Saturday – April 5 – 7:49 P.M.
This Final Four matchup features two very different teams with the second-seeded Wisconsin Badgers coming in as the experienced bunch and the eighth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats led by five freshman starters. The Badgers are coached by Bo Ryan who comes into his first Final Four appearance ending his reign as the coach with the most wins and zero Final Four appearances. He’s definitely looking to make the most of his first chance. He brings with him the most dynamic Wisconsin team that he’s had in years. This team can not only defend (ranking 37th in scoring defense), but score at an efficient rate, averaging 73.5 points per game. Led by senior guard Ben Brust and junior forward Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin has a versatile offense that features shooters at every position, helping spread the floor.
Kentucky, on the other hand, finds itself in the paint a lot with two sizeable guards in Aaron and Andrew Harrison and freshman forward Julius Randle. The Wildcats feature the more athletic players, and they will have to look to use that to their advantage. The Wildcats had an up and down season dealing with inexperience issues all year, but they continue to improve each game in their maturity and willingness to play as a team. John Calipari might have done his best work with this bunch in developing such young talent all season, getting them to play their best basketball at tournament time. With impressive wins over three of last year’s Final Four teams (Wichita State, Louisville, and Michigan) it’s hard to bet against the Wildcats going forward.
Players to Watch
Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin, Jr.)
Frank Kaminsky averaged just a mere 4.2 points and 1.8 rebounds last season, but his averages have improved to 14.4 points and 6.4 rebounds this season. There’s no doubt that his improvement has helped lead to the success of the Badgers this season, and he’s definitely been a massive reason for them reaching the Final Four, averaging 22 points and nearly 7 rebounds over their last three games. At 7 feet tall, Kaminsky is a massive matchup problem as not only can he play down on the block, but he can also shoot the three ball and put the ball on the floor. He is going to make Julius Randle and the other Kentucky frontcourt players defend. If he continues his success, the Badgers will have a great chance of advancing once again.
Julius Randle (Kentucky, Fr.)
The Kentucky Wildcats are led by many good freshman, but Julius Randle sticks out in the midst of them all. He leads the team in both points and rebounds per game with 15.0 and 10.5, respectively. In the tournament he has been even more of a factor, averaging 15.8 points and 12.0 rebounds per game. If they are to have a chance at beating Wisconsin in this game, Randle must be an effective scorer and defensive force as he will be responsible for helping slow down Kaminsky.
There’s no doubt that the young Kentucky Wildcats are on some roll, and they are surely playing their best basketball this season as they head to AT&T Stadium, but Ryan’s team is also playing at a very high level as well. The key for Kentucky will be taking away the three ball from Wisconsin and finding a way to slow down Kaminsky, while the key for Wisconsin will be keeping the Wildcats out of the paint and off the glass. In this game, I believe that Wisconsin will be able to make life hard on Kentucky. Kaminsky will continue the roll that he’s on, and the Wildcats won’t have life easy in the paint as they are used to in their success. Therefore, I believe Wisconsin will take care of business and take Ryan to his first national championship.
Final Score Prediction
Wisconsin wins 73-65