The biggest difference maker in Monday’s National Championship Game between Connecticut and Kentucky will be Kentucky forward Julius Randle. Despite the phenomenal effort of Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier throughout the tournament and the clutch shooting of Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison, it will be Randle who takes over the game and leads the Wildcats to the national championship.
In its national semifinal win against Florida, Connecticut excelled with its smaller lineup on the floor, as they dominated the game with its guards. However, that left the Huskies vulnerable inside when the Gators were able to get the ball into the paint. Florida center Patric Young scored a team high 19 points and kept the Gators in the game in the second half, exposing a flaw in Connecticut’s defense.
Randle will be an even tougher matchup for Connecticut’s post players than Young was on Saturday night. Randle is stronger and more powerful than Young, and he’s also a better scorer and rebounder than Young. The Wildcats also have tall guards who will be able to throw the ball into Randle in the post, despite great defensive pressure from Connecticut’s small guards.
Connecticut’s big men, Phillip Nolan and Amida Brimah, were in foul trouble throughout the national semifinal against Florida, and that could happen again in the title game, as neither has the strength to defend Randle 1-on-1 in the paint. If the Wildcats are able to get the ball to Randle on a consistent basis, the Huskies will have a hard time stopping him. Even if Kentucky can’t get the ball to Randle directly, his presence on the offensive boards will undoubtedly be felt and be difficult for Connecticut to deal with.
Just like the Huskies didn’t have an answer for Young on Saturday night, they don’t appear to have an answer for Randle on Monday night. The opportunity is there for Randle to have a big game, and if he can have a 20 point performance or better, he’ll likely lead the Wildcats to a national championship.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.