In the pantheon of NCAA championship games, Connecticut matching up against Kentucky hardly qualifies as a surprise. These schools have combined to win 11 titles, including one each in 2011 and 2012.
The way the Huskies and Wildcats got to North Texas on Monday night, however, makes their respective runs seem improbable. Connecticut had to defeat a Michigan State team that was an 11-2 favorite to win the title, then knocked off a Florida team riding a 30-game winning streak.
Kentucky has been playing heart-stopping basketball all tournament, winning its last four games by a total of 11 points. John Calipari has pushed all the right buttons with the Wildcats and has them on the verge of a second title in three years.
Here is a look at the path both Florida and Kentucky have taken to get here, as well as odds for Monday's championship game.
All Your Bracket Essentials
|National Championship Game Odds|
|Point Spread||Kentucky (-2)|
|Odds to Win TItle*||Kentucky 5-2; Connecticut 8-1|
*Odds to win title prior to start of Final Four games
It's interesting that Kentucky is still favored in this contest despite Connecticut knocking off two teams in consecutive games most people would have considered the two best in the country (Michigan State, Florida).
That's not to say the Wildcats haven't been impressive in toppling an undefeated Wichita State team, defending national champions Louisville, last year's national runner-up Michigan and an outstanding Wisconsin team.
But the way Connecticut has been winning—beating physical teams like the Spartans and Gators into submission—is impressive.
ESPN's Colin Cowherd made a great point in his one-line assessment of the title game on Twitter:
UConn vs Kentucky. Traditional powers. NBA talent. Both feel disrespected. Great guard play. I'm all in.— Colin Cowherd (@ESPN_Colin) April 6, 2014
Neither one of these teams got the credit and respect they deserved coming into the tournament. Connecticut flew under the radar all year because no one took the American Athletic Conference seriously, as evidenced by the Huskies being a No. 7 seed and Louisville a No. 4 seed.
The Wildcats were put in an impossible situation before the season. Calipari's recruiting class was being called the best ever, and Kentucky started the year as the No. 1 team in the country.
A lackluster regular season with 10 losses, including defeats against mediocre (at best) teams like LSU and South Carolina, took all the shine off the Wildcats.
It wasn't until the SEC tournament and a one-point loss against Florida in the conference title game where we saw how good Kentucky could be, and that has carried over to the NCAA tournament.
Now, both schools are playing at the height of their powers and have set everything up for a fantastic title game.
Odds provided by Vegas Insider.
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