The stage is set. AT&T Stadium, Jerry World, Dallas, Texas, over 80,000 people in attendance to see the UConn Huskies square off against the Kentucky Wildcats for the right to call themselves “National Champions”.
Both of these teams runs to the title game have been quite the ride. It wasn’t even 4 weeks ago when the Huskies went into Louisville on March the 8th and got manhandled. UConn lost the game 81-48 shooting a horrific 29.4 percent from the field. No, neither of those numbers are misprints.
So the Huskies entered the NCAA tournament as a 7-seed. No 7-seed had ever reached the championship game, that is until this year.
UConn’s journey began with a match-up against St. Joe’s, and that journey almost ended on the very first day. It took Amida Brimah completing a 3-point play in the games final minute to force overtime before the Huskies finally pulled away.
Then the legend of Shabazz Napier began with UConn’s upset win over the 2-seeded Villanova Wildcats. Napier dropped 25 points as the Huskies cruised to a 12-point win.
In the sweet 16 against Iowa State, UConn nearly blew a 17-point 2nd half lead. Free throw shooting though helped the Huskies hold on. UConn made 20/22 on the night (90.9%) and it was on to the elite 8 to face Michigan State (the team every single ESPN analyst and President Barack Obama picked to win it all).
Shabazz Napier scored 17 points in the 2nd half hitting big shot after big shot to send the Huskies to Dallas to face Florida. Following a dreadful first 11 minutes where UConn trailed 16-4, the combination of DeAndre Daniels and Shabazz Napier was too much for Scottie Wilbekin and the Florida Gators to handle.
As for the Kentucky Wildcats, their journey is even more head-scratching. It started with a test from Kansas State, with Kentucky holding on for the 7-point win. Against Wichita State, the Wildcats trailed by as many as 9 in the 2nd half, but great games from the Harrison twins, as well as Julius Randle was too much for the Shockers to handle.
Despite an up and down regular season that began with the Wildcats as the number 1 ranked team in all of college basketball, and having to deal with an 8-seed, Kentucky’s laundry list of NBA talent finally started to come together. None of it would have been possible without the clutch tournament play of number 2, Aaron Harrison.
Against Louisville in the sweet 16 and the Cardinals leading by 1 with 39 seconds left, Harrison drilled a three in the corner to give Kentucky a lead it would not relinquish.
His legend only grew against Michigan in the elite 8 with 4 seconds left. Kentucky was stagnant for the first 6 seconds of its possession, so Aaron Harrison took a deep contested 3 and nailed it without regard for human life to send the Wildcats to the Final Four.
Who said he was done?? In Kentucky’s Final Four match-up against Wisconsin and the Wildcats down 2, Harrison did it again. He nailed another deep 3 to give Kentucky a one-point lead with 5.7 remaining. Harrison did not attempt a 3 in the game until that point, but it didn’t matter.
Now, Kentucky is going to the National Championship game to take on the UConn Huskies on Monday night and the sports world would not have wanted it any other way.