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Final Four Preview: No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Kentucky

Apr 2, 2014, 12:15 PM EDT

source: Getty Images

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Today we will be breaking down Saturday’s Final Four matchups. Here is our look at No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Kentucky:

WHEN: Saturday, 8:49 p.m. ET (TBS)

WHERE: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX (Midwest Region)

MAJOR STORY LINES: Bo Ryan has been the most consistent coach in college basketball this side of Bill Self. In the 13 seasons that he has been at Wisconsin, he’s never finished worse than a tie for fourth place in the Big Ten’s regular season standing. That’s impressive. But until this year, Ryan had never made a Final Four, and he did it this season just eight months after his father, Butch, passed away. Butch and Bo were mainstays at the Final Four every year.

Kentucky’s story lines are as obvious as they are intriguing. This is a team that struggled for the first four months of the season before finally finding a way to play up to their potential in the NCAA tournament. There is a reason that this team was ranked No. 1 in the preseason, and we are starting to see why. And if this group does manage to win a national title, it will be the second for John Calipari in the last three years. He’s now been to three Final Fours in the last four seasons as well. I guess his one-and-done strategy actually works, doesn’t it?

KEY STATS: Kentucky is the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the country. Wisconsin is the No. 12 defensive rebounding team in the country. That’s a matchup of strength on strength, but the key stat on Saturday night is going to end up being how Kentucky shoots from three. The Harrison twins and James Young combined to shoot right around 31% from beyond the arc during the regular season. In the NCAA tournament, they are hitting 44.9% from deep (22-49). The game-winning shots against Louisville, Wichita State and Michigan were all threes from either Aaron Harrison or James Young.

KEY PLAYERS: Shabazz Napier is the biggest star in the Final Four, and he is probably the best collegiate player that we will have in Dallas, but the most important player left in the tournament is Frank Kaminsky. Not only is the big fella the biggest matchup nightmare — he’s a seven-footer with a refined post game and the ability to bury threes and drive by slower defenders — but he’ll be the biggest deterrent that the Badgers have against Kentucky’s horde of big, physical athletes that want to attack the offensive glass.

POINT SPREAD: Kentucky (-1.5)


1. Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes: I have a feeling that Wisconsin is going to spend a lot of time playing with a bigger lineup given the size and athleticism that Kentucky has, which means that the heavy-lifting when it comes to hitting the defensive glass is going to be done by these two. I also would not be surprised to see Kentucky play some zone, and given their ability to make plays in the paint, these two and Kaminsky will be the key to beating that zone from the inside.

2. Who adjusts their lineup first?: Will Wisconsin force Kentucky to play small or will the Wildcats make Wisconsin use their bigger lineup? I’d predict the latter, given how Kentucky’s size can be physically overwhelming.

3. Foul trouble: If there is a weakness on this Kentucky team, it is that they simply do not have much in the way of depth on their perimeter. If the Harrisons or James Young have to sit, the options are either Alex Poythress, who is more of a power forward than he is a small forward at this point, or one of Jarrod Polson and Dominique Hawkins.


  1. greej1938l - Apr 2, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    Thank you for picking Kentucky!
    Wisco will continue proving doubters wrong !

  2. shaggytoodle - Apr 2, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    Wisconsin gets no love, hopefully fundamentals and solid team hoop being played will over come athletics of Kentucky,

    Maybe something similar to the Pistons beating the Lakers years back.

  3. jjohnb5393 - Apr 2, 2014 at 2:54 PM

    KY has most talent in the tourney…..Wiscy a more sound team fundamentally….interesting game.

  4. kwame410 - Apr 2, 2014 at 4:48 PM

    i chose Wisconsin to win it all i hope i’m right

  5. barkleyblows - Apr 2, 2014 at 5:49 PM

    Wesconsen blows. Let’s go Kentucky!!

    • jane0424 - Apr 2, 2014 at 9:46 PM

      Interesting Kentucky has stunk for most of the year losing to many times include Florida twice and South Carolina, Calipari exploits young men and their families and does not care about their future. He will find more families to exploint, I am an african American with a son. He is pretty unsavory. I hope he plays the worst game of his career . I don’t know how he sleeps at night and how Kentucky allows it. I hope anyone and everyone beats kentucky.

      • sdnla - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:19 PM

        How exactly is Calipari exploiting these young men? They have to go to school for one year and Cal showcases them in a way that boosts their viability for NBA millions as soon as possible. During the summers he invites all former players back (even those who didn’t play for him while at UK) to work on their credits towards finishing their degrees. Those who finish their playing careers are giving a chance to work with the kids in a coaching capacity as they finish their degrees as well. Educate yourself on the actuality of how Calipari runs his program instead of being a sheep who is easily swayed by the media hit pieces over the years or because you disagree with the NBA’s rule on age eligibility. Making sure that these kids cash in with guaranteed contracts and changing the lives of their families forever instead of boosting his own pockets with win and championship bonuses. Doesn’t sound all that exploitive to many of us who know more about the program. I’m sure Coach Cal and the Kentucky fan base would have been plenty fine with Cal pleading with these kids to come back for one more year and make both him and the school more money. John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, etc as sophomores and beyond? I’m sure for fans of the school they would be happy as can be if these kids came back and added to UK’s win totals. Please educate yourself before you spew more of this vile uninformed venom. If anything, Cal cares a little too much about these kids’ futures instead of his own program’s stability year to year.

      • ryno1999 - Apr 3, 2014 at 1:15 PM

        For all the trolls who say his one and done players are being exploited or unprepared for the next level- Chew on this!

        Here are the players who have left after one year at UK (so not even counting D Rose or T Evans):

        Anthony Davis- #1 overall NBA Draft Pick ($ 5.38 MM rookie contract)
        NBA All Star in 2nd season, Olympic Gold Medalist, Averaging 20+ ppg, 11 rpb, 3 bpg.

        Demarcus Cousins- #5 overall pick ($5 MM contract)
        Started for the Kings all 4 seasons in the NBA. Averaging 22 pts, 11 rbs, & 3 apg this year

        John Wall- #1 overall pick ($7.5 MM contract)
        NBA All Star in 4th season, Averaging 20 ppg, 9 apg, 2 spg

        Eric Bledsoe- #18 pick ($2.6 MM contract)
        Starter Phoenix Suns- Averaging 17 ppg, 6 aps, 2 spg

        Brandon Knight- #7 pick ($3 MM contract)
        Starter Milwaukee Bucks/Pistons every year since he entered NBA- Averaging 18 pts, 6 aps

        Enes Kanter- #3 pick ($4.5 MM contract)
        Rotation Player Utah Jazz- Averaging 12 ppg, 7 rpg

        Michael Kidd-Gilchrist- #2 pick ($4.8 MM contract)
        Starter Charlotte Bobcats- Averaging 7 ppg, 5 rpg in 2nd year

        Marquis Teague- #29 pick ($1 MM contract)
        Rotation player Brooklyn Nets

        Archie Goodwin- #29 pick ($1 MM contract)
        Roster Player Phoenix Suns- first season

        Daniel Orton- #29 pick ($800,000 contract for 2013-2014)
        Not currently on NBA Roster

        So out of 10 players who have left after one season, there are 2 All-Stars (less than 5 yrs into NBA career), 7 players are giving big minutes/production to their teams, and only 1 isn’t currently employed in the NBA. THATS A CRAZY SUCCESSFUL RATIO!! Perform that same exercise with other teams/coaches who have sent a bunch of guys to the NBA after one even two years and see what you find.

      • jane0424 - Apr 3, 2014 at 3:52 PM

        Yes fine and when they are injured and or spend all of the money..will Cal help them then? Will he manage their finances when they get let go. How a bout 2 years. I am also a minister and we get the folks when they have nothing. Since you have to learn how to budget…for all of the successes their are far more failures. You al know this. Yes you are a fan and defend this. I get it. I just am asking that you really think about it. I am certain that most UK fans do not care about the families. This is a one shot deal and you win. Then the next crop comes in. Defining exploitation: 1.
        use or utilization, especially for profit, 2. to take advantage of (a person, situation, etc), esp unethically or unjustly for one’s own ends
        3. to make the best use of: to exploit natural resources ***this one works. My concern is he views them as property. I am sure the fans are more noble but I have been reading his words.
        God bless them and their futures in the NBA. They just don’t being the NCAA with other college kids working their butts off and studying…they need their own Conference. But Cal said this recently ” Hey you don’t like it change it” that my friends is an opportunist. And maybe it is because I am a minister. But for me that is disturbing.

      • miramarlex - Apr 3, 2014 at 8:32 PM

        Actually, your fears are unfounded. Calipari actually holds hands and introduces the guys to a lot of good people. You will see that several of the guys have donated large sums to their new communities and most have not made extravagant purchases. Cal doesn’t just coach to win, he coaches young boys to be men. I would be surprised if these guys are not well invested in businesses that will serve them well in case of injury or later in retirement. On top of that, BBN has open arms and hearts for former Wildcats. Many of them come back in the Spring and Summer, during off season, even with that fat NBA money. It is not uncommon to see a couch full of NBA players in downtown Lexington. Something else you may be surprised by, former players from the Pitino era gravitate to Cal. He has a wonderful relationship with many former players of his and the program. He is a players coach and will be quick to let fans know this. Players that play under Calipari are likely better prepared for what comes in the NBA, the trappings, the pitfalls, and the benefits, than any other coach. If only for a selfish reason, for his brand. But, I truly believe it is more than that. He has told BBN to check themselves and back off these players many times this year while his butt was in a hot frying pan. I am the mother of a beautiful and athletically talented african american boy and would be more comfortable with Calipari than most other coaches. I believe he maximizes their future and he will make sure they have a very soft landing if they take a hard fall.

      • ckos25 - Apr 4, 2014 at 11:16 AM

        show how much you know about kentucky because only the best teams are in the final four and yes we had a bad year but we turned in to something good our boys did it and we will give who ever in our way a fight because if we learned from there mistakes we don’t give up go cats go prove everybody who doesn’t believe in you wrong and win the whole thing because i truly believe we are the real deal

      • ryno1999 - Apr 4, 2014 at 11:53 AM

        That is such a twisted definition of exploitation- Seems like you are making a terrible attempt to make the situation fit your definition.

        What’s more exploitive? Forcing these guys to forgo the millions of dollars that they can earn professionally by playing for free to benefit multi-billion dollar media conglomerates and other very wealthy beneficiaries of the NCAA model, or allowing them to fulfill their dreams and capitalizing on their talents by leaving for the NBA? You mention your deep concern about what happens to them if they get injured in the NBA, but ridiculously overlook the question, WHAT IF THEY GET INJURED IN COLLEGE?!!?

        Remember that all I listed was their NBA contracts, and most of those guys earn at least their salaries are in endorsements. I look at it like this- You have a lottery ticket worth $10 million. All you have to do is go and cash it out. What you are advocating is holding onto that ticket for 3 MORE YEARS, continue busting your tail for nothing, and risk losing that ticket forever.


      • ryno1999 - Apr 4, 2014 at 2:20 PM

        John Calipari’s new book, “Players First,” comes out later this month, and excerpts are slowly leaking on to the internet. The Wall Street Journal has one this morning pertaining to the one-and-done rule, which Cal say he hopes changes soon. Here’s his reasoning:

        The benefit for our players would be greater than most people realize. When we sign a kid out of high school, he’s on our campus just about immediately after his graduation—taking college courses and beginning to accumulate credits. By the next May, if he has done what he’s supposed to do, he has more credits than a normal freshman.

        So what happens if we require a player to stay two years? He has already taken summer courses right after high school. He goes through his freshman year. He takes more courses the following summer. Then he completes his sophomore year. So even if he puts his name in the draft and goes to the NBA, he should be about a year from graduation. He’s a year from his degree, not three years.

        Cal adds that while families of his players often times give their kids the best-case scenario about the draft, his job is to give the worst-case scenario in order to fully prepare them for what may happen. Tell me again how that’s pushing them out the door?

      • ryno1999 - Apr 4, 2014 at 2:22 PM

        Got anything else for rebuttal besides your “feelings”?

      • jane0424 - Apr 4, 2014 at 2:51 PM

        just a note ryno1999 -..the twisted definition of exploitation came verbatim..word by word feo the it I did not make it up.

      • ryno1999 - Apr 4, 2014 at 3:39 PM

        That’s what I thought- you got nothing. NEXT!!

  6. sportsfan18 - Apr 2, 2014 at 7:04 PM

    Come on Wisconsin! Go big Red…

    I’m an IU grad here and I do not like Kentucky.

    Go Big Ten.

    It would have been cool to have 3 Big Ten teams in the Final Four.

    I would have loved watching Michigan State play Michigan for the right to the championship game…

    • ryno1999 - Apr 3, 2014 at 1:19 PM

      I would’ve loved watching IU get beat in the CBI but they were too chicken to play in it.

  7. greej1938l - Apr 2, 2014 at 11:12 PM

    Haters will hate. Barkley

  8. tomebs - Apr 3, 2014 at 7:27 PM

    Kentucky will come back to Earth with their 3-point shooting percentage. I don’t see a last second game winner this week. On Wisconsin.

    • ukcatsfan - Apr 7, 2014 at 10:21 AM

      Good call!

  9. florida727 - Apr 4, 2014 at 8:48 AM

    If Wisconsin fans are counting on Kaminski putting up 28 and 10 again, they’ll be a little dissappointed in Saturday’s outcome. If #tomebs is right, and UK’s 3-point FG% returns to ‘normal’, it’ll go down to the wire and Wisconsin’s experience may carry the day. Either way, it should be a great game for the fans. Love the Final Four!

  10. bcwildcat24 - Apr 4, 2014 at 11:18 PM

    Jane, I’m curious. If you were offered your dream job after 1 year of college, and that job paid over a million dollars per year, wouldn’t you take it? Or would you say, ‘I’m not letting you exploit my family. I’ll stay in college for another 3 years?’ Thought so

  11. bcwildcat24 - Apr 4, 2014 at 11:19 PM

    Ryno, there’s no sense trying to argue with jane. Clearly she’s drinking the Bobby Knight Kool-Aid.

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