Connecticut (31-8) vs. Kentucky (29-10)
TV: 6:09 p.m., Channel 2
This matchup between No. 7 and No. 8 is the highest seeding combination ever for an NCAA final game. It is also the first time since 1966 (Texas Western and Kentucky) that two teams are playing for the title one season after not making it into the NCAA tournament. Seventh-seeded Connecticut rallied from three points down in the final minute to defeat No.10 St. Joseph’s in overtime.
The Huskies followed with wins over No. 2 Villanova, No. 3 Iowa State, No. 4 Michigan State and No. 1 Florida. Saturday night’s 63-53 national semifinal win over Florida improved Connecticut’s Final Four record to 5-0 in the state of Texas.
The Huskies won national titles in San Antonio (2004) and Houston (2011). Second-year Coach Kevin Ollie is 5-0 in his first NCAA tournament. Connecticut is 3-1 all-time against Kentucky, all on neutral courts, and 2-0 in the NCAA tournament.
Kentucky had one of the hardest draws to the title game, defeating No. 9 Kansas State, No. 1 Wichita State, No. 4 Louisville, No. 2 Michigan and No. 2 Wisconsin. A ninth title win Monday night would leave Kentucky two behind UCLA’s record of 11. Kentucky has won its last four tournament games by a total of 10 points. The Wildcats trailed by nine or more points in each of those wins.
Freshman guard Aaron Harrison’s three-pointer with 5.7 seconds left was the difference in Saturday’s 74-73 win over Wisconsin. Harrison also made a three-pointer, from almost the same spot on the court, to defeat Michigan in last week’s Midwest Regional final in Indianapolis.
“I’m not afraid to miss the shot,” Harrison said. “So, as long as you’re not afraid to miss, I think you have a good chance of making it.”
Kentucky played seven freshmen in the Wisconsin win but committed only four turnovers, the fewest in school history for an NCAA tournament game.