The Kentucky Wildcats and Wisconsin Badgers are two of the more unlikely Final Four teams considering the teams each one has had to compete with, but fantastic runs have brought them within one game of the NCAA title.
As the preseason No. 1, Kentucky was expected to make it this far early in the season. After some inconsistencies, the Wildcats ended up with a No. 8 seed. Wisconsin was regarded by some as the weakest of the No. 2 seeds, but it has run the table to this point.
Ironically, the two teams are the least experienced of the four remaining squads:
2014 #FinalFour Schools-- Freshmen on Roster: UCONN 3 Florida 2 Kentucky 9 Wisconsin 6— ESPNU (@ESPNU) April 2, 2014
These two young teams will do battle on Saturday to determine which will get the opportunity to play in the title game. There are specific things that both the Wildcats and Badgers need to do to come out on top.
Staying out of foul trouble will be crucial for the Wildcats. Depth on the perimeter isn't a strength for Kentucky. If James Young or either of the Harrison twins (Aaron and Andrew) have to sit, then head coach John Calipari will be hard-pressed to get good production from his bench.
The first one off the bench on the perimeter is Alex Poythress, but he really doesn't belong on the wing. Poythress has the build and skills of a power forward. The other options are Jarrod Polson and Dominique Hawkins, two players who saw less than nine minutes per game this season.
Greg Anthony cited Alex Poythress as potential hero seemingly coming out of nowhere in Final Four.— Jerry Tipton (@JerryTipton) April 1, 2014
Keeping the team's best players on the court will be key for Kentucky. Young and the Harrisons need to show the ability to be aggressive on defense without committing silly fouls. Without them on the court, Wisconsin might be able to steal this one.
Wisconsin: Feed Frank Kaminsky
Frank Kaminsky is the reason why the Badgers are in the Final Four, and continuing to feed him the ball on offense is the only way they'll have a chance of moving past Kentucky.
Arizona coach Sean Miller echoed that sentiment, via Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports: "Frank Kaminsky is the reason Wisconsin's in the Final Four. He's a difficult matchup. Got to be one of the best offensive players who plays college basketball, for sure."
Kaminsky is a 7-footer who can step back and hit from deep as well as back defenders down in the low post and convert on high-percentage shots. While his game may appear awkward at times, it's effective. And that's really all that matters.
The Badgers will go as far as Kaminsky goes.
Kentucky: Continue Converting from Deep
Hitting threes is why Kentucky is in the Final Four. Well, at least because of this three from Aaron Harrison:
The Wildcats are prolific from deep, but just how good are they from beyond the arc? Rob Dauster of NBC Sports provides us with the numbers:
The Harrison twins and James Young combined to shoot right around 31% from beyond the arc during the regular season. In the NCAA tournament, they are hitting 44.9% from deep (22-49). The game-winning shots against Louisville, Wichita State and Michigan were all threes from either Aaron Harrison or James Young.
Reverting back to their regular-season shooting might not be enough to get the Wildcats past the Badgers. A 31 percent clip from the trio isn't horrible, but it really goes without saying that nearly 45 percent is far better.
The Badgers are aware of this ability to shoot, so it will be interesting to see which game plan prevails.
Wisconsin: Rebound, Rebound, Rebound
Wisconsin and Kentucky are two of the top rebounding teams in the country. Kentucky checks in at No. 1, but Wisconsin comes in at No. 12. To defeat the Wildcats, then, the Badgers will need to prove that they can hang with them on the glass.
Who wins this one?
Kaminsky and Sam Dekker lead the Badgers with over six rebounds per game apiece, and their ability to elevate above Julius Randle and Kentucky's other big men will be crucial. Kaminsky has the height to out-rebound most of his assignments, but Randle is more athletic and can out-leap the 7-footer.
Rebounding will have to be a team effort for Wisconsin. The guards will need to help steal long rebounds away from Kentucky, and the team will have to play an overall more athletic, quick, reactionary contest.
If the Badgers can do that, then they stand a much better chance at competing with Kentucky.