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National Title Game Primer: Five thoughts on Kentucky vs. UConn

Apr 6, 2014, 5:09 AM EDT

Aaron Harrison, Julius Randle Aaron Harrison, Julius Randle

ARLINGTON, Texas — It all comes down to one game.

On Monday evening, college basketball’s national champion will be crowned as UConn, the champions of the East Region despite being a No. 7 seed, and Kentucky, who has made their run as the No. 8 seed in the Midwest. It’s the highest-ever combined seed of two teams in the title game, with No. 3 UConn’s 2011 win over No. 8 Butler being the second-highest.

It’s weird to think about it like that, as these are two of the best basketball programs in the country. Kentucky is Kentucky, they’re a blueblood that was won eight national titles in their history. UConn? They’ve won three national titles and been to five Final Fours in the last 15 years.

But that has nothing to do with this regular season, where UConn finished tied for third in the American with SMU and Kentucky spent the first four months of the season spinning their tires. It may not sound like it if you haven’t been paying attention this season, but this really is a fluky title game.

Here are five more thoughts on what should be an epic title game:

1. Kentucky will, once again, have a massive front court advantage: The knock on UConn this season has been that their front court simply isn’t all that strong. They’ve got some length and they’ve got some shot blockers, but Amida Brimah and DeAndre Daniels aren’t going to be winning any Mr. Universe competitions any time soon. Kentucky’s front court is as big, as strong and as physically talented as they come. Brimah, and Phil Nolan, will be tasked with guarding Dakari Johnson. Daniels is going to have to matchup with Julius Randle. And when Kentucky goes big and plays Alex Poythress at the three, that defensive responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Niels Giffey. UConn better be ready to box out.

2. But UConn’s guards should wreak havoc once again: Ryan Boatright is a pest. He’s a nuisance. He’s a 5-foot-11 gnat that won’t leave opposing ball-handlers alone, a defensive nightmare that turned Michigan State into Creighton on an off-night and made Florida’s Scottie Wilbekin look like he doesn’t know. (If you got that reference without clicking the link, we should be friends.) He and Shabazz Napier will be tasked with guarding the Harrison twins, and while UK will once again have a size advantage there, this will be beneficial for UConn. Bigger, slower guards don’t like trying to dribble against quick guards with quicker hands.

3. The coach that wins chess match wins the title: Whoever better takes advantage of the mismatch at their disposal will win, but it’s not going to be that simple. Kevin Ollie knows that Kentucky’s bigs are physically overwhelming, and John Calipari knows that UConn’s guards can swarm defensively. Who makes the adjustment? Who comes up with the better game plan? What stroke of genius makes Coach Cal a two-time champ, or earns Kevin Ollie his first ring?

4. These runs has made a few of people a lot of money: DeAndre Daniels is now a first round pick. He might be a lottery pick. He’s probably gone. Three weeks ago, the Harrison twins looked like they would be returning to school. Now, it would be surprising if they didn’t enter the draft.

5. This is the flukiest title game I can remember: I’ll have more on this coming tomorrow,but think about this: UConn beat St. Joseph’s in overtime because a) Amida Brimah scored an and-one to tie the game in the final seconds and b) Halil Kanicevic fouled out on the first possession in overtime. Kentucky is in the title game after hitting four game-winning threes in their last tournament games.

  1. cranespy - Apr 6, 2014 at 6:45 AM

    Impressive run no doubt……but why is it when you watch Cal and then listen to him in a post game interview you find yourself reaching for the hand sanitizer?

    In spite of that, I want to be the first to admit that I have been completely wrong about Cal. I have always maintained that eventually his sins would catch up with him and his time in BBN would end with banners stripped due to titles being vacated.

    It occurred to me while watching the Cats amazing run to the title game …… That will probably NEVER happen.

    Under Cal, UK has attained the same status as the elite HS programs like Oak Hill, Mater Dei and Montverde….. they dont have to do anything to find the top players….. the elite come to Cal…..led more often than not, by their parents, the MAJORITY of whom have $$$$ in their eyes.

    It’s the perfect situation for Cal….sign em up…all you really have to do is get them to play together……and when they do… is indeed a site to behold…..while I deplore this formula…unless the NBA drops the ban on HS grads making the immediate jump….Cal’s formula is here to stay… fact after watching Kentucky the past three weeks….regardless of what happens Monday night…I believe others are going to attempt to duplicate Cal’s formula…..

    Parents of future McDonalds All Americans…..keep the hand sanitizer ready!

    • 1historian - Apr 6, 2014 at 8:12 AM

      Sad but true. Well said.

    • slowclyde86 - Apr 6, 2014 at 8:45 AM

      Let me guess, the thumbs down on the Cal sanitizer comments are Kentucky fans? I guarantee those same folks crushed cal when he was at memphis, but hey, as long as it’s our guy and he wins, it’s all good, right? The guy oozes oil but keep rooting all you want, but please recognize the lie. Carry on.

      • riffenberg - Apr 7, 2014 at 3:09 PM

        Oh and only YOU have the purest of hearts, I suppose. I’m sure your opinion wouldn’t differ if Cal coached your team and brought home some championships?
        What should Cal do? Seek lesser talent? Insist players risk injury and their careers and stay another year and lose millions of dollars for them and their families? If after one year of training and schooling by college coaches players get an offer from an NBA team,they’d better take it. They can always go back to school and get what now is almost a useless degree.

    • astrozac - Apr 6, 2014 at 8:50 AM

      ^It’s already started. Read the CBT article from the other day, Duke and Kentucky have 4 Micky D’s All Americans each, Carolina 3 and UCLA and Kansas with 2 each. That’s 15 out of 24, plus whatever other recruits they snag, to five blue blooded schools.
      The only cog, I see possibly coming to Calipari’s scheme is if they up the years after high school before they can join the NBA. Then, I think his system would hit speed bumps, when you’d have too many guys and not enough minutes.
      You’re right it’s beautiful in that he doesn’t have to really recruit or coach. And how was it he sucked in the NBA?

  2. penvik - Apr 6, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    All the people who decide rankings need to be fired after this. If it’s a computer program it needs to be scrapped. This is a joke, really? An 8 & 7 seed in the final?? Should NEVER happen, unless of course, the rankings were a complete mess. Look at some of the first round upsets. How fan the ranking be so far off, pathetic, if I was that bad at my job I wouldn’t have it very long.

    • packergator - Apr 8, 2014 at 9:00 AM

      Look, the seeds are based on how a team did in the regular season; they are in NO way intended to reflect the likelihood that the team will win in the tournament. This was just one of those strange years in which two teams with just-above-par regular seasons came together and got hot at the right time. It doesn’t happen that often; I think UConn is the lowest seed to win the title since Villanova in 1985.

  3. luz56 - Apr 6, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    Why should this never happen?? Teams got the invite to the tournament… Went on a roll and won.. Pretty simple to me..

  4. surly1n1nd1anapol1s - Apr 6, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    I thought this was Coach Cal’s second final four appearance?

  5. jjohnb5393 - Apr 6, 2014 at 10:25 AM

    Cal’s fifth final four.

  6. eagles512 - Apr 6, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    And it was a horrible call on Kanicevic. St Joes was the better team that night. But that’s what is great about the tournament. Get by that and now you have a shot at it all.

  7. barkleyblows - Apr 6, 2014 at 2:34 PM

    On Wesconsen!!!

    Oh wIt lol

  8. JT - Apr 7, 2014 at 8:56 PM

    Heck of a run by both teams

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