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UConn Defeats Kentucky: Huskies Have Been The Story Of the Tournament, It’s Time To Tell It

No. 7 seed Connecticut may have technically been the more likely of the two teams playing to win the NCAA Championships this season, having faced off against the No. 8 seed Kentucky, but Las Vegas oddsmakers pegged the Wildcats as the 2.5 favorite over the Huskies.

In other words, the stunningly ignored Huskies had the Wildcats right where they wanted them.

Those who have followed UConn in the tournament, and many tournaments prior, easily recognized how well things had shaped up for this team recently. Not only did they play strong down the regular season stretch, their postseason victory margin was easily one of the strongest of any team in the NCAA Tournament.

UConn defeated their last four opponents by a collective margin of 41 points. Compare that to Kentucky, who won the four games that carried them to the finals by a collective margin of just 11 points—which includes a three-point victory over Michigan in the Elite Eight and a one-point win over Wisconsin in the Final Four.

That’s not to say that the senior-heavy Huskies had the advantage in that department. After struggling early and going 3-3 to end the regular season, the young Wildcats finally started to play like the legitimate contender they’re expected to be each year right right when it mattered the most.

As has been the case in the tournament this year, it may have come down to one team’s seniors over another team’s underclassmen. Borrowing a page from Coach K’s book, who’s suddenly upstart Duke Blue Devils fell to the mighty Mercer Bears, Kentucky coach John Calipari pointed to UConn seniors like Shabazz Napier to explain away the loss.

On one hand, he’s right. Napier was exceptional in the championship game, with 22 points, six rebounds and three assists. His defensive partner Ryan Boatright, a junior, finished with an impressive 14 points.

On the other hand, Calipari’s lack of experienced juniors and seniors is his own fault. Kentucky has enjoyed great success employing his one-and-done model of recruiting—a model that perpetuates itself with its own success—meaning he has no one to blame for his lack of experienced players but himself.

Calipari has never backed off the praise lavished on him for winning championships with freshman, but he was quick to unload the blame for his team’s loss against UConn, citing the experience of their seniors. Not that the Kentucky faithful are likely to hold it against him, with Calipari’s named being tossed around as a potential replacement for Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, who has yet to be fired.

The truth is, it’s far too easy to make this all about Calipari—who is nothing short of a lightning rod—and Kentucky, which is just unfair to UConn. The Huskies have been the story of this entire tournament…it’s just a story that nobody has bothered to tell until now.

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