March Madness 2014 has culminated with the lowest-seeded combination ever to play in the National Championship Game. The 2014 pairing of #7 seed Connecticut and #8 seed Kentucky takes place Monday night, 9:10 PM at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. We pointed out in our Final Four update that the Vegas odds on the surging Kentucky Wildcats would provide a lot of value. And that underdog wager made many sports gamblers extremely happy, as Kentucky narrowly edged by the favored #2 seed Wisconsin Badgers 74 – 73 to advance to the championship game.
Florida Struggles, UCONN Takes Down the Overal #1
Likewise, lower seed UCONN had an easy time with a poor shooting #1 seed Florida Gators team that was the number one overall seed of the entire tournament. The Gators went to the rim early, and established a quick 12 point lead. However, they ended up with all the wrong people shooting three pointers, while Connecticut was successful on 11 of its last 12 field goals. UCONN was up by 10 points with a minute and a half remaining, and the handwriting was on the wall. Billy Donovan and the Gators were headed home. You can’t score just 25 points over the last 25 minutes of the game and expect to win, and that is exactly what Florida did.
Shooting just 8 of 23 from the field in the first half, and a dismal 1 of 7 from three point land, the Gators ended their championship run. But credit has to be given to UCONN, whose outstanding defense often times caused Florida to miss. DeAndre Daniels had 20 points and 10 boards to lead all players in those categories, shooting 9 of 14 from the field. He was also the only player from either team to stay on the court the entire game. Florida’s defense (#3 in the country) was stifling early, but they had no answer for Daniels, who was supported by Shabazz Napier’s 12 points and 6 assists.
It Worked Once, Let’s Do It Again
You may remember that, against Michigan, Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison drained an NBA range three to preserve the victory for the Wildcats. The assists came from his brother Andrew, and it was déjà vu all over again in Saturday’s Final Four matchup. Andrew swings the ball to his twin brother Aaron, who then strokes a three point shot from just about the parking lot to give Kentucky a 74 – 73 lead with 5.7 seconds left. That was enough to send Wisconsin packing, as Traevon Jackson’s desperation jumper for the Huskies at the end of the game rimmed out. The UK – UCONN matchup in the championship game Monday night marks only the second time since 1966 that the final matchup includes two teams which were not even in the tournament the previous year.
Kentucky Opens Up as Early March Madness Title Game Favorite
Oddly enough, Kentucky was also one of the teams playing in that championship game in ’66. Early Vegas odds on the March Madness Championship Game show Kentucky as an early favorite. The team was the preseason #1 NCAAB selection, but struggled at times during the year. The Wildcats bring a lot of first-year players to the championship game, while UConn suits up a more seasoned team. Kentucky won the title in 2012, with UCONN cutting down the nets the previous year. If you’re a fan of trivia, you will note that this is the fourth time a #8 seed has made it to the championship game. This is also the first time a #7 seed has made to the title game. A little research shows that Kentucky has not lost an NCAA tournament game since they lost to UCONN in the 2011 National Championship matchup, so we should have one heckuva matchup Monday for the culmination of the 2014 NCAA Men’s College Basketball Season.