A No. 7 and a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament Championship game? Exactly as we all predicted, right? Even though there was no perfect bracket and nobody will be winning Warren Buffet’s billion dollars, March Madness has been a blast.
The Kentucky Wildcats
Can Win Because…
They’re playing like the No. 1 team in the nation that they were expected to be. As you might recall, the Wildcats were the preseason No. 1 team in the country and social media was discussing about the possibility of this team going undefeated. However, they entered the NCAA Tournament just 24-10. For whatever reason, the light bulb has gone on for them in this playoff atmosphere as they have looked every bit the champion that we all expected them to be.
Much will be made of the Huskies impressive defense but they haven’t faced anyone who has Kentucky’s all-around talent – especially the size on the inside. St. Joe’s, Villanova and Iowa State weren’t that intimidating on the interior. Michigan State and Florida has more presence but Kentucky will be an even bigger handful – one that UConn might not be able to handle. Julius Randle is an absolute monster, averaging 15.8 points per game and 10.6 rebounds. Kentucky also entered the Final Four outrebounding its opponents by 10 boards a game. They have the edge inside, which is why they’ll take home the ultimate prize.
The Connecticut Huskies Can Win Because…
Defense wins championships. The Wildcats have had a nice run in the tournament so far but UConn has been the more impressive of the two teams. They’ve made a number of supposed title contenders look very ordinary, including Florida, who was the top overall seed. Their defense is suffocating and it’s likely to be the difference. They held Florida to just 19-for-49 from the field, Michigan State to 18-for-46 and Iowa State 32-for-69 and Villanova to 18-for-51. If they can turn those teams into jump shooting squads, there’s a good chance they can do that to Kentucky as well. If that happens, the Huskies are going to be cutting down the nets.
The Wildcats – like many of UConn’s previous opponents – are reliant on guard play. They need the Harrison twins to do work on the perimeter and break teams down off the dribble. That worked against Louisville, Wisconsin and Michigan, but those are all offensive-minded teams that had no answers for the Wildcats in the halfcourt. The Huskies have Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, whose size has been a real problem for opponents. This tandem has been shutting guards down. This will be a new experience for the Harrisons and we don’t know how they’ll respond.
Rely on defense with your NCAA basketball picks. The Huskies aren’t as flashy but they have the mettle to get by here.
Outlook & Pick
The age-old adage will ring true once more: defense wins championships. The Wildcats have more talent, more flash and more players that will be taken in the first round of the coming NBA drafts. However, the Huskies have gotten here because of defense. They shut down SEC Player of the Year Scottie Wilbekin down along with a slew of other quality guards. They’ll do the same to the Harrisons and they’ll make Kentucky work in the halfcourt, which is something that Wisconsin and Michigan didn’t do well enough. Take the Huskies plus the points and on the moneyline to finish the job.
Pick: Huskies +3 & +133 at 5Dimes