It has been a long wait, but the University of Utah gets one more chance. In beating North Carolina 65-59 Saturday night, the Utes earned the right to try - for the third straight year - to beat Kentucky.
The Utes and Kentucky meet in the national championship game at 7:15 p.m. (MST) Monday."We're ready to get some revenge on them in the national championship game, so everyone can watch," said Utah forward Britton Johnsen.
Utah's luck in recent years against the Wildcats hasn't been good. In 1996 the Utes advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament, losing to the Wildcats 101-70 in the Midwest Regional semifinal game. Last year they made it to the West Regional Final, dropping a 72-59 decision to the Wildcats.
But this time it is for everything. The Utes are 30-3 and Kentucky 34-4. Utah is 2-5 all-time against the Wildcats. Utah and Kentucky are two of only three teams to make the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight in each of the last three years. The other team is Arizona, which Utah beat last week in the West Regional final.
The Utes have won 44 of their last 48 games, dating back to last year. They have won the eighth-most games by a Division I team during the '90s.
In facing Kentucky, the Utes will likely be the underdogs for the third straight game. Consecutive wins over Arizona and North Carolina put them in the championship game for the first time since they won the NCAA title in 1944.
"The thing I like about the tournament is that the teams that usually play the best end up in the (final) game," said Utah guard Drew Hansen. "Kentucky is playing great ball. They were not even considered as we looked at the top four seeds to get to the championship game. Kentucky is playing great and we are playing great ball as well. It is nice to see two teams that are playing the best going at it for the national championship."