cw69 92-9thegame-vertical2 waok

TALE OF THE TAPE

Semifinal Matchup: #8 Kentucky Vs. #2 Wisconsin

By Michael Ferro

No. 8-seeded Kentucky stunned No. 2-seeded Michigan in the Elite Eight and overpowered an incredible three-point shooting offense in the Wolverines that many had thought would be back in the National Championship. Meanwhile, Wisconsin—who was overshadowed by other top Big Ten teams in the tournament in Michigan and Michigan State—is now the last man standing and hoping to win it all with the likes of big man, Frank Kaminsky.

#8 Kentucky
#2 Wisconsin
(credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
(credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Coaching
Winner A legend in his own right, Wildcats coach John Calipari boasts an impressive and enviable resume in his time at Kentucky. Since 2009, Calipari has taken his team to the Final Four twice. He’s also been named National Coach of the Year three times in his career. Calipari is a players-first coach and his teams, especially when young, rally around him like no one else. His strategy to knock off Louisville in the Sweet 16 was the stuff of legends and his handling of the favorite in Michigan’s offensive strategy in the Elite Eight was along the same lines and no one knows the Final Four like Calipari does.
Bo Ryan is a longtime fixture of the Badgers, having coached there since 2001 and finding loads of success along the way. Ryan has brought Wisconsin to at least the second round of the NCAA tournament (except for one year in 2005-06) since taking the job and knows how to win in March. He’s often overshadowed by the immense figure of Tom Izzo and other top Big Ten coaches, but he’s shown this year that his players know how to outlast the competition.
Offense
The Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, only combined for 20 points, but Julius Randle, a phenom in the regular season, scored a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats against Michigan in the Elite Eight. It was Aaron Harrison, though, who gave Kentucky the edge and sent them to the Final Four with his long three-point shot from way back with only 2.3 seconds left in the game. Dakari Johnson was quiet, but put up a monster game in the Sweet 16 against Louisville with 25 points, proving that all of Kentucky’s starters can be a deep threat to the Badgers. The loss of Willie Cauley-Stein will hurt Kentucky, though.
Winner Frank Kaminsky may not be a name that was heard all tournament long, but the Badgers’ top man scored 28 points against top-seeded Arizona to get Wisconsin to the Final Four. His footwork alone is mind-bogglingly good and able to keep even the toughest defenses on their toes. To back him up, Sam Dekker is another explosive offensive option for the Badgers and great at snatching offensive rebounds, creating second-chance opportunities galore. Kaminsky, though, showed that he can put a game on his back and this late in the tournament, that is rare. Wisconsin’s sharpshooters, led by Kaminsky, are proven.
Defense
Winner Kentucky is one of the best rebounding teams in the country with 41.3 boards per game (fifth in the nation). They also rank ninth with 6.2 blocks per game and their big men are capable of some stellar moves. The Wildcats have also been good at minimizing turnovers, which has given them a distinct edge up to this point in the Big Dance. Kentucky’s players are more athletic than Wisconsin’s, and James Young gives UK a secret weapon in the backcourt. The real question to a Wildcats victory is: Can anyone stop 7-footer Frank Kaminsky?
Wisconsin’s guards take full advantage of a great offensive system and a higher basketball IQ, allowing them to not have to work as much on defense. When needed, though, the Badgers have proven their defensive prowess by shutting down one of Arizona’s top players in Aaron Gordon, holding him to just 2-of-9 shots in the paint and six missed layups. Gordon shot 76.0 percent in the paint and only missed three layups in the first three games of the NCAA tournament.
Bench Depth
Winner Kentucky has a lot of freshman to boast on their starting squad, and they came through in the win against Louisville in the Sweet 16, with all of the Wildcats five freshman starters combining for 68 of the Wildcats’ 74 points. But the Wildcats proved with backup forwards Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee that their subs can play when needed when they added 18 points off the bench against Michigan. Lee also added eight rebounds in the effort.
Nigel Hayes has been a solid freshman backup for Wisconsin, but as a whole, the Badgers are pretty thin on the bench. Guard Bronson Koenig added five points in the matchup against Michigan, but those performances aren’t as consistent as some analysts may like.

The Winner Is

(credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Winner #8 Kentucky
3 out of 4

What a lot of this comes down to is Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky. If the 7-footer can put the team on his back and go on a rampage like he did against top-seeded Arizona, then the Badgers stand a chance of heading to a National Championship. But if Kentucky’s defense can find a way to keep the big man contained, then Wisconsin’s offense will wither and the Wildcats will cruise on defense and UK’s starters in the Harrison twins and Julius Randle will soar. One thing is for sure: If you find yourself in a Final Four match up like both of these teams now do, it never, ever, hurts to have a leader like Kentucky’s John Calipari calling the shots.

Michael Ferro is freelance writer and a graduate of Michigan State University where he majored in creative writing and received the Jim Cash Creative Writing Award. Born and bred in Detroit, he currently resides in near Ann Arbor, MI. Additional writing can be found at Examiner.com.

MORE TALES OF THE TAPE

  1. SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 19: Cornerback Richard Sherman #25 of the Seattle Seahawks reacts on the sideline after tipping a pass which led to a Seahawks game-clinching interception late in the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers during the 2014 NFC Championship at CenturyLink Field on January 19, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. Photo Credit: Michael Buckner/Getty Images
    Bigger Attention Hog: Richard Sherman Or Charlie Sheen?

    Two men keep taking the media by storm time. Cornerback Richard Sherman and actor Charlie Sheen square off in all their obnoxious glory.

  2. ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 14: Buffalo Bills fans hold up a picture of Terry Pegula during the first half against the Miami Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Orchard Park, New York. Visitors look at a 1979 Pontiac TransAm during the 37th Annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Cars auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, 16 January 2008. The Barrett-Jackson auction company specializes in classic and collectors cars, and their auction in Scottsdale is the world's largest collector car event. This year more than 1,100 cars are on sale during the week.
    Which Deal Is Worse: Buffalo Bills Sale Or A Craigslist Ripoff?

    Terry Pegula will pay over $1 billion for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. Would getting ripped off on Craigslist be a better deal?

  3. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images) (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
    Tale Of The Tape: Philadelphia Eagles At Indianapolis Colts

    Nick Foles could not believe his eyes when he looked at the scoreboard in Week One and found his Eagles trailing the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars 17-0 at home in the first half.

See All Tales of the Tape
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,126 other followers