2014 National Championship Predictions: Picks for UConn vs. UK
Our experts each make their selections for Huskies vs. Wildcats and tell you who will be cutting down the nets in North Texas.
So Saturday might not have gone exactly as planned, but the CBSSports.com experts are back to make their selections for Monday's National Championship game between Kentucky and UConn. It's a mixed bag, with some taking the Wildcats and some on the Huskies. At least we are assured that some will be right.
Here's who they picked -- and why:
College Basketball Insider
It seems silly, at this point, to pick against Kentucky or Connecticut given that both have looked overwhelming at times and seem to have the all-important factor of luck on their sides, too. But somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. (This isn't soccer, you know?) And, if forced to pick, I'll pick UK as the winner and UConn as the loser, probably after Aaron Harrison buries a 45-footer at the buzzer. A quick glance at the point spread is proof that this is basically a coinflip of a game. So anybody "guaranteeing" anything is being silly. Kentucky is going to do what it does, which is offensive rebound like crazy. Connecticut is going to do what it does, which is block shots and make scoring inside the arc really, really difficult. And then somebody will get into foul trouble, somebody will make some 3-pointers, and those types of things will likely determine college basketball's national champion. Again, it could go either way. But put me down for Kentucky -- thanks to Aaron Harrison draining a 65-footer, or something like that, as time expires. Prediction: Kentucky
Clearly UConn's second victory in two games against top-seeded Florida was a fluke, and this run can't last forever. That's a joke, UConn fans. Thanks for pointing out how silly this story from Friday was looking on Saturday night. Really. I wouldn't have known without you. As for tonight's game: UConn can win. The Huskies will have the best college guard on the floor in Shabazz Napier, and maybe even the second best college guard in Ryan Boatright. DeAndre Daniels is a rare big man who has the size, length and explosion to match one of Kentucky's big men. But he can't match all of Kentucky's big men. UConn is an average rebounding team -- it averages 35.1 boards per game, compared to 34.7 for its opponents -- while Kentucky is ferocious. All the defense in the world, and UConn's defense is nasty, can't keep the Wildcats from the offensive glass. This is why Kentucky will win its second national title in three years, and prevent UConn from a second title in four.Prediction: Kentucky
College Basketball Writer
Connecticut wasn’t supposed to be able to match the forward play of Iowa State. The Huskies weren’t supposed to handle the inside players for Michigan State. And Florida was expected to overpower them on the inside. And when the clock struck zero, Connecticut moved on from each game. I think Monday is going to be more of the same. On paper, Kentucky has the edge at nearly every position. The Wildcats are better down low, they’re bigger on the perimeter, they’re stronger in the paint, and they have more weapons on the offensive end. UConn shouldn’t be able to match them down low, where Kentucky excels. Yet Kentucky doesn’t have one thing: Shabazz Napier. It’s time for me to stop betting against Napier. He’s not Kemba Walker, but he’s put the Huskies on his back and carried them game after game. Moreover, DeAndre Daniels has emerged as a legitimate weapon offensively, and the Huskies are playing lockdown defense. Napier controls the game better than anyone in the country, and he’s shown he loves taking – and making – big shots late in the game. This one is going to be close down the stretch, and that sort of game often goes to the team with the best player. UConn has the best player. UConn gets the win. UConn wins the title. Prediction: UConn
College Basketball Writer
I took Florida. I took Florida big, in fact. And I took Wisconsin. Both picks blew up in my face. It's been a miserable tournament, my worst ever. But I'm back for one more chance to try and look like I know what the heck I'm doing.
Kentucky vs. UConn gives us a title game with the highest total between the two seeds (15) in tournament history. Kentucky's ability to win four straight by five points or less (a tournament first) rings loudly. The preseason No. 1 team has pulled itself together and has been unwavering in its ability to punch back -- and look good doing it. Shabazz Napier and the UConn backcourt, for the first time this tournament, faces guards who can physically match up against them and that could be the difference. UConn beat Florida in the Final Four without a heroic effort from Napier, but I'm not sure it can get away with winning another without a big-time showing from the tourney's most valuable player to date.
But I don't believe Kentucky will allow Napier to go for 23 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Shutting him down and having Julius Randle continue to be the landlord down low will give Kentucky its second title in three years. Prediction: Kentucky
CBS Sports Analyst
The size of Kentucky vs. the speed and quickness of UConn. Obviously Julius Randle is a problem for Niels Giffey and DeAndre Daniels to box out. Additionally Ryan Boatright is tiny while the Harrison Twins are huge by comparison, but I think this is a night where not having a point guard comes back to haunt Kentucky. UConn plays at times with three on the floor at once (Terrence Samuel) and their ball pressure will be the difference. Don't get me wrong, Kentucky can win this game, and may well play bully ball and just shoot over UConn inside the lane, but Shabazz Napier will attack Dakari Johnson on ball screens and score just enough, I am guessing, to win. Prediction: UConn
CBS Sports Network Insider
Destiny seems to have determined this national title game and if what we've seen so far in the NCAA Tournament is any indication, the showdown between UConn and Kentucky should be a doozy. It makes perfect sense to pick the Wildcats. John Calipari's squad has won four consecutive games on the final possession and seems primed to win their second championship in three seasons. But Kentucky hasn't had to deal with a back court like Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. College basketball is a guard's game and the Huskies will have arguably the two best back court players on the floor. It doesn't make sense to pick UConn considering what it will likely be giving away the glass, but if you've followed the sport this season a lot of the expected results haven't come to fruition. Napier is a player who loves the big moment. It says here he'll shine on the biggest one Monday night at A T & T Stadium. Prediction: UConn
It seems like every time I talk about UConn, I talk about how good Shabazz Napier is, especially in the clutch, which is true, but that they probably won't do well against the inside strength of their opponent, specifically Michigan State and Wisconsin, and that could not have been more false. But I'm not afraid to keep beating my head against the wall. The Huskies inside game will get its stiffest test yet against Julius Randle and the best offensive rebounding team in Kentucky. And while Napier is the best clutch player in the country, Aaron Harrison is the best in this tournament. Kentucky has way too many weapons, even without Willie Cauley-Stein and will get to live up to the preseason expectation of a championship. Prediction: Kentucky
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