In the process of making your Final 4 pick, you must have stumbled across the fact that Kentucky and UConn had a previous meeting this year, but the question is does that tell us anything? It is well worth exploring. These teams will meet up in one of the national semi-final games scheduled for Saturday at Reliant Stadium in Houston, with tip-off slated for 8:49 PM ET. Kentucky is a 2.5-point favorite, with the total posted at 140 points. Will the previous encounter, won 84-67 by UConn, be a major factor in your Final 4 pick?
Final 4 Pick - National Semi-Finals
Kentucky Wildcats (29-8 SU, 17-14-1 ATS) vs. Connecticut Huskies (30-9 SU, 21-12 ATS)
Live at Reliant Stadium
Saturday, April 2 -- 8:49 PM ET
Odds - Final 4 Pick:
Is it instructive to look at the game that these teams played earlier in the season? I think it usually helps to look at any data you have at your disposal, though you certainly don't always look upon previous meetings as persuasive evidence for ultimately making your Final 4 pick.
It was the fifth game of the season for Kentucky, which was meaningful because they had freshmen in the key roles. The game took place on a neutral court in Maui, and it's interesting to note that UConn hasn't lost yet on a neutral floor, playing without a blemish in Maui, the Big East tournament, and of course thus far in the NCAA Tournament.
Brandon Knight, the freshman point guard for Kentucky, had a horrific game. He shot just three of 15 from the field, and missed all eight of his three-point shots. He handed out five assists but also committed five turnovers and at the time he didn't look like a player who was going to lead a successful Final 4 pick. I think it's safe to say Knight has made major progress since then, as he is more sure-handed and confident, and is a 40% shooter from beyond the arc at this point.
Josh Harellson went scoreless in the game, with just six rebounds in 25 minutes. And if you are one of the people who believe that as the season progressed, Harellson, who scored less than two points a game as a junior, has become much more of a meaningful part of this Kentucky team (and there's no one who shouldn't), then you would have to believe that he'd be a factor in this one, inasmuch as he has averaged almost 16 points in the NCAA Tournament and helps make this team a more viable Final 4 pick.
The turnovers, rebounds, and numbers of three-pointers and free throws were pretty much even, though Kentucky threw up a lot of bricks, hitting just 37%.
Interestingly enough, Kentucky guards Jon Hood and Eloy Vargas logged 29 minutes between them, and both play very little now. Vargas has played just nine minutes in the NCAA Tournament, while Hood hasn't scored a point in his last twelve appearances.
UConn was in the process of beating a top ten team for the second straight day, and it is no surprise that the Huskies rode Kemba Walker and his 29 points into the winner's circle. He spearheaded an attack that shot 57% and also got 18 points and eleven rebounds out of Alex Oriakhi, who helped get Terrence Jones into early foul trouble. So, for the sake of your Final 4 pick, the question you may want to ask yourself is whether the Wildcats, who have Harellson playing a bigger role, might be able to create more of a impediment on the inside, because maybe that’s the difference.