With a No. 7 seed taking on a No. 8 for the 2014 national championship game, it's safe to call Connecticut and Kentucky an unexpected contest. This matchup sets up for a thrilling evening of basketball on Monday evening at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Although this matchup features lower seeds, fans will not be robbed of watching elite talent.
Connecticut's Shabazz Napier has arguably been the best player in the tournament. Meanwhile, the Wildcats have a wildly talented freshman class that was enough to have them ranked No. 1 as the season began.
Have a look at the vitals for this fun matchup, and then we'll take a closer look at the matchup.
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When: Monday, 9:30 p.m. ET
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Live Stream: March Madness Live
No matter which team wins, we'll have a bit of tournament history. Only one team seeded seventh or higher has won the tournament. That was Villanova's title as a No. 8 seed in 1985.
The Wildcats may be the lower seed of the two, but that hasn't stopped them from being favored. Vegas Insider, for instance, favors the Wildcats by 2.5 points. Their status as favorites isn't surprising.
Obviously, both teams have looked great or they wouldn't be in the championship game. Kentucky has done so with an athletic frontcourt that appears impossible to match up with and the steady as well as clutch play of the Harrison twins in the backcourt.
UConn, meanwhile, has won with rugged interior defense and shot-blocking. Napier has been wonderful on offense, and he has enough weapons around him to keep defenses from focusing on him.
Both styles have proven to be supremely effective, but Kentucky's sheer athleticism is enough to grab favorite status.
This matchup is essentially a toss-up. For instance, CBSSports.com presents the picks of seven experts. Kentucky edged out UConn in the predictions, 4-3.
Opinion is not as divided on ESPN. Eight of its 12 experts sided with Kentucky. Not a single one of them have the game being decided by more than five points, however.
In a matchup this close, it is never a bad idea to side with experience. That can be the main difference in the final moments of a pressure-packed contest. Upon first glance, this would have me running toward UConn. The Huskies have an obvious edge in experience on the court.
Napier provided a good account of Connecticut following his team's Final Four win over Florida.
"We have been in a lot of dog fights. We are just an experienced group. We believe in each other and continue to believe in each other. ... We are going to win. That is what we do," he told the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com).
The Huskies' biggest contributors are juniors and seniors. Kentucky's are almost all freshmen.
On the sidelines, it's a different story.
John Calipari is a battle-tested and successful college coach who won this championship just two years ago. Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie, on the other hand, is about to finish his first season as head coach. This puts him in some rare company, which Jason Horowitz of Westwood One helps point out:
So let's just throw out experience as the deciding factor in predicting this one. In fact, I'm just going to forget about predicting a winner at all.
Picking this game is not an easy task, but enjoying it will be!
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