Apr 5, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Terrence Samuel (3) puts up a shot past Florida Gators guard Kasey Hill (0) in the second half during the semifinals of the Final Four in the 2014 NCAA Mens Division I Championship tournament at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Three weeks of upsets, dominating performances by both teams and players, and just general chaos on the hardwood has left us with just two teams remaining in the NCAA Tournament. No, none of them were No. 1 seeds, meaning that the favorites were dismissed at some point, leaving us with the best team over the last six games of the season. Who will it be?
I have been doing round-by-round predictions throughout the tourney and play-in games, and find myself at 46-20 with just the championship game remaining. I had Florida winning the whole thing, so I lasted longer than some did.
Connecticut scored just four points in the first 11 minutes of the game. The Huskies then scored 11 points in 90 seconds to charge back into it and make it a game. They never looked back. The story of this game was disruption. UConn flustered the Gators and never really let them get settled in their half court offense. Connecticut’s on ball defense was as good as any I have seen this season, and is something that Florida usually excels at. The Gators were so frustrated from the lack of success on the offensive end that it sometimes led to lapses on the defensive end that Connecticut took full advantage of. Incredibly enough, the Huskies trailed by nine or more points in every game but one in this tournament. The only difference was that this time it was a team effort and not just Shabazz Napier taking over the game. The Huskies have grown up a lot in the last two weeks. Perhaps more incredible was the fact that UConn beat Florida, who was the number one overall seed, twice this year.
Kentucky really looked like they were in trouble when both of the Harrison brothers picked up their second fouls and had to sit with almost three minutes left in the first half and the Wildcats down eight. Instead, Kentucky got great minutes from their reserves and cut the lead in half. Wisconsin was able to build that lead because they did not miss a single free throw in 14 tries in the first half. The Badgeres did not miss their first free throw until 16 seconds remaining in the game! Kentucky made a living attacking the basket like they have this whole tournament. In fact, Kentucky shot just five three point shots in the entire game! Wisconsin had the size inside to prevent a lot of the easy ones, but even the best defender can wear down when you have guys hurtling towards you for forty minutes straight. Kentucky locked down Wisconsin like a chastity belt early in the second half causing the Badgers to go scoreless for nearly five minutes, a span in which Kentucky scored 15 unanswered points to grab a six point lead. Wisconsin was fouled shooting a three with 16 seconds left, making two out of the three. Then it was Aaron Harrison time. Again. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Aaron Harrison hits a NBA-range three point shot well inside a minute left in the game to win it. He has finished the past three games in the exact same fashion. This time it sends the Wildcats back to the Championship Game.
Apr 5, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Aaron Harrison (2) celebrates after making a three-point shot against the Wisconsin Badgers late in the second half during the semifinals of the Final Four in the 2014 NCAA Mens Division I Championship tournament at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME at ARLINGTON, TX:
(7) Connecticut vs. (8) Kentucky:
Neither of these teams were in the field last year, now they are playing for the title. This is the lowest combined seeds to play for the title since seeding began in 1979. This will be an entertaining game. Both of these teams are playing very well right now. Monday should not be an exception. Kentucky won all five of their games by single digits, including the last three on last minute shots by Aaron Harrison. Napier will get his shots against Kentucky, but their size and athleticism will cause some problems for the Huskies. The guards of UConn could cause some problems for Kentucky. This version of the “Fab Five” seems better put together than the Michigan team of 22 years ago. Can Kentucky succeed where the Wolverines failed? All I can say is: I refuse to bet against Aaron Harrison. Period! (Pick: Kentucky)