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The Kentucky Wildcats and the Connecticut Huskies have totally defied logic in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. They’re both on the verge of reaching the finale of the dance, and they both have absolutely captured the hearts of all of the fans of the little guys of college basketball across the country. Check out our March Madness picks for this national semifinal in Houston!
Matchup: #3 Connecticut Huskies vs. #4 Kentucky Wildcats
Date: Saturday, April 2nd, 8:50 ET
Location: Final Four, Houston, TX
NCAA Basketball Odds: Kentucky -2
The Kentucky Wildcats and the Connecticut Huskies followed completely opposite roads at the start of the season. Everyone was high on the Kentucky rotation to the point that it was one of the Top 10 teams in the land for quite some time until the SEC season started. Connecticut found itself in the dumps at the start of the year off of the NIT campaign last season. The two teams met at the Maui Invitational, and UConn’s triumph was a bit of a shock. Kentucky didn’t play so well at the beginning of the SEC season, but it came through at the end of the year, winning some big time games down the stretch and then taking the SEC crown. Connecticut started off well in the Big East and flipped the other direction just a bit. However, it came back and won the Big East title as well. Both teams have had great runs here to the Final Four, and now, one will survive to make it to the NCAA Tournament finale on Monday.
Connecticut Huskies Notes: We could sit here and just list off all of Kemba Walker’s stats this year and in this tournament, but we all know that this young man is a human highlight reel. Walker inevitably will score somewhere between 20 and 35 points in this one, and if he doesn’t, the Huskies are dead in the water regardless of what it is that they do. However, what is underappreciated about Head Coach Jim Calhoun’s team is how well the rest of the youngsters, the future of this franchise, are really playing. Jeremy Lamb is Exhibit A. This frosh has put up nine straight games with double digits in scoring, including posting 24 and 19 points in the two games played in Anaheim to wrap up the West Bracket. Lamb is becoming a bona fide sharpshooter, and he is really shooting the ball well from all over the court. Keep a close eye on another first year player, Shabazz Napier. Napier might only be scoring 8.0 points per game this year, but he came up with 10 big points for the Huskies against the San Diego State Aztecs in the Elite 8 to reach this point in the season. Don’t underestimate how strong this team is defensively as well. UConn has held five straight foes, dating back to the finale in the Big East Tournament, to 67 points or fewer, and it is conceding just 65.7 points per game on the season.
Kentucky Wildcats Notes: We’ve heard about this all season long. Head Coach John Calipari was convinced that his team in the form that it has been in for most of the year, was never going to be able to come together to do anything when all of the marbles were in the center of the table in the dance. Now, it very well could be true that this team probably isn’t as talented as last year’s team was that was bounced in the Elite 8. However, there is no doubt that this is a fantastic team as a whole, and most importantly, it is a group of six players that is really playing like a team at the best possible time. Sure, this is still a sloppy bunch that takes too many iffy shots and commits too many turnovers, but there isn’t a man in this six pack of stars that doesn’t bring everything he’s got every single night. Josh Harrellson and Terrence Jones have gone up against some of the best big men in the country en route to the Final Four, including John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, and Jared Sullinger… and that’s just talking about the regional semifinals and finals in Newark. Brandon Knight was the top freshman scorer in the land this year, but he has been wildly bipolar for the entire NCAA Tournament.
The Final Word: We’re just not all that sure that the Huskies can keep this up. We know that we keep saying that, but there is a point that it has to come true… right? Kentucky is significantly better than your average No. 4 seed, and it will prove it in this one by coming out and crushing UConn.
March Madness Free Pick: Kentucky Wildcats -2