Even though April has already begun, there is still one more game before the insanity of March Madness officially comes to an end. In this Monday’s matchup, Kentucky and UCONN will take the center stage in attempt to add yet another net to their trophy case. Both have won the NCAA championship in the last three years. Last time these team’s met in the tournament, UCONN outlasted Kentucky 56-55 in 2011. With the competitive nature of these two teams, we can expect yet another barn burner in Arlington.
Kentucky and UCONN may have had two of the toughest routes to the championship. Kentucky surpassed four of the country’s best to give themselves a shot at the title ( #2 Witchita St, #5 Lousiville, #7 Michigan, and #12 Wisconsin). UCONN’s schedule wasn’t a walk in the park either with the likes of #6 Villanova, #9 Iowa St, #11 Michigan St, and #1 Florida. With tournament schedules like these,it is clear that both of these squads deserve to be in this championship game.
Keys to the game for Kentucky:
Rebounding: The Wildcats are one of the nation’s best when it comes to hitting the boards. Over the course of the tournament, Kentucky has out-rebounded their opponents by 45. If the Cats can control the boards, then they can also control possessions and the game tempo.
Julius Randle: While Kentucky is filled with an assortment of NBA prospects, Randle is undoubtedly the team leader and most consistent player. The freshman forward is a load to handle in the paint and on the glass, and the Huskies will need to contain him if they want a chance at winning this game.
Harrison Twins: While Aaron and Andrew haven’t performed their best in the past couple games, they sure do come in clutch. Aaron Harrison has proved that he is a legitimate threat from the beyond the 3-point line, netting three game winning threes in the past three games. Thats a lot of threes, 14 of 25 in the tournament to be exact. Closing out on Harrison behind the three hasn’t worked all March; UCONN will have to deny the ball and that shot entirely.
Keys to the game for UCONN:
Shabazz Napier: Napier is questionably the country’s best point guard. The Senior returns to his second national championship game in a leadership role. Napier has averaged 21 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 2.4 steals during the tournament, making him a true stat sheet stuffer. Kentucky may not be able to stop Shabazz but they will need to disrupt his flow if they want to win comfortably.
DeAndre Daniels: Daniels is coming off an emphatic 27 points and 10 rebounds against a powerhouse in Florida, a team that beat Kentucky twice during the course of the regular season. His production has been a valuable asset for the Huskies, as he has average 17.6 points and 7.4 boards through tournament play. With the Huskie’s small lineup, Daniels will inevitably be matched up against both Julius Randle and James Young. These match ups will be a true test of Daniels perseverance in both rebounding and stretching the floor.
Final Prediction: Kentucky 76- UCONN 72
Forget their struggles during the regular season, Kentucky has arrived. This is their chance to show the world why they were the original top ranked team in the country this season.
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