No. 2 Wisconsin and No. 8 Kentucky—these are two teams with high degrees of differences set to take the court in a Final Four clash on Saturday.
The Badgers rely heavily on their offensive versatility, solid fundamentals and the emergence of Frank Kaminsky. The Wildcats have a deep group of freshmen who play aggressively in the paint and thrive in transition.
While Wisconsin has more of a methodical approach to the game, Kentucky flourishes on fast breaks and quick scores. It will certainly be intriguing to see which of these teams force the flow of the game to meld in its favor.
Each squad has one thing that must be accomplished to obtain a victory in the 2014 NCAA tournament's semifinals—these are the keys of the game.
Let's take a closer look at the specific factors that will determine the outcome of this contest.
Wisconsin: Help Frank Kaminsky
This seems rather simple. However, it is the most crucial factor for the Badgers against Kentucky.
Kaminsky has been a one-man show recently. During Wisconsin's overtime thriller against Arizona, it was all Kaminsky, all game long. He racked up an impressive 28 points and 11 rebounds in that contest.
On, Wisconsin! ON to the #FinalFour! (2) Wisconsin defeats (1) Arizona in OT, 64-63! Frank Kaminsky drops 28 pts and grabs 11 reb.— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) March 30, 2014
His incredible performance led Arizona coach Sean Miller to heavily praise the forward after the game during an interview with C.L. Brown of ESPN.com. Miller simply said, "Frank Kaminsky is the reason Wisconsin's in the Final Four."
Those are some heavy words. With that said, Kaminsky's prowess overshadowed the quiet day for the rest of the team.
Who was the next most productive Badger? Traevon Jackson with 10 points, three rebounds and five assists.
The fact that Kaminsky had almost half of Wisconsin's 64 points does not bode well going forward.
How do you stop Wisconsin's offense? Why is Frank Kaminsky playing so well? Opposing coaches break down the Badgers: http://t.co/XGA8sBywK2— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) April 2, 2014
Kentucky is a team full of aggressive big men who flourish in the paint on both ends of the court. If Wisconsin can't match the Wildcats' physicality on the interior, it will be a long game.
Rebounds are a huge factor this late in the tournament. Offensive boards provide second-chance attempts and defensive boards prevent them. Against an Arizona team that does not come close to the size of Kentucky, Wisconsin was out-rebounded 39-38.
Kaminsky needs help in the scoring aspect as well as on the boards. If the rest of this team can't step up its play, the Badgers won't earn a trip to the finals.
Kentucky: Attack the Glass
This has been a reliable method to accumulate victories for the Wildcats throughout the 2014 NCAA tournament, and there's no reason for these maturing freshmen to stop now.
The Wildcats may have had the most difficult road of any team to get to the Final Four. Kentucky defeated three of last year's Final Four teams in its last three games.
How did it do that? By attacking the glass.
Let's talk rebounds. The Wildcats out-rebounded Wichita State 32-23, Louisville 37-29 and Michigan 35-24. That's sheer dominance.
Now, they face a Wisconsin team that lost the battle of the boards against Arizona 39-38.
Kentucky has flourished due to defensive rebounds providing fast-break points and offensive rebounds giving the team multiple second-chance opportunities. The Wildcats are far more aggressive in the paint than Wisconsin, and they must use that to their advantage.
Even with Willie Cauley-Stein expected to miss another game, Kentucky is very deep up front.
"I see [Kentucky] beating Wisconsin b/c they have too many weapons & answers." - Stephen A. #Final4Takes— ESPN First Take (@ESPN_FirstTake) April 4, 2014
Julius Randle has been a double-double machine this season. After recording 16 points and 11 boards against Michigan, he earned his 24th on the year.
Marcus Lee was great off the bench in Cauley-Stein's absence against the Wolverines. He hit five of seven attempts from the paint for 10 points and added eight rebounds—seven of which came on the offensive end of the court.
This team needs to stay aggressive down low and challenge Kaminsky and Co. to match its ferocity.