The NCAA Tournament is down to its’ final two participants and while they may be relatively low seeds, they are well-known to the college basketball world. In the first semi-final game last night, the UConn Huskies defeated the tournament’s top overall seed Florida 63-53. In the second game, Kentucky once again got a last second shot from Aaron Harrison to defeat Wisconsin 74-73.
What we have now is the largest combined total in terms of seeds for title game in the history of the NCAA Tournament. UConn is the first-ever seven seed to make the title game while the youthful Kentucky Wildcats are an eighth seed. I called Kentucky’s win over Wisconsin but missed on Florida who disappointed me but a lot of that had to do with the Huskies. Let’s see what I can come up with for Monday night.
Kentucky (-2.5) vs. UConn – They often say that freshmen are no longer freshmen by the end of a long season but let’s be real here, the Kentucky freshmen weren’t exactly ‘typical freshmen’ when they arrived in Lexington in the first place. They have certainly grown up in a short amount of time under John Calipari but now they will be tested against an experienced group of Huskies from UConn.
How the Wildcats Win…. It really is a simple formula for Big Blue heading into the title game tomorrow night; they must win the battle of the boards and they must defend the tandem of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. Sounds easy right? Not so fast my friends…
Despite hitting the game-winner, Aaron Harrison didn’t play very well and neither did his brother Andrew. They weren’t bad by any stretch but they both admitted they need to play better. Calipari was constantly screaming at them to drive to the basket last night rather than take jumpers and not surprisingly Calipari was correct.
While that worked against the Badgers, Kentucky will have to be able to knock down those jump shots because UConn is a much different animal in the paint than was Wisconsin. While the Harrison twins must up their game I still believe UK’s fate will ride on the shoulders of Julius Randle. If the Wildcats can mix some outside shooting with Randle’s inside presence then I like their chances.
How the Huskies win… Well, well, well… Let’s see. How about just give the ball to Shabazz Napier and let him take over? Easier said than done to be sure but there is some truth to it. Napier will not necessarily need to score the basketball looking for 25 points or so, but he will need to be a catalyst. Both Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels could be beneficiaries of Napier’s play-making.
Daniels became the first player to have at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in a semifinal since Carmelo Anthony in 2003. That’s pretty good company to be associated with and Daniels will need to have a similar game for UConn to win. The size that the Huskies pose in the paint also includes Amida Brimah who can block shots and pass the ball very well for a big man.
If UConn can keep Kentucky out of the paint and force them to shoot outside jumpers then I believe the Huskies will once again be the champs.
The Verdict… The coaching match-up heavily favors Calipari over Kevin Ollie who is in his first NCAA tournament as a head coach. That said, let’s not forget that Ollie’s ear will be getting a mouthful from former UConn coach Jim Calhoun. Either way, the edge is to Calipari. That said, I think the inside-outside game of UConn will be just enough. Take the Huskies getting the 2.5 points.