A journey that began with 68 teams all fighting for a shot at the national championship, after three weeks and many games later has dwindled down to only two. This Monday night two teams will battle to establish collegiate supremacy and make their dreams of capturing a national title a reality. The #7 seed UCONN Huskies will go head to head against the young #8 seed University of Kentucky Wildcats in a matchup that not many had anticipated in the beginning of the tournament. It’s hard to believe that a year ago neither of these teams even qualified to play in the NCAA tournament. Now these two teams will face off putting everything on the line to walk away victorious.
UCONN led by standout senior guard Shabazz Napier who can easily be considered the most outstanding individual player of the tournament averaging 23.3 points per game has been clutch for the Huskies in huge moments. Napier has lead the Huskies to victories over the no.10 seed St. Joseph, No.2 Villanova, No.3 Iowa State, and the heavily favored teams of No.4 Michigan State and the No.1 overall seed Florida. In their latest matchup against the Gators, the Huskies were able to show the country that UCONN is not a one man show. Solid performances from juniors Ryan Boatright (13 points), and DeAndre Daniels (20 points and 10 rebounds) have put the country on notice that UCONN is a team not an individual player.
UCONN’s true hidden strength has been their strong team defense. This has truly been on display throughout their tournament run especially in their latest 63-53 victory over Florida. UCONN is able to disturb the offensive flow of their opponents through suffocating ball pressure from their backcourt, well defending ball screens, and most importantly forcing difficult shot attempts from the three point line. Best believe that the UCONN Huskies will make Monday night very uncomfortable for the Wildcats.
Kentucky with another game winning shot from freshman guard Aaron Harrison over Wisconsin finds themselves in the national championship game. The Kentucky Wildcats entered this season as the pre-season No.1 team in the country with an amazing recruiting class and extremely high expectations. During the regular season the Wildcats at times appeared simply young and undeveloped. Sporting an all freshman starting lineup the Wildcats were unable to handle close game situations and dropped from no.1 to outside of the top 25. From the SEC tournament and throughout this tournament run the country has seen the young wildcats grow and mature as a team in front of our eyes.
UK has had an incredible tournament run defeating No.1 seed Wichita State, defending champions No.4 Louisville, 2013 national runner up No.2 Michigan, and a strong No.2 Wisconsin team. Led by freshmen forward Julius Randle and guard Aaron Harrison the Wildcats have been able to finally live up to their preseason expectations.
Randle who has adopted the role of team leader is also the team’s leading scorer averaging 15.1 points per game and ranking top 10 in the country in rebounds (10.1 RPG). Aaron Harrison alongside his twin brother Andrew has grown and matured through this tournament and has become one of the most dangerous guards in the country averaging 14.4 PPG. Aaron has been a true show stopper sinking two game winning shots in back to back games against Michigan and Wisconsin.Kentucky’s ability to penetrate the defense and dish to open shooters has been their bread and butter. Alongside the inside threat of Julius Randle and slashing ability of the Harrison twins the Huskies will have a lot of problems on their plate defensively.
This year’s championship game will be highly competitive and the scoreboard will reflect that. This cat vs. dogs matchup features two teams who have strengths that could overall dictate the result of the game. Kentucky is the more talented team of the two and feature two top tier NBA prospects in Julius Randle and Aaron Harrison. UCONN led by Napier, what they don’t make up in talent they make up in experience and poise under pressure. When the buzzer sounds and the nets are cut in AT&T Stadium I believe UCONN will walk away the National Champions 67-60 bringing an end to the madness.