Line: Kentucky (-2.5)
In the second game Saturday, 4-seed Kentucky takes on 3-seed Connecticut, coached by John Calipari and Jim Calhoun respectively. Both coaches, having much experience in the Final Four, will play a huge role in the result of this game. Calhoun, the only coach in the Final Four who has won a championship, will go up against a very athletic and fast paced Calipari Wildcat team. Calipari has now taken three different universities (U Mass, Memphis, UK) to the Final Four. His first two, however, were vacated by the NCAA due to recruiting violations. Jim Calhoun, very much like Calipari, doesn’t quite have a clean slate himself either. Calhoun, in his fourth Final Four with Connecticut, was cited earlier in the season by the NCAA for failing to create an atmosphere of compliance within his program and was suspended for the first three Big East games during the 2011-12 season. So before I start talking about this match up, let me just say, may the better crook win!
The last time these two teams matched up was back on November 24th in the Maui Invitational Championship game where the Huskies prevailed 84-67. Now, here we are 4 months later, and these two teams are still standing and playing for something a little bit more than a trophy from Chaminade. Both the Wildcats (29-8) and Huskies (30-9) are on tremendous winning streaks. The Wildcats, led by leading scorer Brandon Knight, haven’t lost a game since February 23rd, which was a 1-point deficit to Arkansas in overtime. They have won 10 straight games including an SEC Championship. On the other side, Connecticut, similarly, won their conference championship as they took down the nets at Madison Square Garden for Calhoun’s seventh Big East Title. The Huskies, having won nine straight, are led by All-American, Kemba Walker who averages 23.5 ppg and 4.3 apg. This guy alone is the reason I’m taking Connecticut. He has it all, quickness, defense, great ball sense, strong first step, you name it! He reminds me of Allen Iverson in college, the way he just goes right past people and makes every teammate better on the court. Not to mention his step back jump shot is a killer! Every now and then there is player who can carry a team on their back and take them all the way, and Kemba is that type of player. Freshman swing man Jeremy Lamb has played a large role as compliment to Walker averaging 11 ppg and leads the team in 3pt%. He certainly doesn’t play like a freshman! With Connecticut’s ability to slow it down when necessary and run in fast break situations, it’s going to be very tough for Kentucky to be able to run their offense.
With Kentucky’s young team, I think that if they get down early they will panic and start taking freshman shots (not good shots). Unfortunately, that’s just what Kemba does, hits you fast and early. The last time these two met, Connecticut went on a 22-7 run (Kemba scored 29 points) and never looked back midway through the 2nd half holding Brandon Knight to 3-15 shooting and only 6 points. Now, if Kentucky has any chance, that cannot happen! Unless lone senior Josh Harrellson can keep his troops intact, I think this could be a long night for the Wildcats. I’m taking the Huskies in this one. I think the women will win too!
Pick: Uconn +2.5 OVER 140