National Championship Open Thread

Tom Pennington

NCAA Men's Division I National Championship Game
(8) Kentucky vs. (7) Connecticut
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
Monday, 9:10 PM, CBS

And that's why it's called March Madness.

Kentucky, who began the season ranked #1 but was a hot mess just a month ago, has just been plain hot over the past three weeks, having hit two last-second game winners to advance to the national title game. Meanwhile Connecticut just keeps mowing down the favorites, knocking off ESPN studio analyst darling Michigan State to reach the Final Four, then beating #1-overall seed Florida for the second time this season.

This matchup, which practically no one with a serious bracket would have predicted, sets a number of historic marks. It shatters the previous record of highest seeds to play for a title (in 1980, when #2 Louisville beat #8 UCLA). It is also the first time since 1997 that the NCAA champion will not have won either a regular season or conference tournament title. It is also interesting to note that neither team made the NCAA tournament last year, as Kentucky didn't even qualify for the tournament while UConn was banned from the tourney for not making acceptable graduation rates. Still, whichever team wins this game will claim its fourth NCAA title in the last 20 years.

UConn might want to consider guarding Aaron Harrison, who has been responsible for the game-winning three-pointers as the Wildcats have won their five tournament games by a combined 18 points, knocking off a #1 seed, two #2 seeds, and a criminally under-seeded #4 along the way. Also of note for Kentucky is the continued absence of big man Willie Cauley-Stein. Meanwhile the Huskies have been riding the sizzling play of guard Shabazz Napier while quietly churning out 31 wins over the season.

No one would have predicted at the first of March, when UConn was drilled by Louisville by 33 points and Kentucky lost 3 out of its last 4 regular season games, that this would be your national championship game, but this is the beauty of a single-elimination tournament. Comments if you've got 'em.

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