Kentucky Basketball: 5 Biggest Questions for Wildcats in the 2014 Final Four
Four memorable games later, the Kentucky Wildcats find themselves heading to North Texas and the 2014 Final Four. Thanks in large part to some timely shooting by Aaron Harrison and some strong late game defense, head coach John Calipari has now taken Kentucky to the Final Four three times in five years.
While the Wildcats have looked good so far in the 2014 NCAA tournament, there are questions heading into their Final Four game against Wisconsin. Whether it's injuries or who will guard who, there still are questions to be answered despite how well the Wildcats have played.
This slideshow will take a look at the five biggest questions Kentucky must answer during its Final Four games.
How Do You Defend Frank Kaminsky?
Heading into his junior year, Frank Kaminsky never averaged more than five points per game in a season. This year, the versatile forward is averaging 14 points per game and has been even more impressive during Wisconsin's run to the Final Four.
Outside of the Badgers' 40-point blowout of American in the round of 64, Kaminsky has put up 19 points and five rebounds against Oregon, 19 points and four rebounds against Baylor and then dominated Arizona with a 28-point and 11-rebound game.
Kaminsky is listed at 7'0" and has the ability to stretch the floor and be a threat from behind the arc. For the year, he's hitting over 37 percent of his shots from the three-point line. On top of that, Kaminsky is an incredibly smart player who takes advantage of his mismatch and doesn't settle for a forced shot. That is evident by him shooting 52 percent from the field this season.
So the question is, how does Kentucky slow that down? The answer is by throwing numerous different players at him. Don't let Kaminsky get used to attacking just one defender. To start, there's no doubt Dakari Johnson will take his crack at stopping Kaminsky. However, with a lack of lateral quickness, Kaminsky will look to attack Johnson from the outside.
From there, it will have to be a group effort of Julius Randle, Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress using their different strengths to help slow him down. Whether it's Randle's strength, Lee's length or Poythress' defensive skills, it will be a group effort to make Kaminsky work for his shot.
Can Kentucky Win the Foul Battle?
In a true clash of talents, the free-throw line could be the major difference in deciding who wins this contest.
Wisconsin is second in the nation in committing the least amount of fouls per game, averaging just 15 personal fouls per game. On the flip side, the Wildcats lead the nation in free-throw attempts with 1,101 on the season. In 38 games, that's roughly 28 shots from the free-throw line per game for Kentucky.
Besides the obvious part of getting easy points from the free-throw line, it's vital for Kentucky to get Wisconsin in foul trouble. The Badgers haven't experienced too much of foul trouble throughout the season thanks to their defensive discipline, so if Kentucky can get to the line and force Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan to tinker with his rotation, this will be a key for a Wildcat victory.
However, if Kentucky is unable to get to the free-throw line, it means the Wildcats are most likely not playing their game of attacking the rim and settling for jumpers instead of letting the game come to them.
Can Aaron Harrison Continue the Hot Streak?
Aaron Harrison hit the shot heard across the Bluegrass on Friday against Louisville: a corner three to give Kentucky a two-point lead with less than a minute remaining against its archrival This shot couldn't be topped in the 2014 NCAA tournament by Kentucky, let alone by the same player.
Then the Michigan game happened on Sunday.
And Aaron Harrison had his number called. Again.
This time it was his twin brother Andrew handing the ball off to Aaron, who created separation from Caris LeVert and hit a deep, high-arching three to send Kentucky to the Final Four with a 75-72 victory over Michigan.
During the NCAA tournament run, Harrison has simply been on fire from behind the arc. He is shooting over 54 percent from the three-point line and has scored in double digits in all four contests. He's provided the outside threat to Kentucky's interior dominance and made Kentucky almost impossible to stop on the offensive side of the ball.
Can he continue to shoot the ball this effectively in Texas? If not, more of the burden will fall on either Julius Randle on the inside or James Young to continue to shoot well to provide the outside threat.
Can Kentucky Handle the Pressure?
Sure, Kentucky has been great in March.
Sure, Kentucky has beaten teams who had a better seed than the Wildcats and filled the role of the underdog quite well.
Remember when Kentucky was ranked No. 1 in the country? When people expected this team to compete toward a 40-0 record? When this team was supposed to look like, well, how Florida has looked this year?
Whether it was too much hype from the media in the preseason or a group of young players not handling the pressure of being No. 1 or being Kentucky early in the season is something that is almost impossible to answer.
However, the pressure is back on this same team again. Kentucky is constantly being talked about as the hot team entering the Final Four. The Wildcats are also becoming the "it" team people are picking to win it all with just two games remaining.
The country will be watching Kentucky now and see if the roster full of freshmen and sophomores has truly grown up like we've heard for the past month.
Can the Wildcats Make It Number 9?
Let's be honest for a second. The only question that matters is can Kentucky win the whole dang thing now that it's part of the Final Four. This is especially true if you are part of Big Blue Nation, and it's the only question that needs to be answered positively.
Do you think anyone who is a Kentucky fan cares if Frank Kaminsky scores 50 points, there's not a free throw shot in the whole Final Four and Aaron Harrison doesn't hit a shot from the outside as long as "One Shining Moment" is playing while Kentucky is standing on the floor watching it?
The answer is no. Fans of the Wildcats don't care what happens as long as they are raising a ninth championship banner.
The answer to my question is yes, Kentucky can make it number nine. The Wildcats have made it this far and looked like the better team throughout every game in their regional, beating the likes of Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan.
Even with Willie Cauley-Stein not expected to play in the Final Four, Kentucky has the size, depth and talent to compete with anyone in the country. The players may not have been there before, but head coach John Calipari knows what it takes to win at the Final Four.