The most logical arguments to make when handing out Kentucky vs. UConn predictions is to say that Napier will be the best player on the floor and Kentucky’s heavyweight front-court will out-duel Daniels in the paint. I’m going the other way because convention is for cowards.
Will The Harrison Twins Outperform Shabazz Napier in the 2014 March Madness Finals?
To put this in perspective, both of the Harrison twins are ranked higher than Shabazz Napier in terms of NBA draft prospect grades. Those will be re-written eventually, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Napier is a deserving top-10 pick after a brilliant run in the tournament.
However, draft grades are important to keep in mind because Kentucky relies on talent and effort more than anything. Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison are both 6-foot-6, presenting a massive defensive problem for the smaller Napier.
To his credit, Napier has always risen to the occasion. He dominated Scottie Wilbekin on both ends of the floor, made Michigan State’s Gary Harris look like an idiot and was a bully against the wildly passionate DeAndre Kane of Iowa State. He isn’t afraid of anyone, and he’s incredibly easy to love, which makes what I’m about to say in my Kentucky vs. UConn predictions hard to stomach.
I simply believe that it’s about time we put Aaron Harrison in the “best point guard” conversation. Harrison is not a great defender as we saw when he matched up against Russ Smith (23 points against him) but he has also played clutch offence. He is an awfully slow starter, but has always come through when his team has needed him.
Eventually Harrison is going to respond to the confidence he must have gained from hitting two clutch three-pointers against Michigan and Wisconsin. If and when he gets out and running early, he’ll be able to go one-on-one with the scoring savant that Shabazz has become. And on the defensive end, Harrison is long enough to give Napier absolute fits. That’s why I’m going out on a limb and suggesting that the better Harrison will best Napier in my Kentucky vs. UConn predictions.
Will DeAndre Daniels Control The Post in the 2014 March Madness Finals?
On paper, the matchup for UConn underneath the rim is a proverbial nightmare in the making. Daniels is a toothpick of a big man, standing at 6-foot-9 and 195 pounds and will be going against two guys who are his height, but outweigh him significantly. Marcus Lee played superbly against Frank Kaminsky who is a more complete offensive weapon and player than Daniels could hope to be at this point.
But Daniels is like a very tall engine that can, and watching him completely dominate Florida’s extremely effective frontcourt gives hope to the idea that he can do the same against Kentucky. Daniels was the best player on Saturday with 20 points and 10 rebounds. The problem? Patric Young scored 19 points.
Daniels will be a force on the scoreboard yet again against the Kentucky Wildcats, and he’ll have to be at his best to give his team a chance. How effective he will be defensively, especially with backup centers Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson combining for 14 points and 8 rebounds on Saturday, is probably the most difficult Kentucky vs. UConn prediction to grade. I think Daniels can absolutely hold his own offensively, but his lacking defensive abilities will make this matchup a wash in the post.
March Madness 2014 Final Feature John Calipari Vs. Kevin Ollie
If you were to make any Kentucky vs. UConn predictions that included coaching experience, you’d have to hand the benefit of the doubt to a John Calipari over Kevin Ollie. Calipari has been one of the best scouts, recruiters and coaches at the college level for 26 seasons having coached at UMass, Memphis and Kentucky with brief (and totally miserable) stop overs with the New Jersey Nets and Philadelphia 76ers.
Calipari is 554-172 SU in his lifetime, winning over three-quarters of his games as a college head coach. He is also a recent national champion, having cut down the nets back in 2012 with Anthony Davis as his lead dog. The Kentucky head coach is a very known commodity.
Kevin Ollie is anything but in this regard. The NBA journeyman has only been a head coach for two seasons, taking over for the legendary Jim Calhoun who retired in 2011. Ollie has proven to be more than capable at this level, and as an NBA player was an integral glue guy in the locker room. Kevin Durant credits Ollie the key factor in “changing the whole culture in Oklahoma City” (credit: Grantland). That’s important because it proves that Ollie is an effective manager of personalities and understands the importance of team chemistry. There’s more to it than that, but anyone underselling what Ollie brings to the table is an idiot.
So I’m not selling Ollie short in any regard, but against Calipari I think he’s out of his depth. The rigors of a championship game are immense and Ollie has never been in this type of situation with any team. No team he’s ever played for has made a championship game. Even Ollie will be unprepared for what the NCAA Tournament Finals will bring, but he can overcome that by being the calming force that the UConn Huskies need him to be.
There are a lot of x-factors in this matchup, which makes handing out Kentucky vs. UConn predictions a very difficult study, but if you start at the top then the early lean has to go to the Wildcats because of their size, talent and ultimately the presence of John Calipari.