There will be no 1- or 2-seeds represented in Houston, as the Kentucky Wildcats have defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels to be the last team in the Final Four. After VCU had already knocked off Kansas earlier, the 4-seeded UK took care of the last 2-seed remaining 76-69 in Newark and will face the 3-seed UConn Huskies in the semifinal.
Kentucky was paced by Brandon Knight, the highly-touted freshman who already has made waves with game winners in this tournament, who had 22, 6 and 4 along with 5 big three’s that always seemed to stop a UNC run. He got help from junior wings DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller, who, in addition to their 23 combined points, played unbelievable defense on the Carolina guards that really set the tone for how John Calipari wanted the game to be played tonight. Freshmen Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb also chipped in 19.
The biggest matchup for the Heels was how John Henson and Tyler Zeller would do against Josh Harrelson and Jones down low, where they seemingly had an advantage. While Zeller delivered in full on the day (21 points and 9 boards), the wiry and dangerous Henson was in foul trouble from the get-go, only managing 23 minutes and fouling out late in the game. Zeller did his best to keep them in it by using an array of post moves and follows throughout the game.
But when the Heels were down 7 with only three to play, it was Harrison Barnes, formerly the assumed #1 pick in the draft, who brought them back to tie it. Barnes didn’t have his shot going on the whole night but stuck with it and finished with 18 tough points in what could be his final game under coach Roy Williams. Kendall Marshall and Leslie McDonald weren’t nearly as efficient as they usually are, mostly because of the swarming Wildcat defense.
But it was Kentucky’s night as a few Brandon Knight foul shots sealed the deal and booked their ticket to the Final Four against UConn. UNC stands to lose senior transfer Justin Knox and possibly juniors Henson and Zeller, who could go pro with freshman Harrison Barnes — unless he signs up for another year at Chapel Hill.
The Final Four is set. Only a week stands between now and crowning a champion.