BOSTON (CBS) — The NCAA tournament comes to a close for the men on Monday night, with seventh-seeded UConn and eighth-seeded Kentucky battling for college basketball supremacy.
The Huskies knocked off the top-ranked Florida Gators on Saturday night (the second time they beat the Gators this season), while Kentucky sent two-seeded Wisconsin home. The Boston Globe’s Joe Sullivan has been covering the tournament since it started with the field of 68, and tells 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich it’s time to stop underestimating UConn.
“They’re a revelation. They should have lost their first game to St. Joes in Buffalo,” said Sullivan. “That’s the beauty of the tournament, to go from near-elimination to the championship game. Saturday showed UConn is more than Shabazz Napier, and for them to advance past Florida I thought he would have to play the game of his life. He didn’t, he played well, but a lot of other people played well too.
“We can’t underestimate UConn anymore.”
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Napier, a Roxbury native, is averaging 21.2 points per game this tournament, but scored just 12 points against the Gators on Saturday. Junior forward DeAndre Daniels proved to be the difference maker in that one, scoring a game-high 20 points to go with 10 rebounds.
As for Kentucky, they have turned things around after a frustrating regular season. The Wildcats were the top team in the preseason but struggled for stretches, and many felt they deserved better than an eight-seed when the tournament started. Sullivan says they earned that eight-seed because of their poor play, but are now playing together as a team rather than a handful of one-and-done players.
“I think it has to do with them playing together. Whatever light bulb went on they’re not playing as individuals anymore, they’re playing as a team,” he said. “They attack the rim on offense too. Marcus Lee hadn’t played all season, and all he does is come off the bench and dunk. It’s a different team from the regular season, and that’s why they are here.”
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While Kentucky has size with Julius Randle, UConn has the speed with their backcourt of Napier and Ryan Boatright. But will Kentucky’s size be the deciding factor on Monday night?
“UConn can’t allow that to happen. On the reverse is the UConn guards are lightning quick. The Harrison twins are 6-6, and that’s where UConn has the advantage,” says Sullivan. “UConn could get some opportunities using their quickness to penetrate and get some open shots. But they can’t let Kentucky keep dunking offensive rebounds like other teams have.”
“I’m not going to underestimate the Huskies anymore and am going to take the Huskies,” said Sullivan. “Shabazz Napier, the Boston kid, with a big game and wins the National Championship.”