Wisconsin vs. Kentucky: Key Players in Final Four Clash

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IApril 5, 2014

Wisconsin guard Traevon Jackson reacts after making a half-court shot at the end of practice for an NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball semifinal game Friday, April 4, 2014, in Dallas. Wisconsin plays Kentucky on Saturday, April 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay

Wisconsin and Kentucky will put on a battle of opposing styles and teams on Saturday night in Arlington, Texas, as the two attempt to advance to the national championship game. 

Wisconsin proved its merit as a top team all season. Meanwhile Kentucky was wildly inconsistent after starting the season as the nation's No. 1 team. After a lackluster season, head coach John Calipari's dynamic group of freshmen is surging now. 

Meanwhile, Bo Ryan's Badgers are an experienced bunch who have turned a good season in the ultra-competitive Big Ten into a strong tournament run. 

One thing is for certain: There will be plenty of talent on the court when these two meet. Here are three stars who are key to their teams' chances. 


Frank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin

Jae C. Hong

Frank Kaminsky has been a one-man wrecking crew in this tournament.

When the Badgers beat No. 1 Arizona to advance to the Final Four, he netted 28 points and hauled in 11 rebounds.

This prompted the following comment from coach Sean Miller, which was passed along by 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 has great footwork and touch around the rim, but he can also extend a defense with his shooting. For the season, he is shooting 38 percent on threes.

As much as his scoring will be vital in this game, his rebounding will be equally essential. The Wildcats are No. 1 in the nation in rebounding, and the Badgers are No. 12. If Kentucky dominates the Badgers on the boards, Wisconsin won't have much of a chance at success. Of course, Kaminsky can help ensure the Badgers aren't dominated.


Julius Randle, F, Kentucky

David J. Phillip

Leading Kentucky in scoring and rebounding, Julius Randle is key to every game for the Wildcats. He will be especially key in this one.

For starters, he will have to make up for the likely absence of Willie Cauley-Stein. ESPN College BBall tweeted this update on the injured big man: 

Randle is going to be a matchup nightmare for Kentucky. Sam Dekker is his counterpart at power forward, and the massive Randle outweighs him by 30 pounds. Randle needs to use that extra weight and strength to own the paint. This is something he is used to doing. 

Randle has hit double digits in rebounding in each tournament game. 

With his tenacity and skill, Randle has a chance to dominate the interior and set a tone for the whole game. 


Traevon Jackson, G, Wisconsin

Eric Gay

Kentucky is going to look to push the pace in this game. Wisconsin is not going to be overwhelmed by this. It scored 85 to beat Oregon earlier in the tournament. 

Succeeding against Oregon is a far different task than doing so against this talented Kentucky team, however, and Wisconsin can't let the pace be dictated to it. 

That doesn't mean the Badgers have to ensure a slow pace; it just means they have to make smart decisions. That all starts with junior guard Traevon Jackson. 

Jackson leads the Badgers with fours assists per game, but he also averages 2.2 turnovers per game. 

He's done a good job in this tournament and has five assists in each of his last three games. He also has seven assists in that span, though. 

Jackson will have to avoid turnovers in the face of Kentucky's defense, and even above that, he has to make sure the Badgers stay patient for good looks.