Men's Basketball 2014 NCAA Tournament National Championship Game Breakdown

Kentucky Men's Basketball Final Four
2014 NCAA National Championship Game Breakdown
#7 Connecticut vs. #8 Kentucky (Arlington, Texas)
It is hard to imagine, but the Connecticut Huskies were the better team in their national semifinal win over the Florida Gators, and they needed neither fluky luck nor Shabazz Napier heroics. Instead, after an early 16-4 Gator lead evaporated, Connecticut simply outplayed Florida on both ends. On offense, when the threes weren't falling, Napier and Ryan Boatright were throwing lobs over the UF 1-3-1 zone for easy baskets in the paint. On defense, UConn thwarted everything Florida was trying to accomplish. Scottie Wilbekin got nothing going offensively, as he had trouble simply getting past his on-ball defender. The same went for Kasey Hill. The Gators amazingly amassed just three total assists in the ballgame. Other than a number of buckets inside for Patric Young when Connecticut went small, the Gators had little options and even less effectiveness when in possession of the basketball. It is unexpected that UConn outrebounded Florida in the game; it is also surprising that the Gators finished just 1-10 from three and shot 38.8% from the floor. However, the pinnacle of what UConn was able to accomplish on its way to the national championship is epitomized in one figure. The Huskies shot 55.8% from the floor as a team against the vaunted Florida defense and pressure. But no matter what numbers you look at or where the breakdown leads, the bottom line is UConn played better and seemed like the better team. Arguably the three best players in the contest were all Huskies.
After a scare and an impressive late-game comeback in Connecticut's very first game of the tournament against St. Joseph's, UConn has flourished and thrived. Their free-throw shooting is a thing of beauty. Napier and Boatright have been a deadly backcourt combo on both offense and defense. DeAndre Daniels is playing the best basketball of his season, rounding out a prolific trio of options for the Huskies. Kevin Ollie is just a second-year head coach, but he is getting the most out of his players and has shown the ability to adjust in-game, switching lineups and game plans for necessary situations. Besides Napier, Ollie might be the star of this tournament and this season for Connecticut.
In the other national semifinal, the outcome was much more in doubt. Entering the game, the Wisconsin Badgers were the favorite based on seeding, but the Kentucky Wildcats seemed to be the team getting more buzz. As this game progressed, that juxtaposition played itself out with a back and forth contest that came down to the very last second. Aaron Harrison hit yet another game-winner, this time to move Kentucky on to the national championship.
Harrison didn't play all that well throughout the game. Neither did his brother Andrew. On the other side, both Frank Kaminsky and Traevon Jackson, Wisconsin's two offensive ring leaders, struggled to get their games going. With the exception of Julius Randle, instead of stars dominating play, it was a case of two polar opposite game plans and executions butting up against one another. UK dominated inside, both on the boards and scoring in the paint. Wisconsin dominated on the outside, hitting eight threes, and from the foul line, where they went 19-20. Of course, as irony would have it, the lone missed free throw ended up setting up Kentucky's game-winning three, only the team's second of the whole contest.
In the national title game, with the seventh-seeded Huskies facing the eighth-seeded Wildcats, it should be yet another matchup of clashing styles. UConn is carried by its guard play and outside scoring. Kentucky has a huge edge inside and on the backboards. On paper, this seems like a terrible matchup for Connecticut, and Kentucky's way to victory is easy to imagine. UConn's two top players, Napier and Boatright, both stand six feet tall on a good day. They may have trouble seeing and getting around the length of the Harrison twins for Kentucky, who both are 6'6" tall. Then there's Julius Randle. The Wildcats' best player all season, Randle returned from a tweaked ankle in the semifinals to finish with 16 points on 6-10 shooting. UConn has no one on their roster who is fit to guard Randle one-on-one. Combined with the developing Dakari Johnson, Kentucky may see even more of a drastic paint domination than it did in the semis.
Of course, people have been counting out the Huskies every round of this tournament from the very start. Now is not the time to doubt them. While a win for Ollie's bunch may take a few more things going right, it is still a plausible storyline: Napier and Boatright frustrate the Harrison twins on defense, leading to easy offense; Daniels plays Randle to as close to even as he can; the Huskies as a whole light it up from the outside, led by Niels Giffey. And the last key would be their big men staying out of foul trouble. That will be the only way to keep Andrew Harrison and James Young from getting to the rim.
And maybe if Kentucky is down by one basket with time winding down, someone should get up into Aaron Harrison before he rises up and wins another ballgame.