Wisconsin vs. Kentucky: Major Storylines to Follow in Final Four Clash

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistApril 4, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 30:  Aaron Harrison #2 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates with teammates Julius Randle #30 and Dakari Johnson #44 after defeating the Michigan Wolverines 75 to 72 in the midwest regional final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 30, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

There are plenty of differences between Wisconsin and Kentucky. Let's begin with what they have in common.

If UConn versus Florida is all about stingy defenses, Kentucky and Wisconsin will be about scoring buckets. Both of these teams are excellent offensively, with Wisconsin ranking as the No. 4 most efficient offense in the country, according to Kenpom.com, while Kentucky comes in at No. 10. 

Both teams also have excellent head coaches. John Calipari has been to five Final Fours (three officially, since his trips with Memphis and UMass were vacated) and led the 2011-12 Wildcats to a national championship.

Meanwhile, although Bo Ryan is one of the most respected coaches in the game, he'll be appearing in just his first Final Four. He did win four Division III championships with UW-Platteville and has over 700 career wins, however, so his resume speaks for itself.

That's about where the similarities end, however.

Those great offenses? Well, they operate a bit differently. Wisconsin is crafty, playing a patient style of offense and almost always managing to get a good shot off. They're led by Frank Kaminsky, the wiry center averaging 14.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game who almost single-handedly eliminated Arizona in the Elite Eight (28 points, 11 rebounds).

Jae C. Hong

They're no one-man show, however. Six players average 7.8 points per game or more, while four average double-digit points.

Kentucky, meanwhile, often scores ugly, mostly because the team is excellent on the offensive glass. Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated breaks down the team's advantage on the boards:

Kentucky’s 552 offensive boards and its offensive rebound percentage of 42.5 both rank first in the country. It hasn’t been a bad option for the Wildcats to just throw shots up at the rim and hope their sheer size comes up with a putback chance. Even without [Willie] Cauley-Stein, Kentucky controlled the glass against the Wolverines, outrebounding them 35-24.

The Wildcats also have balance, with four players averaging double-digit points per game. Double-double machine Julius Randle is the main man here, while the Harrison twins have really started coming into their own. James Young is streaky, but he can also fill it up when he gets hot. 

Kentucky's size on the wings and at guard will also be an advantage. Wisconsin has a way of creating open looks for itself, but Kentucky's athletic defenders will close quickly and contest everything with their length. 

Of course, the biggest storyline—and contrast between these teams—is Kentucky's young roster versus Wisconsin's experience. Kentucky will likely be starting five freshman in this game, while Wisconsin is far more experienced, with three juniors (Kaminsky, Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser), a senior in Ben Brust and sophomore Sam Dekker all making major contributions.

Calipari doesn't seem particularly worried about how young his team is at this point, however. And he doesn't really care what anyone thinks about Kentucky becoming a one-and-done university under his watch, as he told reporters before this matchup (via Christopher L. Gasper of the Boston Globe:)

The issue of one-and-done has now become a bad connotation. So, we’re going to break out something new this week to get you guys off this one-and-done. So, that we can think about it in another term, which is trying to help these kids do what they’re trying to do as college students, where they want their careers to go.

This game will likely come down to two factors: Can Kentucky slow down Kaminsky, and can the Harrison twins take over this game on the perimeter? 

Wisconsin is so well coached and efficient on offense that they should put points on the board. And Kentucky's athleticism will come into play, especially on the offensive boards. But if the Wildcats can't stop Kaminsky, they probably won't win.

And if the Harrison twins take over, Kentucky will have too many athletes for Kentucky to account for.

Either way, this game seems destined to be a classic. Bring on the buckets.