No. 7 Connecticut Huskies vs. No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats
Record: 31-8. Conference: American Athletic
NCAA Tournament history: 57-29; champion 1999 (beating Duke at Tropicana Field), 2004, 2011
Record: 29-10. Conference: SEC
NCAA Tournament history: 116-46; champion 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998, 2012
Connecticut's starting five
UConn has beaten Kentucky in both NCAA Tournament meetings: 87-83 in the second round in 2006 and 56-55 in a national semifinal in 2011.
Kentucky's Julius Randle (above right) has been a dominating force, particularly during the tournament, and Dakari Johnson has stepped in at center for the injured Willie Cauley-Stein (ankle) without much drop-off. UConn's frontcourt is efficient in scoring and rebounding. Despite foul trouble against Florida in the semifinal, DeAndre Daniels and Niels Giffey combined for 32 points and 14 rebounds, and helped clamp down on G Scottie Wilbekin in the lane. As Randle said, any frontcourt that held its own like that against the Gators "you have to respect."
Kentucky's twins, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, have played their best in the postseason, and Aaron has three buzzer-beaters. But the two freshmen will run across talent and experience in UConn seniors Shabazz Napier (above left) and Ryan Boatright. The Harrisons are turnover prone, a combined 167 this season, and it's a safe bet UConn will attempt to take advantage of that weakness.
In eight postseason games the Huskies have used predominantly eight players. When their post players got in foul trouble against Florida, Lasan Kromah and Amida Brimah produced solid minutes, and freshman G Terrence Samuel offers spot relief for Napier and Boatright. Kentucky is essentially seven deep, and without Cauley-Stein has one less option. F Alex Poythress has been the equivalent of a sixth starter coming off the bench.
Antonya English, Times staff writer