Each passing round of the 2014 NCAA tournament has been more exciting than the last, and that makes the title game one of the top sporting events to watch this year.
Pretty much nobody saw this coming.
Connecticut, a No. 7 seed, will take on Kentucky, a No. 8 seed, in the contest. The Huskies were never given much thought as a tourney team until their first two wins of the tournament. They're riding the high of Shabazz Napier right now, making them a difficult team to contend with.
The Wildcats were a bit disappointing this season after being named the preseason No. 1. They are now trying to prove that it really isn't how you start—it's how you finish.
This game should be one of the season's best. Below is all your essential information necessary to stay informed about the action.
All Your Bracket Essentials
Start Time, TV Info
|Date||National Championship||Time (ET)||TV|
|Mon, April 7||No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 7 UConn||9:10 p.m.||CBS|
What to Watch For
Closely Contested Game
There are a few reasons why you shouldn't expect this game to be one-sided. For one, it's the title game. The two top teams in the country know how to compete and won't let the other team run away with it.
ESPN Stats & Info points out a couple of other reasons why this game will likely be a close one:
Kentucky is the 1st team ever to win 4 straight games by 5 points or fewer in a single NCAA Tournament.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 6, 2014
Kentucky is 2nd team ever to win 4 straight games in an NCAA Tournament after not leading at halftime in any (2012 Kansas). @EliasSports— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 6, 2014
Kentucky's resilience in tight games has propelled the team to the title game. The young talent of the Wildcats is second to none in the country. Julius Randle, James Young and the Harrison twins (Andrew and Aaron) have given opposing defenses fits in this tournament.
Aaron Harrison has been especially bothersome for defenses, and he's the reason why the Wildcats have won each of their last two games:
Aaron Harrison is a bad man - pic.twitter.com/DLDwFFMZHC— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) April 6, 2014
As you can see, even if you put a hand in his face, Harrison will hit his shot. Wisconsin's Sam Dekker acknowledged this ability of Harrison's:
Wisconsin's Sam Dekker: "Aaron has been doing that all tournament. He's got that clutch gene. Props to him for hitting that shot".— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) April 6, 2014
This ability to knock down contested shots will keep Kentucky in the game and will make it very close.
Shabazz Napier's Leadership
UConn has been great in this tournament, but that's all because of Shabazz Napier. Dana O'Neil of ESPN.com points out several things that make him special:
Of course Napier has done the impossible. It's what he does. He makes shots that aren't supposed to go in; he slices passes that don't have a sliver of an opening. He takes a team that no one thought much about all season and turns it into a national semifinalist because he believes in himself, but more, because he believes in his teammates.
Former UConn star Kemba Walker also speaks highly of Napier:
Best PG in the country. Shabazz Napier— Kemba walker (@KembaWalker) March 30, 2014
Napier can do a lot of things on the court, but his flashy play and ability to score often overshadow his skills as a true leader. Napier is a calming presence for his teammates. He doesn't hesitate to take clutch shots, but he also knows when to give the ball up and set up his teammates with better looks.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari will likely throw several different defensive looks at Napier. The Wildcats might try to trap him with two defenders once he crosses the half-court line, but they also might try to trap him on inbound passes.
His teammates will need to come up clutch if Napier is limited because of the defense. If nothing else, you can be sure Napier will give them the best looks possible to succeed.
Kentucky Looking to Make History
In 1985, Villanova became the lowest seed in the history of the NCAA tournament to win the title. That team was a No. 8 seed.
The Wildcats cannot break this record for lowest seed, but they can tie it. Doing so would be historic, especially given the circumstances of this team's journey this season.
Who wins the NCAA title?
Kentucky came into the year with an unbelievably talented recruiting class and high expectations as a result. Their youth showed at times during the season, leading to some close defeats and struggles to stay consistent. Everything has turned the corner over the past several games, however.
As a No. 8 seed, the Wildcats really weren't expected to make that much noise in the tourney. A win or two, maybe, but that's it. Now that they're back to playing like the preseason No. 1, however, you might as well throw their seeding out the window.
This is one of the most talented teams in the nation, and that has shown over these past few weeks.