Last year Connecticut and Butler faced off in Houston to determine the National Championship. It was sloppy, it was boring, and it was poorly received. After such a highly rated NCAA Tournament, with numerous upsets and Cinderella dancing, it was disappointing to see such a mundane final.
The 2012 Tournament has been the opposite. Upsets were at a premium, and chalk reigned. Not one game was determined by a last-second shot, but three were decided by lane violations. Seventh-seeded Florida was the highest seed to reach the Elite Eight, and they won two National Championships in the last six years -- hardly a Cinderella. Ratings were down 5 percent from last year as fans looking for excitement and suspense should have tuned in to the season finale of "The Walking Dead" (please don't tell me the outcome, I have Season 3 DVR'd and have yet to watch!).
But the Final Four has been a different story. With four of the top teams in college basketball squaring off, viewers were rewarded with two exciting contests. Both of Saturday evening's games exceeded the ratings mark set last year, proving that although Cinderella is fun for the first few rounds, in the end people want to see the juggernauts.
Now the Kentucky Wildcats take on the Kansas Jayhawks in a historic battle, featuring two of the most successful programs in college basketball history. Kentucky coach John Calipari will be looking for his first National Championship in what has been a remarkable career. Bill Self and the Jayhawks will try to emulate the 2008 National Championship when they knocked off the then-Calipari-coached Memphis Tigers.
Kentucky's road to the National Championship has been fairly smooth. The Wildcats cruised to comfortable leads early, having to fend off some late surges to advance. Kansas took a different approach, trailing the majority of their games before mounting dramatic comebacks.
Kansas will need to slow things down and limit Kentucky's fast break points if they want to stay in this game. In the end it will come down to how well the Jayhawks can weather the storm in the first half. If the lottery-heavy Wildcats are allowed to play their game, this could be a long night for Kansas.
The most interesting matchup of the night will be between Kansas' Thomas Robinson and Kentucky's Anthony Davis.
More than likely Kansas will start Jeff Withey on Davis, making it more difficult to shoot over the taller Withey, allowing Robinson more freedom on defense. Calipari has been toying with the thought of going zone against the bigger and stronger Jayhawks. However, regardless of matchups, the battle inside will certainly be a good one between Davis and Robinson.
Robinson may be the second most impressive player in the tournament thus far, trailing only Davis. Whenever Kansas needed a basket against Ohio State, Robinson answered. The same can be said for Davis who, along with the increasing list of accolades he received, will surely be the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
When all is said and done, Kentucky has the ability to beat teams in numerous ways. Kansas will not have enough firepower to combat the balanced lineup tonight. Expect a close game, but expect the Wildcats to win in what is sure to be one of the better Championships in recent memory. Enjoy the game, enjoy "One Shining Moment," and enjoy the young Kentucky Wildcats, because the next time you see them, they will be in an NBA training camp.