What signifies a great March Madness? Having a No. 7 seed and a No. 8 seed battling it out for the national championship is a pretty good indicator that the 2014 NCAA tournament was one to remember.
No, these aren't your typical Cinderellas like the 2006 George Mason team or Wichita State from last season, but No. 7 UConn and No. 8 Kentucky are both surprising finalists for the national championship.
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Both the Wildcats and Huskies navigated their way through the field and came away with memorable runs to potentially claim their second national title in recent years. Kentucky won its last championship in 2012, while UConn pulled it off in 2011.
With the championship game tipping off on Monday night, here's a look at the game information and a breakdown for the Huskies' and Wildcats' huge clash.
National Championship Information
Who: No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 7 UConn
When: Monday, 9:30 p.m. ET
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Live Stream: NCAA.com
Odds (courtesy of VegasInsider.com): Kentucky (-2.5), Over/Under (134.5)
Breakdown of National Championship
Both programs come in with confidence that they can finish the epic run with a national championship, but only one will truly emerge victorious.
If UConn pulls off the upset, they will be the first No. 7 seed to win a national championship. As for Kentucky, it would join Villanova as the only No. 8 seed to emerge victorious, as Darren Rovell of ESPN notes:
UConn trying to become only the 2nd champ seeded 7th or higher to win it all. Villanova was a #8 seed in 1985— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) April 5, 2014
John Calipari has plenty of experience in the NCAA tournament with a title and a runner-up finish to his name. But his counterpart in Kevin Ollie is in his first-ever tournament during his second season as a head coach for UConn.
While Ollie is not the first to achieve this accomplishment, the odds appear to be stacked against him. Jason Horowitz of Westwood One Sports points out that only one other first-time coach has come out on top in the final game of the season:
Calipari's team is led by a group of outstanding freshmen, including future NBA lottery pick Julius Randle and Aaron Harrison, currently the most clutch shooter in the country.
Both players have served as catalysts for the Wildcats' offense, as Randle has a double-double in four of the five rounds and Harrison has shot a game-winner in the last three contests.
On the UConn side, Shabazz Napier has been the equivalent of Kemba Walker from the 2011 tournament, leading the Huskies to a monumental run.
But in the Final Four, it was another star down low in forward DeAndre Daniels who led the Huskies. The junior finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds against Florida, and he talked about what inspired his performance during the postgame broadcast on TBS:
I just wanted to step up big time for my team. I spoke to [former UConn coach] Jim Calhoun yesterday and he said, "Man, nobody's talking about you." I said, "Don't worry, everybody's going to be talking about me after Saturday." I told him I'm going to go out there and play hard and give it my all.
... We wanted to come out here and prove everybody wrong because nobody gave us a shot to win this game.
Following two memorable Final Four performances from both teams in the Final Four, the same can be expected when they match up with the national championship on the line.
Names like Napier and Randle will certainly join the lore of March Madness along with former UConn and Kentucky players, but which player will help his team claim the ultimate prize in college basketball? Fans of both programs will find out on Monday night.
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter.