March 31, 2014

Final Four notes: Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein not expected to play in Final Four

The Wildcats will again rely on freshman Marcus Lee, who had 10 points and eight rebounds against Michigan.

Kentucky’s biggest cheerleader will be on the team bench Saturday.

Sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein sat out Kentucky’s 75-72 victory over Michigan on Sunday, and coach John Calipari expects Cauley-Stein to miss the Final Four as well.

“I doubt he plays,” Calipari said in a conference call Monday. “He will be on our bench cheering like crazy.”

Cauley-Stein averaged 6.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game before injuring his left ankle in Friday’s victory over Louisville. He wore a boot on his left foot Sunday and walked with crutches.

The Wildcats again will call on Marcus Lee. The freshman played only three minutes, accumulating no stats, during Kentucky’s four games before the Elite Eight contest against Michigan.

Lee, a McDonald’s All-American, played 15 minutes against the Wolverines, with 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

Calipari even brought up Cauley-Stein’s absence when asked about his team’s frame of mind.

“They’re in a great frame of mind, but we lost Willie,” Calipari said. “Do you understand that Willie changed most games for us?”

Huskies confident

Connecticut is a seventh seed and an underdog going into Saturday’s Final Four game, but the Huskies know they can beat Florida.

The Gators’ last loss came in Storrs, Conn., on Dec. 2 as Shabazz Napier hit a fadeaway at the buzzer for a 65-64 UConn victory.

“They haven’t lost since Dec. 2,” Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie said. “They’ve been No. 1 pretty much the whole year, haven’t lost. You can say, ‘You played with those guys.’

“…We know what level we can play at. We’ll get back to that. I think you will see our guys rally around that and get back to that championship mentality in this tournament.”

The Gators, on the other hand, draw on the fact that they weren’t at full strength in the last meeting. Scottie Wilbekin, the South Regional’s Most Outstanding Player, missed the final three minutes with a high-ankle sprain. Freshman point guard Kasey Hill missed the entire game with an ankle injury.

Kaminsky a star

Wisconsin junior center Frank Kaminsky didn’t look anything like a star before this season. He averaged only 4.2 points in 10.1 minutes off the bench a year ago.

But Kaminsky arrives in Arlington as a household name — and rising NBA prospect — after averaging 18.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in NCAA Tournament games so far.

“If I said coaching, would it get me any points?” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said when asked how his star was born.

“He’s just a tough young man who really wants to be a player, who has physically and mentally matured into what he feels he’s comfortable with as far as his body and mind are concerned,” Ryan continued after laughing at his own joke. “He’s learned how to be stronger. He’s learned some nuances defensively of positioning and balance, all those things that you like to feel really every student-athlete does.”

Young aids Walker at UF

Highly touted Florida freshman Chris Walker has grown up this season. Florida coach Billy Donovan said Walker couldn’t have done it without senior Patric Young.

“Patric has spent a lot of time helping him,” Donovan said Monday. “That’s just the way Patric is as a kid. It probably has less to do with Chris Walker and much, much more to do with Patric.”

Young, a McDonald’s All-American, will play in his 150th game, starting his 107th game, for the Gators on Saturday.

TV ratings

The NCAA Tournament is drawing its highest viewership in 21 years, averaging 9.8 million total viewers, according to Nielsen Fast Nationals.

The tournament, shown across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV, is averaging a 6.2 rating and a 13 share. That’s tied with the 2013 tourney for the highest rating since 2005.

TBS will televise the Final Four for the first time Saturday night. “Teamcasts” or team-specific telecasts will air on TNT and truTV. The National Championship Game on Monday night will air on CBS for the 33rd consecutive year.

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