The Kentucky Wildcats and Connecticut Huskies have taken unusual paths to the Final Four and national championship game. As such, the Wildcats and Huskies are setting up a national title battle like no other on April 7, between a No. 8 and No. 7 seed. But will such an historic end to a Final Four have an historic finish to go with it?
With all the drama the NCAA tournament has provided, and all the drama the Wildcats themselves have brought game after game, an anticlimactic Final Four finale would be an extra letdown. Then again, since Kentucky has kept topping itself in finish after finish, what more thrills can it provide at the very end?
Connecticut won its first national championship in a classic upset of the Duke Blue Devils in 1999. However, its last two titles were won in much uglier fashion, as the Huskies cruised over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in 2004 and practically beat the Butler Bulldogs in 2011 by default.
Before that unattractive win over the Bulldogs, the Huskies won another low scoring contest over the Wildcats in the semifinals, although that game did at least go down to the wire. Kentucky hasn't lost an NCAA tournament contest since then, yet it came very close four straight times in this tournament alone.
The Huskies have actually won relatively easy so far, except for their overtime win over the St. Joseph's Hawks back in the round of 64. They certainly had an easier Final Four game than the Wildcats on April 5, despite facing the No. 1 Florida Gators. Yet Connecticut took it to Florida in a way that Kentucky couldn't against the Wisconsin Badgers.
Will the Huskies keep rolling and expose the Wildcats as being out of gas? Or will being so battle-tested pay off for Kentucky, if it pushes Connecticut into the final moments? If the championship is only determined in the final moments, however, most outside of Lexington and Storrs should be satisfied either way.
Not every Final Four ends with a classic, especially in this century. The accompanying list details the most memorable and/or suspenseful national championship games since 2000 -- setting another thrilling bar Kentucky hopes it doesn't necessarily have to go over to win.