UK vs. UConn: Wildcats pegged as chalk
In early March Madness betting action on the national championship game between Connecticut and Kentucky at Bovada the Wildcats were favored by 2.5 points over the Huskies, as two of college basketball's last three champions hook up to decide this year's title at Arlington's AT&T Stadium.
The matchup sets a new tournament record for lowest combined seeding in a championship game, but UConn just won the national title three years ago and Kentucky won it two seasons ago.
Kentucky began this season ranked No. 1 in the polls, but the Wildcats and their all-freshman starting five had a tough time living up to those lofty expectations – and as March rolled around they had dropped completely out of the polls. With a little help from a mini-run to the SEC tournament championship game Kentucky entered this NCAA Tournament as a No. 8 seed.
Then something clicked for this young Wildcats squad. They beat Kansas State in their tournament opener 56-49, then outlasted previously undefeated Wichita State 78-76. Kentucky then bumped off defending national champion Louisville 74-69 and national runner-up Michigan 75-72 on a late three-pointer by Aaron Harrison to reach the Final Four.
Then Saturday Harrison did it again, hitting a three-pointer with five seconds left to give the Wildcats a thrilling 74-73 victory over Wisconsin, earning another berth in another national championship game.
UConn, meanwhile, began this season, the second of the Kevin Ollie era, ranked No. 20, then went 12-6 in the new American Athletic Conference, earning a No. 7 seed for the Big Dance. The Huskies began the tournament getting upwards of 20/1 on the March Madness betting lines just to win the East Region. But UConn opened with an 89-81 overtime victory over Saint Joseph's, topped Villanova 77-65, beat Iowa State 81-76 and then knocked off Michigan State 60-54 to make the Final Four.
Saturday the Huskies went down to top-seeded Florida by a dozen points early then put the clamps on the Gators, holding them to 41 points over the last 30 minutes for a 63-53 victory.
These two programs don't get together too often, but they have met four times over the last eight seasons with UConn winning three of those games. Most recently the Huskies, led by Kemba Walker, beat the Wildcats 56-55 in a national semifinal three seasons ago in Houston. Two nights later UConn beat Butler for the national title.