The madness is officially coming to a close and I'm quite sad to see it go. The 2014 NCAA Tournament has provided us with some unbelievable upsets, and tonight will be the first time in NCAA history that a #7 and #8 seed square off for the title.
The Kentucky Wildcats were pegged by Las Vegas books as 3-point favorites over the Connecticut Huskies in the championship game. Las Vegas sportsbooks opened with a total of 134, which was quickly bet up to 135. It should also be noted, that the current line is hovering around Kentucky -2.5.
Kentucky has won the last two games on last-second three-pointers by freshman Aaron Harrison. I'm not taking anything away from the Wildcats, they have been terrific. They beat both Wichita State and Louisville, which I didn't think was possible, but I did learn one thing from their win over Wisconsin...
The Wildcats won't beat you by drawing up plays and running clock. They know how to do one thing on the offensive end of the court. Attack. The Wildcats
didn't run much real offense against the Badgers. They just simply
drove the lane and prayed for put backs or fouls. And they got both. The Harrison twins would drive and look to dish, or Randle would go down on the block and post up.
Jacking up threes is just not the Wildcats style of play and nothing will change in this game. Kentucky only attempted five
three-pointers against the Badgers, only two in the second half (one
of them the game winner).
Expect more of the same tonight from the Wildcats. James Young is a pure shooter, and he will make you pay for it if you leave him open. However, outside of Young, Kentucky's creativity on the offensive end is pretty bland. The Wildcats will rely on free throws and second chances tonight, something the Huskies need to keep at a minimum if they want to win this game.
Experts are predicting that Kentucky will contain and create
problems for UConn's star Shabazz Napier. What they are ignoring, is
the fact that Florida did a pretty good job on Napier, and it was the
other Huskies, Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels who picked up the slack. Even Niels Griffey has been very efficient and important to this Huskies run.
Don't get me wrong, Napier is a stud, but let's give credit where it's due. This Huskies team is damn good, and it's certainly been a team effort to get here, it's not just the Shabazz show. Also, Kevin Ollie is doing a wonderful job replacing a legend like Jim Calhoun. I really admire his style of coaching and his emphasis on discipline and hustle.
These Huskie guards are pesky defenders and will create problems for the young Harrison twins in my opinion. If you watched the game against Florida, Boatright and Napier, made Gators Scottie Wilbekin's day a living hell. Florida's guards finsihed the game 5-18 from the floor, scoring a measly 14 points.
The Huskies are averaging 7.0 steals per game in the tournament, while the Wildcats give up 5.4 steals per game. UConn's pesky defense is creating 13 turnovers a game and they boast a better turnover to assist ratio versus Kentucky.
I repeat...Kentucky is going to pound the ball in the paint by any means necessary against the Huskies tonight. That is the style of play that has gotten the Wildcats this far, and I doubt coach Calipari will let his team get away from what has been working since the tournament began.
With all this being said, the coaching edge and athletic ability go
to Kentucky. But experience and discipline are on UConn's side. The
Wildcats lack of creativity and poor free throw shooting will be their demise.
If they are down late in this game, the pounding of the ball inside will have to be abandoned, and shots from the outside will have to start falling. Something they haven't been accustomed to doing all tournament (outside of double A's two game winners).
Both of these teams deserve to be here. They have won six straight games, and have shown the resilience and dedication it takes to get to this stage. Best of luck to all fans, players, and coaches of both teams.
Kentucky is damn good and will give everything they got tonight, but I'm taking the UConn Huskies and the points.
University of Connecticut Huskies +3 (-120)
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