Monday, April 07, 2014
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Preview: Kentucky Vs. Connecticut

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[April 07, 2014]  Connecticut has a strong chance at its second National Championship in four years, it just has to find a way to chase Aaron Harrison off the 3-point line late in the game. Harrison and No. 8 seed Kentucky aim for the school's second championship in three years when they face off against the Huskies in the final on Monday in North Texas. Harrison's clutch shooting lifted the Wildcats to victory in the Regional Final and the Final Four triumph over Wisconsin.

Connecticut has a guard with just as much experience in the clutch in Shabazz Napier, who dominated the second half of the Regional Final win over Michigan State and continues to come through at the line late in games. The seventh-seeded Huskies controlled the top overall seed in their 63-53 Final Four victory over Florida on Saturday and had no trouble neutralizing Michigan State and Florida's advantage on the interior in either of the last two games. Connecticut moved the Spartans' Adreian Payne away from the basket in the Regional Final with its smaller lineup and will attempt to do the same when Kentucky throws another challenge at the frontcourt in star freshman Julius Randle.

TV: 9:10 p.m. ET, CBS

ABOUT CONNECTICUT (31-8): The Huskies were not even eligible for the postseason in coach Kevin Ollie's first chance last year but seem to remember exactly how to win in the NCAA Tournament with a defense that continues to confound on the perimeter with Ryan Boatright's on-ball pressure at the top of the key. Napier and Boatright form a much smaller backcourt than the Harrison twins on the other side but attack the paint relentlessly and aren't afraid to pull the trigger from beyond the arc. The big difference for the team in the Tournament has been the play of DeAndre Daniels, who went for 20 points and 10 rebounds against Florida and has averaged 17.6 points in five games. “He played well for us,” Napier told reporters of Daniels. “It is good to have him there because his shots help all of us out, and we know that he is going to come in and take care of it.”

ABOUT KENTUCKY (29-10): The last time a team that started five freshmen made the National Championship game, Michigan's Fab Five took a halftime lead against Duke before falling by 20 points. The Wildcats are maturing with each passing game and did not panic when falling behind against Wisconsin on Saturday. Harrison made only one 3-point attempt in the Final Four contest but knocked it down with 5.7 seconds left, just like the go-ahead 3-pointer he sank with 2.3 seconds remaining against Michigan and the go-ahead 3-pointer he hit versus Louisville with 39 seconds to play in the Sweet 16. “You can't be scared to miss and you want to be that guy that wants to take the big shot,” Harrison told reporters. “It's just the feeling that I want to be the one to take the shot, and I'm not afraid to miss the shot.”

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  1. Kentucky, which missed the NCAA Tournament last season, suffered its last loss in the event to Connecticut in the 2011 Final Four.

  2. The Wildcats are the first team in NCAA Tournament history to win four straight games by five or fewer points.

  3. The Huskies (7-1) own the best winning percentage in the Final Four for any school with a minimum of three games played.

PREDICTION: Kentucky 71, Connecticut 68

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