Final Four Preview: Kentucky vs. Wisconsin

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Both Kentucky and Wisconsin are right back in the Final Four after meeting here a year ago.  Last year, The Wildcats were able to continue what was a great run in the tournament and beat the Badgers 74-73.  This year though, the Wildcats are supposed to be doing this.  This may be the best game of the entire tournament.

This game involves two first team All-Americans, and the potential first pick of the NBA draft … who isn’t one of the two All-Americans.

Kentucky comes into this game untouched at 38-0.  Coach Calipari and company are only 2 games away from perfection at 40-0.  The Wildcats faced their toughest test of the tournament against Notre Dame in the Elite 8, coming out with a thrilling 68-66 win.

Wisconsin rolls into the Final Four with a 35-3 record.  After beating Coastal Carolina handedly, the Badgers put together wins over Arkansas, North Carolina, and Arizona.  The Badgers shot 67 percent from the 3-point line in the Elite 8 matchup.

The game tips off at approximately 8:49 ET on TBS.

Match-up to Watch

These two teams may contain the two best frontcourts in the game.  Wisconsin has the potential Wooden Award winner in Frank Kaminsky and a hot scorer in Sam Dekker.  On the opposite side, Kentucky has arguably the best defender in the country in Willie Cauley-Stein and one of the best freshmen in the country in Karl-Anthony Towns.  I look for Cauley-Stein to match up with Kaminsky and Towns to match up with Dekker.

The two Wisconsin forwards lead the most efficient offense in the country.  Kaminsky and Dekker combined for 56 points against Arizona in the Elite 8.  Kentucky counters with the most efficient defense, blocking 18 percent of all shots put up against them.

There is little room for error when inside on Cauley-Stein and his teammates.  Towns was able to score a career-high 25 points against Notre Dame even though he was in foul trouble.  If he can defend without fouling then Kentucky will be in better shape offensively.

Both Kaminsky and Dekker can drain the 3 ball.  Look for Wisconsin to try to pull the Kentucky big men to the outside to open driving lanes.  Kentucky poses more size and power, but Wisconsin’s big men can handle the ball well and make big offensive plays.  Kentucky’s big men will  not play as many minutes as Wisconsin’s because Kentucky is the deepest team in the nation.

X-Factor

The Harrison brothers may be the deciding factor in this one.  Even though Aaron Harrison hit a 3 from what seemed to be the bleachers late against Notre Dame, he only finished the Elite 8 game 2-for-7.  Andrew Harrison finished with 7 points, but all 7 points came off of free throws.  Two of those free throws happened to win the game though.

If all of the bigs end up cancelling each other out in this one, then guard play will be the deciding factor.  The Harrison brothers have shown that they can step up in the clutch and deliver.  Aaron Harrison is the leading scorer for the Wildcats, but he will be the lowest leading scorer for a championship team if the Wildcats win it all.  I would not be surprised if one of the twin brothers hit a game winning shot in the closing seconds.  Aaron Harrison sank a 3-point shot with seconds remaining to eliminate the Badgers in the 2014 Final Four.

Prediction

The Badgers will look to do what nobody else has accomplished the entire season in this one. I think that Wisconsin poses the biggest threat to of any team in the nation to Kentucky, but after seeing Kentucky grind and come out on top of Notre Dame after trailing late, I don’t think anyone will stop the Wildcats.  The Badgers may have the best offense in the nation, but defense wins championships.  I see the Wildcats prevailing in this one by the score of 68-64.

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