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2014 NCAA Final Four National Championship Free Picks
8 Kentucky Wildcats vs 7 Connecticut Huskies
Monday, April 7th, 2014 9:10 PM EST on CBS
Game Line: Kentucky -2.5 Total: 134.5 (@ JustBet)

Two of the more storied programs in college basketball take center stage as Shabazz Napier and the UConn Huskies take on Julius Randle and the Kentucky Wildcats for the NCAA Men’s basketball championship on Monday night from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The UConn Huskies shocked most of the experts on Saturday night, defeating the tournament’s #1 seed Florida Gators 63-53. The Huskies got exceptional play from their backcourt defensively, limiting Florida’s Scottie Wilbekin to just 2 of 9 shooting and holding the Gators to just 38.8% shooting in the game. It was apparent the Gators weren’t prepared for the defense of the Huskies, as UConn took a 3 point lead in to halftime and never looked back. UConn’s floor general Shabazz Napier only contributed 12 points, his lowest output of the tournament yet made his presence felt with 6 assists and 4 steals. Napier is averaging 21 ppg in the tournament and is shooting an astounding 47% from beyond the arc. Forward Deandre Daniels had an outstanding game against the Gators, with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Daniels has definitely risen up to the occasion in the tournament averaging 17.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

The Kentucky Wildcats come in to Monday night’s championship game off yet another dramatic victory over Wisconsin 74-73. Aaron Harrison saved the day once again, with a game-winning 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left to put the Wildcats in the championship game. It was Harrison’s second straight game winning 3 pointer, as he also sent Michigan home with a game winner in the regional final. Like their opponent on Monday, Kentucky is hitting their stride at the right time.  With a starting 5 that are all freshman, they have silenced critics that said throughout the year that they were one of the bigger disappointments during the regular season. They are led by freshman forward Julius Randle, who is averaging 15.0 and 10.5 rebounds per game this year and also leads the nation with 24 double-doubles. Kentucky is averaging 76.4 ppg while shooting 45.4% from the field. They are outrebounding their opponents by a wide margin in the tournament, and were 2nd in the nation in rebounding margin this season (9.8).

This is without a doubt the most improbable matchup in quite some time. Both teams missed the tournament last year, as Kentucky wasn’t chosen by the committee, and UConn sat out the postseason due to NCAA sanctions. Kentucky has had the more impressive run, beating undefeated Wichita State, Louisville, as well as Big Ten powerhouses Michigan and Wisconsin. UConn’s road hasn’t been easy either, as they squeaked by St. Joseph’s in overtime. They then went on to beat Villanova, Iowa State, and a very talented Michigan State team, as well as previously mentioned Florida. I think this is going to be a very tightly contested game, and I’m grabbing the points with UConn. As athletic as Kentucky is, I would rather be on the side of the more experienced team. Experience is a big factor, and even though Kentucky is very talented, the stage might be too big for them. I think UConn is the best defensive squad the Wildcats will face in this tournament. Kentucky struggled in the regular season against Florida, one of the best defensive squads in the nation. Granted, they are playing a lot better in the tournament, but I think Napier and Boatright can keep the Harrison twins in check. I also think UConn matches up against Kentucky inside; DeAndre Daniels is an excellent defender and will challenge Julius Randle. Kentucky is a respectable team on the defensive end, but I see UConn being able to get some points from their backcourt, and wouldn’t be surprised to see Napier have a big game, as the Harrison twins are talented, but limited defensively. Kentucky has had one heck of a run, and I’m not surprised to see them favored. But UConn just beat the tournament’s #1 overall seed, and they didn’t just squeak by them, they beat them rather soundly. I think we’re getting some value with the Huskies. Both teams are playing excellent ball right now, but I’ll take the more experienced team that’s much better on the defensive end over the young Wildcats.

Kentucky Wildcats vs. UConn Huskies Free NCAABB Pick: UConn +2.5 & Under 134.5
Kentucky Wildcats vs. UConn Huskies Game Prediction: UConn 67 Kentucky 65

 

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