UConn vs. Kentucky: Ryan Boatright, Andrew Harrison Are Players to Watch

Kendall BakerContributor IIIApril 7, 2014

Connecticut's Ryan Boatright celebrates after his team defeating Michigan State 60-54 in a regional final at the NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 30, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Frank Franklin II

Monday night's National Championship game (9:10 ET, CBS) is a matchup of two talented teams, each having been lifted to their sport's biggest stage on the shoulders of one single player. 

For UConn, it's been Shabazz Napier who has gotten them here with tournament averages of 21 points, 4.8 assists and 2.4 steals per game.

For Kentucky, it's been Aaron Harrison and his late game shot-making ability. He's hit the game-winning three-pointer in three straight games. 

None of that matters now. 

In fact, despite their incredible performances so far in this tournament, Napier and Harrison won't even be the keys to victory for their respective teams.

That honor belongs to the players who will be asked to match up with them: Andrew Harrison and Ryan Boatright. 


Andrew Harrison

In order for Kentucky to win this game, Andrew is going to need to do something that neither Scottie Wilbekin (a Third-Team All-American) nor Keith Appling (a Bob Cousy Award finalist) were able to do: handle the pressure from UConn's guards.

Opposing Point Guard's Statistics vs. UConn (Elite Eight & Final Four)
PlayerField Goals MadeField Goals AttemptedPointsAssistsTurnovers

While Wilbekin and Appling's negative assist-to-turnover ratios hurt their teams, it was their inability to score against Napier and Boatright that contributed most to them losing.

For Harrison, it will be the other way around.

Kentucky doesn't need him to score. They're 5-0 in the tournament and he's only put up double-digit points twice.

All they need from him in Monday night's game is a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. 

Not only will that allow Kentucky's talented scorers more opportunities to do damage, but it will also limit the transition opportunities for a Connecticut team that makes a living off of them. 

Kentucky wouldn't mind Andrew stepping up on defense and limiting Napier's scoring opportunities, either.

Aaron Harrison has been the hero thus far for Kentucky, but if the Wildcats end up bringing a ninth national championship home to Lexington, it will be because of his brother Andrew's performance Monday night. 


Ryan Boatright

Boatright is a guy who prides himself on studying game film, learning an opposing player's tendencies and forcing that player out of their comfort zone as much as possible on game day.

Harry E. Walker/MCT

That's why he was so shocked when Aaron Harrison was allowed to shoot the three-pointer that helped Kentucky knock off Wisconsin. In speaking with reporters on Sunday, Boatright had this to say:

He hit the same shot at the same time from the same spot. Like, if you’re up two, you gotta run him off the three-point line. You take the two points, you go to overtime. No matter what, you don’t let him get a three-point shot off. In that situation, I would have known what to do. I wouldn’t have let him get that three off. You just would have got up in him.

When Boatright is matched up with Aaron on Monday night, you can bet there will be little room for him to get a shot off, let alone breath. And when he's matched up with Andrew, the freshman point guard for the Wildcats will have to focus on ball protection like he's never had to before. 

This should be a highly entertaining game with tons of storylines to watch unfold. However, in the end, the one that will matter most will be who won the turnover battle? 

If Andrew Harrison plays his best basketball and handles UConn's pressure, Kentucky will have a good chance of winning that battle and, ultimately, the game.

If Ryan Boatright gets a few steals early, the momentum is going to shift in Connecticut's favor and things could snowball. 

Coaches always say that the NCAA tournament is all about match ups, so it's fitting that it ends with perhaps the best of all.