Kentucky (8, seed 28-10) vs. Wisconsin (2 seed, 30-7)
When: April 5, 2014
Time: 8:49 PM EST
Line: Kentucky -1.5
In a battle of youth versus experience the Wildcats face-off against the Badgers with a spot in the National championship game on the line.
While it may come as no surprise that Wisconsin arrived in Arlington as one of the Final Four, no one expected the Wildcats to be here. But through an up and down season, and after four impressive wins in the NCAA tournament, here they are.
As we get ready to watch the Italian versus the Irishman, we wait in anticipation if the Wildcats will be able to win another tight game? Or will the experience of Wisconsin, who are also used to playing in close games, win out versus this talented bunch?
Lets find out…
Why Wisconsin will cover:
If success of an NCAA head coach is measured by the number of Final Four appearances and National championships, William Francis Ryan, Jr., or known to the world as “Bo”, would still not be the coach of the Badgers, would not be three time Big Ten coach of the year, and would not have lead the Badgers to the NCAA tournament in each of his 13 seasons at Wisconsin.
Under Ryan, the Badgers have finished in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense in nine of the last 11 years, including finishing first in 2008 and 2012. But Led by junior Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky, who has carried the Badgers to the Final Four, the first under Ryan, the 7-foot junior who lead the Badgers in four NCAA tournament games in scoring (18.5) and rebounding (6.0) has turned his team into an offensive juggernaut. Kaminsky is the perfect weapon, capable of scoring in the paint (as his 52.7 field goal percentage attests) or knocking down shots from behind the arc (he shoots 37.8 percent from 3-point range).
While the recipe for success under Ryan has always been defense first, the 2014 Badgers not only take care of the ball, leading the nation at 8.1 turnovers per game, but they can score at will. Although Kaminsky is dominating the stat sheet in the tournament, six different Badgers have been the team’s leading scorer at least three times this season. Showing why this team is extremely dangerous not only on the defensive side of the ball, but also on offense.
Averaging 73.9 points per game, the highest for a Wisconsin team since 1994, the Badgers move the ball with extreme ease, and are one of the most dangerous teams from the perimeter, continuing to display their relentless shooting capability, every time they have the ball. Shooting 46 percent from the field, 37.5 percent from 3-point land and 74.1 percent from the free throw line, the Badgers ability to score from anywhere on the court, gives them a complete and versatile offensive approach. Allowing Ryan to play his smaller guards in the post while bringing his big men out on the perimeter has proven to be a problem for opposing defenses all season long.
Throughout the dance, we have seen Kaminsky be the best player on the court game after game. But Saturday night in “Jerry’s World” the Badgers will advance because the trio of guards, Traevon Jackson, Ben Brust, and Josh Gasser, prove once again, that these Badgers aren’t just a one man show.
Once again, truly defining what a team really means.
Why Kentucky will cover:
Ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll, the Wildcats entered the season, once again, with the most talented freshman class in the country.
Throughout the season, the Nation saw the modern-day Fab Five drop out of the Top 25 near the end of the regular season, but with a date against the Badgers Saturday night in Arlington, the country will get to see why the Wildcats were dubbed the best team in the country before the season began. And are two wins away from being the best team in the country when the season ends.
Being the youngest team in Division I, Julius Randle certainly isn’t playing like a freshman. Named the most outstanding player in the Midwest Region, shooting 49.9 percent for the season and averaging 15.1 points and 10.7 rebounds, Randle might not get the recognition of former freshman John Wall or Anthony Davis, but he’s certainly deserving of every ounce of praise, leading the nation in double-doubles this season, including posting a double-double in each tournament game.
We all know Coach Cal gets the most coveted freshman in the country. Going after his second national championship, his first in 2012, he’s compiled a record of 34-9 in March, and since 2005-06 no coach in Division I has as many wins as his 286.
But it’s not going to be the coaching ability of Calipari that will have the Wildcats playing in the National championship game on Monday night. It’s going to be the talent and athleticism of these youngsters. From their second round victory over Kansas State, to their victory over the Wolverines in the regional final, we have seen the Wildcats grow up before our very eyes. With the Harrison Twins, alongside wingman James Young and post powers Randle and Dakari Johnson, Calipari brought in these highly touted freshmen to carry the load for the Wildcats. Well John, mission accomplished.
Prior to the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats had lost to just about every good team they had played: Michigan State, Baylor, North Carolina, and Florida three times. But something clicked for the Wildcats, and Kentucky’s talent has finally started to gel at the right time. That is not only dangerous for the Badgers, but will be for their opponent on Monday night, as well.
My pick: Bet on Kentucky -1.5
At times this season, the Wildcats looked like an elite basketball team – a team deserving to play in the Final Four. Then, there was the loss against South Carolina that left you wondering and shaking your head. Asking yourself, are these Wildcats really this bad?
So here we are, with another chance to watch this group of freshman, showcase their talent and awe us with their athletic ability. Come Saturday night, despite Wisconsin’s shooting ability, the physical prowess of the Wildcats will be too much for the Badgers to overcome.
During the summer, these five freshmen came together with one goal in mind. That was to have the chance to play for a National championship. On Saturday night, with a victory over the Badgers, they get their chance. A chance that not long ago, was anything but a real possibility, but now has become a reality.