Two different worlds collide on Saturday in the Final Four.
Wisconsin lived up to lofty expectations this year as a roster crafted with relative unknowns continues to excel as the players have gained more experience with each other through the years.
Kentucky failed to live up to its preseason No. 1 label after being composed of several NBA-ready prospects in yet another one-and-done approach.
The Badgers have taken care of business this March, while the Wildcats finally grew up and acted as a cohesive team rather than a group of individuals with elite talent. The result is a heavyweight showdown suitable for the stage with plenty of underlying intricacies that will dictate the title picture.
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Kentucky has been nothing short of dominant on the offensive glass in the tournament. Led by Julius Randle down low, the Wildcats have grabbed a minimum of 10 offensive boards in each game and even had 17 offensive rebounds to Michigan's 10 defensive rebounds in the Elite Eight.
Center Dakari Johnson pitches in on the boards, as does Willie Cauley-Stein (although his status is in doubt), but Randle is the focal point. His ability to absorb so many rebounds on offense does multiple things, but most importantly it creates second-chance opportunities.
Considering Kentucky is easily the most talented team in the land, second chances are a crushing blow to the opposition.
That said, Wisconsin is no slouch down low. Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker are accustomed to grabbing any misfire, so the duel underneath the rim is by far the most important factor.
It took quite a while, but Kentucky has finally lived up to its billing. John Calipari's team was able to emerge from the toughest region in recent memory with stunning wins over the likes of Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan.
The problem throughout the season, which resulted in losses to teams like LSU, was rather easy to understand—the young Wildcats were accustomed to shining on an individual level. As Calipari says, that's not what Kentucky basketball is about, per Jesse Temple of Fox Sports:
This is the hardest place to come and play basketball. If you think this is going to be easy, don't come here. If you want to be the only guy that can play, don't come here. If you want to take all the shots, go somewhere else. If you want to be on a team where the coach only highlights one or two guys, you better be one of those two guys. If you want to go there, go. That's not how it is here.
Now a cohesive unit up to Calipari's expectations, the Wildcats are near unstoppable. That maturity to humble oneself in favor of the greater good is noticeable each time Kentucky takes the court.
It's something Wisconsin never had to figure out. Four of the five starters are juniors, and each player has a defined role and understanding of the task at hand.
Whether there is a stark contrast in experience and maturity when the two sides meet remains to be seen.
Frank Kaminsky and Wisconsin's Athleticism
While the Badgers function as a cohesive unit, Kaminsky is the star of the show. He's scored a minimum of 19 points in his last three games and has a versatile skill set that makes him a matchup nightmare for most teams.
The Wildcats' athleticism is the chief concern for the Badgers, as CBS Sports' Doug Gottlieb helps to detail:
IMHO Kentucky is a bad match-up for Wisconsin— shooters and very athletic bigs if WCS plays — Michigan is a better matchup— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) March 30, 2014
Kaminsky can down teams on his own thanks to his ability to evacuate from under the rim and knock down shots from deep, but if there is one team physically athletic enough to negate this advantage, it would be Kentucky.
Speaking of athleticism, the advantage applies on both ends of the court. Kentucky has not only leveraged this for wins, but names like the Harrison twins have come alive this March, as captured by 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
Kaminsky will have to don the Superman cape once again for the Badgers to advance, although copious amounts of experience resides in his team's corner. Something will have to give as one half of the title picture is formed.