’s players — like professional basketball players — are worth at least 50% of the team’s revenue (and revenues did not change in 2013-14),
  • and revenue should be allocated in terms of the percentage of the team’s wins produced by each individual player,

then – as the following table indicates — the one-and-done players employed by Calipari from 2010 to 2014 were worth about $21.6 million in revenue.

One-and-Done Players Draft Year

Wins Produced

Revenue

Julius Randle

2014

6.5

$2,684,963

James Young

2014

2.8

$1,170,337

Nerlens Noel

2013

6.3

$3,172,657

Archie Goodwin

2013

1.7

$878,342

Anthony Davis

2012

13.0

$3,958,875

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

2012

6.2

$1,898,307

Marquis Teague

2012

3.7

$1,139,709

Brandon Knight

2011

3.4

$1,209,335

John Wall

2010

7.4

$2,032,291

DeMarcus Cousins

2010

7.3

$2,008,489

Eric Bledsoe

2010

3.2

$873,421

Daniel Orton

2010

2.2

$605,194

TOTALS

63.7

$21,631,920

Each of these players received a one-year scholarship to the University of Kentucky. The cost of attending Kentucky – of a non-resident – is estimated to be less than $35,000. So clearly these players are receiving far less from the school than they would if they played in a typical professional sports league. Furthermore, that comparison tends to overstate the benefits the players are receiving. Although a college education (relative to a high school diploma) increases median earnings by 70.2%, just having some college only increases earnings by about 11.7%. In other words, one year of college is really not quite as valuable as the entire college education promised the student-athlete.

One could argue that these players could have chosen to just stay in school and complete their education. There is, though, a problem with this strategy. Published research indicates the longer a player stays in school, the later he will be selected in the NBA draft. In addition, a player will also be selected later if he scores less. And a player will score less if he returns and loses the competition for shot attempts with the next freshman class. For example, Terrence Jones, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Alex Poythress were all highly touted recruits who did not turn pro after one season. All three saw their shot attempts per game in their sophomore year decline relative to their freshman season.

Calipari has brought in an average of four top-40 recruits each season he has been at Kentucky. If one of these top recruits decides to stay, he knows he will face serious competition the next year. And so these players have an incentive to leave for the NBA draft as quickly as they are able. All of this means that Calipari is recruiting players who have a tendency to be one-and-done.

This system clearly benefits Kentucky. And with Calipari earning more than $5 million per season, he clearly benefits from this system as well. But it is also seems clear the players are being exploited (i.e., paid a wage that is less than the revenue the workers generate).

Calipari’s solution for the one-and-done issue is to have the NBA raise the age limit. This would then require these recruits to give Calipari two years of labor before entering the draft. Although this would replace the one-and-done player with the two-and-done player, this solution only appears to benefit Calipari and his employer. It is hard to see how having a player be exploited for an additional season leaves the player better off.

Two other solutions would seem to benefit the players. First, we could establish a free market for college athletes. Such a market would certainly increase the wages paid to these athletes. If that doesn’t happen, the NBA could return to the labor market where high school players were allowed to enter the NBA draft. If that happened, one suspects that some of the players who produced wins for Calipari would skip college basketball and go straight to the NBA.

Until that happens, look for Calipari to continue to stockpile top recruits at Kentucky. We should expect those top recruits to produce a significant number of wins for the coach. For example, after just 13 games this season, Calipari’s 2014 freshman class — Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyler Ulis, Trey Lyles, and Devin Booker — have combined to produce 41.4% of the team’s wins. If Kentucky does finish undefeated, this quartet will be a big reason for this outcome. But don’t look for them to stay and keep winning for the Wildcats. Another batch of recruits is sure to be coming. And that means the players who are currently producing wins for Kentucky and Calipari might want to skip on the promised education and consider finding a better paying employer.

David Berri is a professor of economics at Southern Utah University. He is the lead author of The Wages of Winsand Stumbling on Wins and continues to serve on the editorial board of bothJournal of Sports Economics and theInternational Journal of Sport Finance.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Basketball

Derrick Gordon Opens Up About Troubled Family History

Massachusetts guard Derrick Gordon playing against Ohio in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Athens, Ohio on Dec. 18, 2013.
Massachusetts guard Derrick Gordon playing against Ohio in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Athens, Ohio on Dec. 18, 2013. Ty Wright—AP

The first openly gay Division I men's basketball player describes coming out to his family and his twin brother Darryl's jail time

University of Massachusetts basketball player Derrick Gordon, the first openly gay man to play Division I basketball, opened up about coming out to his family and his twin brother Darryl’s jail time in an Sports Illustrated profile.

Darryl was recently released from prison after a five-year sentence for shooting a man several times after an altercation, SI reports. “There was nothing that anyone could have said. My parents tried everything they could think of to help me. But I wasn’t listening to anyone,” Darryl told the magazine. “No one other than me could have stopped what happened.”

Derrick came out to his family while his brother was in prison — and eventually came out publicly, becoming the first college basketball star to do so.

You can read the full profile at SI.com.

TIME College Basketball

UMass Guard Derrick Gordon Comes Out As Gay

UMass guard Derrick Gordon dribbles the ball during a game against the Fordham Rams at the Mullin Center in Amherst, Mass., Jan. 26, 2014.
UMass guard Derrick Gordon dribbles the ball during a game against the Fordham Rams at the Mullin Center in Amherst, Mass., Jan. 26, 2014. Eric Canha—Cal Sport Media/AP

Sophomore starter Derrick Gordon on Wednesday became the first player in the NCAA's Division I Men's Basketball league to come out as gay. 'It's like this huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders,' Gordon told ESPN after revealing his orientation

Derrick Gordon, a sophomore starter on the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team, revealed that he was gay in an interview with ESPN on Wednesday, becoming the first openly gay Division I men’s basketball player in the NCAA.

“I just didn’t want to hide anymore, in any way,” Gordon said. “I didn’t want to have to lie or sneak. I’ve been waiting and watching for the last few months, wondering when a Division I player would come out, and finally I just said, ‘Why not me?'” Gordon said he came out to his teammates on April 2, shortly after his team lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Tennessee on March 21.

Teammates met Gordon’s announcement with support and understanding, and the 6’3″ player says he can now be himself. “Before, I usually just kept to myself because I didn’t want to lie or be fake,” Gordon said. “But not anymore. I feel so good right now. It’s like this huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”

“From speaking with Derrick, I realized the pressure he had, the weight that was on his shoulders,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “You can already see in his demeanor that he is so much happier. I actually think this is something that brings our team closer together and helps Derrick play more freely.”

Gordon tweeted shortly after the news broke:

Gordon said he was inspired to publicly come out by veteran NBA player Jason Collins, who came out as gay in Sports Illustrated in April 2013. He signed a contract with the Brooklyn Nets in February, making him the first openly gay NBA player. “That was so important to me, knowing that sexuality didn’t matter, that the NBA was OK with it,” Gordon said.

Collins also took to Twitter to support Gordon on Wednesday:

The University of Massachusetts also voiced support for the student athlete, who averaged 9.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game this season. “UMass is proud to have Derrick Gordon as a member of our athletic family and to honor his courage and openness as a gay student-athlete,” athletic director John McCutcheon said in a written statement. “UMass is committed to creating a welcoming climate where every student-athlete, coach and staff member can be true to themselves as they pursue their athletic, academic and professional goals.”

[ESPN]

TIME Business of Sports

Sports TV Broadcasting Hits New Highs … in Annoying Fans

171174350
Jetta Productions—Getty Images

Lately, many sports fans who have tried to watch the Winter Olympics, or NCAA Final Four basketball, or the Atlanta Braves, or the Los Angeles Dodgers have been frustrated for a very basic reason.

They can’t find the !?#&*!? sporting event on TV.

On Saturday night, countless college basketball fans tuned in to CBS, hoping to watch the men’s Final Four March Madness tournament matchups of Wisconsin-vs.-Kentucky and Florida-vs.-Connecticut. Instead of basketball, viewers were treated to reruns of CBS dramas “Person of Interest” and “Criminal Minds.”

After some confusion, and perhaps some cursing and throwing of remotes, shoes, and cheese dip, previously unaware viewers discovered that for the first time since March Madness has been televised, the national semifinals weren’t shown on network TV. The back-to-back games, played on what’s often thought of the best night of the year for college basketball, were only broadcast on cable. On several cable channels, in fact, thanks to a curious arrangement with Turner Sports, in which TBS hosted the main broadcast, and sister channels TNT and TruTV showed the same game but with different local play-by-play announcers to cater to each team’s fan base.

In any event, the games weren’t on network TV. That was enough to ruin the night for cord cutters, i.e., folks who don’t have pay TV, who have also missed out on the tournament’s many other games shown only on TBS, TNT, or TruTV rather than CBS.

(MORE: Why Las Vegas Loves March Madness Way More Than the Super Bowl)

The arrangement did more than alienate the fairly sizeable portion of fans too cheap to have a pay TV package. Despite an onslaught of coverage telling folks that they games were on cable for the first time ever— according to Adweek, the campaign included digital billboards in subways, ads shown before films in theaters, promos on radio and TV, and a takeover of USAToday.com’s home page—the move to cable did some serious damage to TV ratings as well. Yes, when combined the trio of Turner Sports channels achieved a record high number of viewers for a non-football sporting event on cable, but the shift away from network broadcast also resulted in a multi-year low in ratings overall. The Associated Press reported that an average of 14 million viewers watched the games on Saturday night, down 11% from a year ago when they were shown on CBS. (TBS is in 14% fewer American homes than CBS.)

There’s no mystery as to why any of the parties involved would risk aggravating fans by showing the games on cable rather than CBS: Like so many things, it’s all about money.

CBS and Turner Sports are a few years into a 14-year, $10.8 billion partnership with the NCAA to air the March Madness tournament. One reason that TBS and its siblings agreed to the deal—thereby helping CBS from losing the tournament to ESPN and ABC—is that they were guaranteed the right to air some of the tournament’s premier high-ratings games, rather than just the earlier rounds.

More importantly, these networks, and the powers than be in general in sports and TV, are well aware that live sports is the largest reason many Americans continue to cut a check for a monthly pay TV bill. Time Warner, which owns TBS, TNT, TruTV, CNN, and many other cable networks (and, for a little while longer, Time Inc. and Time.com), obviously has great interest in keeping levels of cable-paying households high. They want cord cutting to hurt, or at least be difficult and impractical for sports fans to circumvent, and moving the Final Four to cable does just that.

(MORE: YouTube Is Going to Use TV to Destroy TV)

The Final Four broadcast is hardly the only example of how larger battles over money and TV rights are frustrating the lives and viewing habits of sports fans—perhaps turning some into former fans in the process. Four years ago, NBC Universal angered hockey fans and the hockey world in general by its decision to air some premier Olympic hockey games on cable rather than the main network. Likewise, fans were only able to view many events from the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi by watching them on cable (or streaming them online, only possible with a pay TV account). Of course, Comcast, the biggest player in pay TV, owns NBC Universal, so it makes a lot of sense to strategically broadcast in-demand sporting events in ways that push people to feel the monthly cable bill is still unavoidable, if not exactly well worth the money.

At 162 regular season games plus playoffs, Major League Baseball plays the most games of any pro sport, and therefore it has the most games aired on TV. But thanks to a trend kicked off largely by the advent of the Yankees-focused YES Network more than ten years ago, fans are increasingly likely to be forced to jump through hoops, or at least cough up extra cash, in order to tune in. For instance, an ongoing dispute between Fox Sports and Dish TV in Atlanta will result in some Braves fans being unable to watch nearly one-third of the team’s games this season.

Over in southern California, a huge brawl over Los Angeles Dodgers broadcasts pits the Dodgers-owed SportsNET LA network and its distributor, Time Warner Cable, on one side, and on the other, a range of pay TV providers such as Cox, Charter, and DirecTV, which so far are refusing to pay the high fees being demanded to include the channel in customer packages. Caught in the middle, of course, are the many fans who use other TV providers, and who often don’t live in areas where they could get SportsNET LA even if they wanted to pay for it.

(MORE: Hank Aaron Would Have Faced More Racism Today)

The result is an absurd scenario epitomized by a recent column from the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke, who on Dodgers opening day hit a handful of bars, as well as a taco shop, bowling alley, and a Burger King, trying—and failing—to find the game on TV. The deal the Dodgers cut for the rights to broadcast games is incredibly lucrative for the club. But as Plaschke warned the Dodgers, the money may come at the cost of quite a few fans. “Dodgers, ask your fans if they are willing to sacrifice watching the games on television for the sake of having the league’s richest team,” he wrote. “They would say no.”

Plaschke ran into one sports bar patron, who noted the irony of seeing Dodgers jerseys posted to the tavern’s wall and yet “they can’t even get the games,” he said. “At least everyone can still watch the Angels.”

For the time being anyway.

TIME FInal Four

The Shabazz Show Wins Title for UConn

Connecticut celebrates with the championship trophy after beating Kentucky 60-54 at the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game on April 7, 2014, in Arlington, Texas.
Connecticut celebrates with the championship trophy after beating Kentucky 60-54 at the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game on April 7, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. David J. Phillip—AP

Senior shooting guard Shabazz Napier's 22 points helped lift the seventh-seeded Connecticut Huskies to a 60-54 victory over the eighth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats, bringing the team its fourth national championship since 1999

Thousands of basketball-obsessed kids, in schoolyards and backyards and barnyards around the country, may be trying a new kind of shot come Tuesday morning. It’s a deep one, and comes with a kick, literally: release, and kick your right foot out, like you’re also whacking an invisible soccer ball. Call it the Shabazz Shot. It just won UConn a national championship.

Shabazz Napier, the UConn senior shooting guard, scored 22 points, and hit four key three pointers — most with that signature kick — to lead the seventh-seeded Huskies to a 60-54 victory over eighth-seeded Kentucky in Monday night’s NCAA title game. His backcourt mate, junior Ryan Boatright, also had a fabulous game, shooting 5 for 6 from the field and finishing with 14 points. Napier and Boatright outscored Kentucky’s backcourt, twin freshman Aaron and Andrew Harrison, 36-15.

Just as important, Napier and Boatright used their size disadvantage to their advantage. The Harrison brothers are both 6-ft, 6-in. Napier is 6-ft, 1-in., and Boatright is listed at a generous 6-ft. Big guys don’t like being pestered by smaller, quicker players. UConn’s Kevin Ollie, a national champ in his first NCAA tournament as head coach, scripted a smart game plan: unleash the quickness of Napier and Boatright on Kentucky’s taller guards. The Harrisons turned the ball over 7 times. Both Napier and Boatright finished with three steals.

The game wasn’t a classic. But it was a chess match. In the first half, when Kentucky clearly couldn’t stop the quickness of UConn’s backcourt, Wildcats coach John Calipari switched to a zone. The move stalled UConn, which dominated Kentucky in the first half, but only had a 35-31 lead at halftime. Calipari admitted his team should have been down 20 points. The play got a bit sloppier in the second half: combined, both teams turned the ball over 23 times. Ollie made his moves in the second-half: almost all game, his team played man-to-man, but when he threw in the occasional zone, Kentucky got flustered. Kentucky’s James Young kept slithering into the lane, keeping the Wildcats in the game almost by himself. The freshman—all five of Kentucky’s starters are freshmen—finished with 20 points.

The game was also decided at the foul line: Connecticut, money from the line all tournament, shot a perfect 10-for-10. Kentucky missed nine shots, finishing 13-24. Calipari screwed up in the final minute, ordering a foul with 54 seconds left, with Kentucky down 58-54. All that did was give UConn a fresh 35-second shot clock, enabling the Huskies to run the time down the rest of the game.

No matter: the game was still the Shabazz show. Napier, who hails from Roxbury, Mass., returned to UConn this season instead of entering the NBA draft, and is on track to graduate with a sociology degree. He’s developed a social conscience: after telling reporters that he sometimes goes to bed hungry because his scholarship does not cover the full cost of attending college, Connecticut lawmakers started chirping about allowing UConn athletes to unionize. A bit of political pandering by the statehouse reps? Maybe. But at least he started a discussion. And after the game, Napier grabbed the CBS mike to deliver a message to the NCAA. “I want to get everybody’s attention right quick,” Napier told a national television audience. “Ladies and gentlemen, you’re looking at the hungry Huskies. This is what happens when you ban us last year.” The NCAA kept UConn out of last year’s tournament because of poor academic performance by prior players. Napier used the national championship platform to publicly express his disgust with that policy.

You may not agree with Napier. But it’s still refreshing to see college athletes like him lifting their voices. And their feet. Start kicking, kids.

TIME NCAA Tournament

March Sadness: One Shining Moment Fades Away

Every year, only one team in the NCAA Tournament can walk away with the National Championship, leaving 67 losing squads in its wake. See the pain of a season-ending loss

TIME NCAA Tournament

Moments of Madness: Weird Photos From the NCAA Tournament

College basketball's chaotic tournament produces some strange moments. These are 10 of the best

TIME College Basketball

4 Things to Know About The Final Four

Marcus Lee of the Kentucky Wildcats shoots the ball against the Michigan Wolverines during the midwest regional final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 30, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana Andy Lyons—Reuters

The last chapters of the 2014 NCAA Tournament promise more madness than all of March after Kentucky's win over Michigan on Sunday night

It’s the homestretch of March Madness, with the Final Four finally set after Kentucky’s thrilling win over Michigan on Sunday night. The last rounds of the Big Dance start Saturday at AT&T Stadium—yes, the $1 billion spaceship Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones built that has no business hosting a basketball game, save for the gazillions in cash all those extra seats bring in.

When looking at the teams left standing, what first pops out is the seeding. A No. 1 seed (Florida) and a No. 2 seed (Wisconsin) made it out out of the South and West regions, respectively. But two lower-seeded teams made it to Texas, too: a seventh-seed out of the East, and a No. 8 seed out of the Midwest. But those two teams, UConn and Kentucky, aren’t exactly Cinderellas. Not when they’ve won two of the last three national championships (UConn took the title in 2011, and Kentucky won it all in 2012).

No Butlers, no VCUs, no George Masons, no Wichita States this season: In 2014, the Final Four belongs to basketball royalty. Except for Wisconsin, really. The Badgers last made the Final Four in 2000, and despite its 1941 national basketball championship, Wisconsin is still primarily known as a football school. But that can all change this year. The Badgers, who face Kentucky in one national semifinal game, are deep, fast, and for the first time in forever, actually kind of fun to watch. If we’re making predictions—and why not?—we see Wisconsin cutting down the nets next Monday night. As you prepare to make your own Final Four calls, here are four things worth considering.

Gators Chomping

Florida, which won back-t0-back national titles under coach Billy Donovan in 2006-2007, has won 30 straight games going into this year’s Final Four. That’s a remarkable streak, given that Florida doesn’t seem to have NBA-ready players like Joakim Noah, Al Horford, and Corey Brewer—standouts on those title teams—on this year’s roster. However, Florida plays an inside-out style that’s given teams fits all year. Inside, senior Patric Young, a 6’9″, 240 pound center, makes clever moves around the hoop with both hands. On defense, he finished third in the SEC in block percentage, and swatted away four shots against Dayton in Saturday’s regional final. Outside, senior Scottie Wilbekin was the SEC Player of the Year, and few players in college hoops are more creative off the dribble.

The last time Florida lost was on Dec. 2, to UConn, who the Gators will face in the other national semifinal.

The Shabazz Show

If there’s one team in the this year’s Final Four that represents that chaos of college sports, it’s UConn. The Huskies play in the American Athletic Conference, which in the first year of its existence is sending a team to the Final Four. Pretty heady stuff for a rookie league. The AAC was born after the basketball-centric schools from the old Big East, in which UConn used to play, decided to form their own conference, which is still called the Big East. The AAC has a football, and basketball, imprint that will weaken next year, when Louisville flees to the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Rutgers decamps to the Big Ten.

Whatever: What’s important here is that UConn beat Michigan St. at Madison Square Garden on Sunday in what was essentially a home game. For years, UConn fans flocked to New York to support the Huskies in the Big East tournament, and the UConn fans gave the building a similar electricity on Sunday. So a team no longer in the Big East is going to the Final Four, in part because it was playing in the friendly confines of its former conference.

UConn is also coming off of academic probation. The Huskies were ineligible for the 2013 tournament because of poor academic performance. Meanwhile, the University of Central Florida released a report last week, detailing the Graduation Success Rates (GSR) of the Sweet 16 hoops teams. UConn’s graduation rate: eight percent. So how in the world is a school with an eight percent graduation rate coming off of academic probation? Because the NCAA has designed another metric, the Academic Progress Rate (APR), which measures whether current students are remaining academically eligible. So while a past cohort of UConn students failed to graduate at alarming rates, the current UConn students are maintaining sufficient enough grades to compete, according to the NCAA. But are these UConn players actually going to graduate? Is the APR a true measure of academic achievement?

Such debates, often involving mind-numbing acronyms like APR and GSR and AAC, always lurk in the shadows of college sports. For Final Four purposes, however, just know this about UConn: The team’s leading scorer, Shabazz Napier, has an uncanny ability to make shots with defenders draped all over him. Back in 2011, another UConn scorer, Kemba Walker—who now plays for the Charlotte Bobcats—carried the Huskies to a championship. Napier, who was a freshman on that title-winning team, seems to be having his Kemba Walker moment. That’s pretty terrible news for Florida.

The One-and-Doners Do It Again

Kentucky starts five freshmen. Of the three players who came off the bench during the Wildcats’ thrilling 75-72 win over Michigan in the Midwest regional final, two were freshmen. The other was a sophomore. Kentucky coach John Calipari, as he seems to do every year, assembled what’s called one of the greatest recruiting classes in college basketball history. In 2012, led by future NBA standout Anthony Davis, the Wildcats won the whole thing. Then poof, everyone went pro. This crop of freshman didn’t gel during the regular season—thus, Kentucky’s 8-seed. But the Wildcats peaked when they had to. Now, Calipari can test his one-and-done formula at another Final Four. Calipari’s sales pitch is simple: Come to Kentucky for a year, play with some fellow future NBA players, maybe win some games, and, most importantly, move on to the pros as quickly as possible. Million-dollar contracts, not diplomas, dominate the discussion.

To many moralists, Calipari’s act is despicable. But all he’s done is play the system. The NBA set the age-limit rule, disallowing players to jump straight to the pros, like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant had done in the past. Calipari has a history of mass-producing NBA players, assembling like-minded stars for their temporary campus stay, and melding them into a competitive team. If you’re a Julius Randle, the NBA-bound Kentucky forward, why not spend your only college season at the Final Four? It’s the Calipari way. Coach K wins the gold medals. But his one-and-done star, Jabari Parker, won’t be in Dallas. Duke couldn’t hang with Mercer.

Badgers Have Bite

Kentucky won’t roll over Wisconsin. Under coach Bo Ryan, the Badgers have always had a reputation for being one of those tough, grind-it-out Big Ten teams that will always finish high in the polls. But they just aren’t dynamic enough to win the whole thing. In other words, they’re kinda boring. No more: Wisconsin is one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country, and the Badgers can pick up the pace. Against Kentucky, Wisconsin may try to slow things down a bit. Racing future first-round picks up and down the floor probably isn’t wise.

And if things go wrong for the Badgers, Ryan will scowl. You can do worse things on a Saturday night than watch Bo Ryan scowl.

This Final Four just has the right vibe. Now, let’s hope it lives up to expectations.

Another zany prediction: It will.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser