There will be two very contrasting styles on display when Wisconsin takes on Kentucky in the Final Four. The eventual winner will be the one who can get the advantage in a few key areas.
Kentucky had an up-and-down season, but it used great athletic ability and elite individual talent to get past Michigan, Louisville and Wichita State en route to the Final Four. While Wisconsin has fewer recognizable names on the roster, the squad utilizes a great team effort on both ends of the court to win games.
This will create an intriguing matchup that is certain to go down to the wire. In order for one side to gain the advantage, it will have to take over some key statistical categories. Here are the most important stats to watch for in Saturday's game.
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Kentucky Offensive Rebounds
One of the ways that Kentucky dominates opponents offensively is with second-chance points. Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson have helped the Wildcats rank fifth in the country with 14.7 offensive rebounds per game.
Even Marcus Lee showed against Michigan that he can make some big plays when given the chance:
In the Elite Eight, Kentucky finished with 17 offensive rebounds compared to just 10 defensive rebounds for the Wolverines.
If Wisconsin wants to slow down Kentucky, it will need to limit possessions to just one shot. This could be a problem considering the squad only ranks 261st in the nation in rebounding, 129th on the defensive end.
The Badgers kept Arizona in the game by allowing 13 offensive rebounds in the Elite Eight and gave up 11 to Baylor. With Kentucky's ability to finish inside, these types of numbers will not get it done for Wisconsin.
In the next game, Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and others will have to make sure they are in good enough position to box out and keep Kentucky from getting too many second-chance points.
While Wisconsin has a lot of offensive talent, its efficiency is the reason for its success. Traevon Jackson has been a composed point guard all year, and the team always seems to make the right passes to find the open man.
As a result, the Badgers lead the country with only 8.1 turnovers per game.
Earlier in the year, head coach Bo Ryan explained how his squad was able to keep turnovers low, via Jesse Temple of Fox Sports Wisconsin:
I just think having guys that care. Guys that understand the value of each possession. They're pretty smart guys. And I might mention it a few times during practice every day. That might have some effect on it, I guess. Because it gets emphasized, not just talked about. And every coach will tell you that. It's what you emphasize. It's a tribute to the way they play.
This means that on virtually every possession, Wisconsin will get a quality look at the basket and score more times than not.
Kentucky will have to make things much tougher for the Badgers on that end of the court. The Wildcats have the size advantage on the perimeter and quickness to make all shots difficult. In this matchup, they have to extend that strategy to get into passing lanes and force turnovers.
The Wildcats only rank 312th in the nation in steals per game, but these types of plays could help create easy baskets in transition. Otherwise, it will be extremely difficult to slow down Wisconsin's offensive attack.
Over the course of the season, Kentucky only made 33.3 percent of shots from behind the arc. James Young, Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison each took a lot of shots from deep, but there was little consistency from any of them.
However, the Wildcats went 7-of-11 from three-point range against Michigan and 8-of-18 against Wichita State, proving that they are capable of big games. When they are hitting these shots, they are incredibly tough to beat.
The biggest X-factor is Aaron Harrison, who has improved dramatically in recent weeks, according to Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal:
How does Aaron Harrison go from 38 for 130 (29.2%) from three to 22 for 38 (57.9%) in postseason? He must have ... http://t.co/YCj95gFJ9M— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_CJ) March 31, 2014
Still, the Badgers do an excellent job at defending the perimeter, which Ken Pomeroy noted during the Elite Eight game:
Watch for this: Wisconsin and Arizona are both awesome at taking away opponents’ three-point attempts.— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) March 30, 2014
Additionally, Wisconsin is quite proficient at shooting from the outside, with all five starters capable of shooting from behind the arc. Kaminsky especially is a mismatch as a 7-footer who can drill three-point shots.
The Badgers will end up taking more outside shots in this contest, but the team that hits a higher percentage will have a big advantage in this one.
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