NCAA Championship Preview
(7) Connecticut Huskies vs (8) Kentucky Wildcats
Time: 9:10PM Eastern
Radio: Westwood One Sports (Kevin Kugler, John Thompson, Bill Raftery)
Spread: Kentucky -2.5
With the table set and only dinner to be served lets take a look at this very unique championship match up between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Connecticut Huskies. For starters the combined seed total of 15 destroys the previous record of 11, which was set in the 2011 Championship between Connecticut and another 8 seed the Butler Bulldogs.
Kentucky is actually the 4th team to make the final as an 8 seed with only the 1985 Villanova team winning the championship. Connecticut on the other hand is the first 7 seed to ever make the final; in fact they are only the 2nd 7 seed to even make the final four. Lets take a look at the match-up.
When Kentucky Has The Ball:
Kentucky has the 6th most efficient offense in the country. They accomplish this by boasting the #2 offense rebounding team, leading to easy put backs and their ability to get to the line having one of the highest FTA/FGA percentages in the country. Kentucky also has a lot of size especially at the guard position.
All of that being said they are playing the 10th most efficient defense that uses their length to make it very difficult to score from anywhere on the court. The weakness lies with the defensive glass; the Huskies are in the bottom 25% of defensive rebounding teams, which could be a major problem. Can Kentucky decipher Connecticut’s pesky d? Will the Huskies have enough size on the outside to deal with the Harrison twins? Will the fab freshman of Kentucky play like freshman?
When Connecticut Has The Ball:
Connecticut is efficient on offense for a couple simple reasons (37th Off Eff). They are a good 3 pt shooting team (22th), thanks to the penetration and vision of their undersized guards Napier and Boathouse. The huskies are also a top notch free throw shooting team (4th), which is mainly due to their guards very high FT%.
Kentucky is no slouch on defense (44th) but they have not been quite as good with their big man Cauley-Stein out with an ankle injury. Can Connecticut get Kentucky into foul trouble and execute at the line? Will Kentucky play discipline defense and show that age isn’t a factor? Can Shabazz Napier be stopped?
Kentucky Will Win If:
Kentucky will win if they can dominate the paint like they did against Wisconsin. They’ll also need to dramatically reduce their personal fouls and hope Napier and the Huskies don’t get any calls. With a strong defense effort closing out the 3-point line and high percentage shots in the paint Kentucky can cruise to an easy victory.
Connecticut Will Win If:
They continue to play low turnover basketball and generate turnovers on defense. Look for the quickness of Napier and Boathouse to give the Harrison twins problems, which could lead to foul trouble and easy points for the Huskies. Another factor will be the size of Connecticut, which has caused problems for every team they have played. If Connecticut can be respectable on the glass, they should be holding the trophy at the end of the night.
Like Coach K reminded us after Duke got upset by Mercer, “Sometimes freshman play like freshman.” I think Napier and Boathouse and the rest of the Connecticut defense causes havoc leading to turnovers and easy transition buckets. Both teams will struggle to score during stretches but Connecticut and their veteran leadership will stay composed. Shit they have trailed by 9+ points in 4 out of the 5 games they have played in. Its more than just the matchup, I don’t want to fade Shabazz Napier at anything right now. UCONN cuts down the nets and Napier gets the MOP.
Defense wins championships. Everyone is talking about Shabazz Napier and Harrison’s game winning threes, people are over looking UCONN’s shut down defense. The Huskies will play solid defense and frustrate Kentucky who will turn into a jump shooting team. Napier will find a way to get to the line and the Huskies experience will be too much for the inexperienced Wildcats.
Connecticut ML & Under 134.5 Parlay