8 Kentucky vs. 7 UConn, 9:10 pm ET, CBS
Every so often, I'll see a coaching hire that makes me just sigh and swear because it's a marriage of an elite coach with a historically great program. It's obvious that the pairing will result in several national championships that won't be won by my Gators. Nick Saban to Alabama was one of them. Urban Meyer to Ohio State was another.
In between those was John Calipari to Kentucky. Two years ago he broke through and won his first title, and now he's on the doorstep of another.
In order to bring home his second national championship, Calipari will have to defeat a guy who outcoached another guy who has a pair of them. Kevin Ollie's adjustment to go with a smaller and faster lineup to contend with Florida's bigger and stronger set was a brilliant move that Billy Donovan failed to effectively counter. With Kentucky having a bigger lineup too, expect to see plenty more of it from UConn tonight. If UK can't find a way to deal with it, then it's going home empty handed.
Kentucky has one big advantage over Florida in combating it though, which is that it has guys who can create offense. Once UConn's defense took Scottie Wilbekin out of his game, it was basically over. UF already more or less played four-on-five on offense whenever Will Yeguete was in the game, and with Wilbekin disrupted, there was no one to consistently feed Patric Young in the post or set up Casey Prather for drives.
Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier were able to stymie Florida's point guards in part because they only gave up one inch apiece to them. Now, they'll be five (Napier) or six (Boatright) inches shorter than the Harrison brothers. They might be able to use their quickness to poke the ball out like they did all game against UF, but they're going to have a hard time preventing the twins from just shooting over them. And of course, if those two are having a difficult time, Kentucky can always run the offense through Julius Randle.
I suspect we'll also see something similar to what Kentucky did against Wisconsin where Dakari Johnson starts but plays significantly fewer minutes than Alex Poythress does. Poythress had one of his best games of the season against the Badgers, and he's a better matchup against UConn's smaller lineup than Johnson is. I wouldn't expect to see Calipari match Ollie immediately if the latter goes small; the duo of Johnson and Randle figures to be tough for DeAndre Daniels and Niels Giffey to handle when UK is on offense. Indeed, Kentucky's set of gifted offensive players might make it impossible for the Huskies to stay with that smaller lineup for very long at all.
Ultimately, I don't see either team pulling away in this one. This game is likely to be one of constant adjustments, as both teams have ways to bother the other and both coaches are unafraid to tweak things along the way. You also might want to watch out for an Aaron Harrison three as time winds down. Just a hunch.