Men’s NCAA Basketball Final Pits UConn Against Kentucky

April 7, 2014

Monday night’s NCAA basketball national championship matches two teams that have a knack for dramatic finishes. But the teams’ rankings in this tournament didn’t predict their presence in the final: Connecticut was a No. 7 seed, and Kentucky a No. 8. The NCAA says their combined seeding of 15 is a new record.

As you would expect, the game will be broadcast on television by CBS, with the tipoff scheduled for 9:10 p.m. ET in AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.

Both programs have had recent success in the Big Dance: UConn won it all in 2011, while Kentucky won the title in 2012. But as NPR’s Tom Goldman tells Melissa Block on today’s All Things Considered, neither team was selected for the NCAA tournament last year.

From Tom:

“Tonight is the first time since 1966 that the finalists weren’t in the previous tournament. Kentucky wasn’t very good; Kentucky lost in the National Invitational Tournament, the NIT; UConn was banned from March Madness because the basketball team had a low academic rating. The Huskies now are meeting the standard, although reportedly they still have a pretty low rating. They’re digging their way out.”

Here are highlights of other coverage we’re seeing:

“Since Shabazz Napier is playing Aaron Harrison, why don’t Connecticut and Kentucky just play 40 one-minute games instead of one 40-minute game to decide the national championship?” — That’s the tongue-in-cheek question asked by Mark Titus at Grantland. Both Napier and Harrison have hit big shots for their teams in this tournament.

“You work so hard to get to the point where you have to believe in yourself, and probably Harrison, when he was younger, would be on the courts going, ‘3 … 2 … 1’ and he’d shoot the ball. And when you miss it, you’re going to say you got fouled.” — Napier on Harrison at, who has made three game-winning shots in this tournament.

“UConn will be a big underdog in this game. No matter what the stats say, no matter how their confidence appears, the Huskies don’t have what Kentucky has in terms of sheer talent,” says Dana O’Neil of ESPN. But, she adds, “Connecticut will win this game the way the Huskies have won every game in this NCAA tournament — with their defense.”

“Kentucky’s ability to win four straight by five points or less (a tournament first) rings loudly. The preseason No. 1 team has pulled itself together and has been unwavering in its ability to punch back — and look good doing it.” — Matt Norlander of CBS Sports.

“It really is a toss-up, at least according to the FiveThirtyEight forecast model, which gives Connecticut a 50.1 percent chance of winning and Kentucky a 49.9 percent chance.” — Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.

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