Kentucky vs UConn: Last-Minute Preview for Massive National Championship Matchup

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 7, 2014

Tony Gutierrez

Which team of destiny is the team-est of destiny? Or would it be team of destiny-est? Whatever—you get the point.

For Connecticut, their national title plans have been written in the stars ever since Shabazz Napier dropped 25 points on No. 2 Villanova in the round of 32.

For Kentucky, it goes back much further, to when the Wildcats amassed the best recruiting class in the country, leading some to predict a perfect season:

Everything is going right for both teams at the moment. They've found the perfect combination of luck and focus to complement what were already talented rosters.

Given how unpredictable this NCAA tournament has been, making any sort of forecast how the title game unfold would seem a fool's errand.

And I am that fool.


When: Monday, April 7, at 9:10 p.m. ET

Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

Watch: CBS

Live Stream: March Madness Live

Odds (via Kentucky (3/2), Connecticut (13/10)


Key Storylines

Will Connecticut's Defense Step Up Big Once Again?

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 05: DeAndre Daniels #2 of the Connecticut Huskies defends against Patric Young #4 of the Florida Gators during the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at AT&T Stadium on April 5, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Im
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

For most of this season, UConn has hanged its hat on its defense. The Huskies rank 10th in adjusted defense, according to Ken Pomeroy.

Florida were no slouches offensively this year, but the Gators only shot 38.8 percent, including a 1-of-10 clip from downtown, against UConn in the national semifinals. Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier II had a combined seven points.

Kentucky has been the inverse of UConn. The Wildcats' offense has rarely been in question, while their defense was a problem area, especially early in the season.

One of the biggest questions facing the Huskies is how they'll handle Julius Randle. The freshman phenom is averaging 15.8 points and 10.6 rebounds a game.

Michael Conroy

Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis thinks that the way Patric Young played in the Gators' loss spells trouble for the Huskies:

If a player with limited skills like Young can score so effectively in the paint, I can only imagine what Randle can do. He is a little taller than Young, but he is much more skilled. Plus, he's a lefty, which makes him even more unconventional to defend. As long as James Young stays out of foul trouble, Kentucky will always have a go-to option on offense. And if UConn double-teams Randle, which I'm sure it will, then he has gotten much more savvy about passing out of double teams, and more trusting of his teammates.

Randle's performance very well may decide the game.


Does Aaron Harrison Have Any Magic Left?

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 05: Aaron Harrison #2 of the Kentucky Wildcats reacts after hitting the game winning shot to defeat the Wisconsin Badgers 74-73 in the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at AT&T Stadium on April 5, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by J
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

If the Wildcats are within three points or less of the Huskies in the waning seconds, then you know Aaron Harrison will get the ball. And as long as he's within a 50-foot radius of the basket, his shot is probably going down.

It's one thing to hit a late three-pointer in one or two games in the NCAA tournament. But Harrison has done it against Louisville, Michigan and then Wisconsin in succession.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari has dubbed the freshman "Aaron the Assassin," per Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal:

Calipari also commented that Harrison has no fear with the game on the line.

"Guys that make game-winners are not afraid to miss them," he said, per Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel.

Clearly, the freshman has demonstrated that he won't shy away from attempting the game-changing shot, nor should he be doubted to hit it.

Will Kentucky be in a position where his heroics will be needed?



Randle will be too much to handle for the Huskies. He put on a masterful performance against the Badgers on Saturday. Even a rolled ankle couldn't slow him down.

The more successful Randle is, the more shooters like Harrison and James Young will get open on the perimeter.

UConn is far from a one-man show, with DeAndre Daniels taking much of the pressure off Napier at times, but the Huskies can't match up with the Wildcats across the board.

Kentucky 72, Connecticut 64