If anyone anticipated that the UConn Huskies and Kentucky Wildcats would be the two options when we finally made our March Madness Finals picks, I don’t know if I’d believe them without hard proof. Yet here we are, staring at two teams who are peaking at the perfect time behind the mercurial play of their point guards.
March Madness Finals – #8 Kentucky Wildcats -2.5 vs. #7 UConn Huskies
Monday, April 7th — 9:10pm EST
Where to Watch: CBS Network
I literally don’t have enough space here to talk about how much fun Shabazz Napier has been this entire tournament, and while he wasn’t the best player during Saturday’s shockingly dominant win over Florida, he was certainly the catalyst. Napier had 12 points, 6 assists and 4 steals while DeAndre Daniels stole the show and went toe-to-toe with Patric Young one of the best big men in the business.
There’s no reason to believe that the Huskies can’t compete on Monday night as one of the two March Madness Finals picks. They are slim underdogs, but beating the most disciplined and efficient team in the country gives them a fighting chance against the country’s most talented. The only reason to bet against UConn is superstition – no team that has gone 5-0 ATS leading up to the March Madness Finals has won the tournament outright.
The wrinkle with the Wildcats in that regard is that they have turned the sportsbook on its ear with an almost hilarious 7-1 SU and 7-0-1 ATS stretch in the post season. If they aren’t covering, they’re pushing. The oddsmakers must be going insane. Of course, backing Kentucky becomes an easy venture because of their incredible performances under pressure in recent games. They have narrowly beaten four of the best programs in 2014 in a row.
A lot of that is thanks to Aaron Harrison, who saved his best for last again while rattling through a game-winning three pointer for the second straight victory. The point man from Kentucky perfectly epitomizes the Wildcats – erratic inconsistencies combined with raw talent and tenacious effort equals clutch performances. Harrison and his twin brother Andrew also form one of the most athletic back courts in the country. Both are insanely gifted athletes and stand at 6-foot-6. They will likely be the most difficult set that the 6-foot-1 Shabazz has faced this entire tournament.
And this might be UConn’s biggest problem. Julius Randle and Marcus Lee just contained the 7-foot wonderkid that is Frank Kaminsky, who only garnered 7 attempts on Saturday. DeAndre Daniels is a much more prototypical, low-post player and is only 6-foot-9 and 195 pounds. Randle outweighs him by over 50 pounds and Lee, who will fill in for the scratched Cauley-Stein, has 20 pounds on Daniels as well. This isn’t just a difficult matchup for UConn, it’s one that they may not be able to handle physically.
That’s why the imperfections in Kentucky’s execution can be put aside. Their defensive aggression, which has outmuscled Wisconsin, Wichita State, Michigan and Louisville can completely smother the Huskies. Of course, there is the fear that Shabazz can beat up on the Harrison twins and that Daniels will continue to punch well above his weight class but I’m not willing to risk that happening with my money or my reputation. That’s why the Wildcats are my choice in March Madness Finals picks as -2.5 point favorites.