Two more wins.
The Kentucky Wildcats must emerge victorious two more times this season to seize the indisputable title of “greatest team in college basketball” this season after one of the most captivating NCAA Tournament runs of all time.
Kentucky will attempt to bolster the momentum spurred by miraculous victories against Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan after five days of fervent anticipation. Final Four Weekend, the most magical three days in college basketball, has finally arrived. As the teams desperately prepare, four loyal fan bases mask fear with confidence and stock living rooms full of tissues for the future purpose of drying the inevitable flow of tears shed from sorrow or exultation.
The release of emotion on the faces of student-athletes is often mirrored by the fans who spend Final Four weekend with friends and loved ones, collectively pleading for their team to win the last game of the college basketball season. For the Big Blue faithful, one relatively important detail must not be forgotten before that ninth banner is raised.
Kentucky has to defeat a white-hot Wisconsin Badger team.
Final Four Extrapolation:
How the Wildcats will beat the Badgers
Contain Frank Kaminsky, but focus more on stopping the four other players on the court.
Rather than attempt to impede 6-foot-11 Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky from notching another 20-point/10-rebound game, the Wildcats need to focus the defensive attention on Kaminsky’s teammates. Senior guard Ben Brust is averaging 12.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. If Kaminsky is the heart and soul of the Wisconsin team, Brust is the brain and arm.
Brust leads the team in minutes with 34.6 per game, and turns the ball over at an incredibly low rate of just 0.7 times a game. Brust is also the most lethal and accurate three-point shooter on the Badger roster, hitting the 3-ball 39.2 percent of the time. The Wildcats must lock down on Brust and if a late-game-must-foul situation occurs, keep Brust off the free throw line (89.2 percent.)
Sophomore forward Sam Dekker is also a key contributor for the Badgers. The 6-foot-7 Dekker may resemble Danny Devito standing next to UK freshmen Dakari Johnson and Julius Randle, but will play like Paul Bunyan. Dekker is a close second on the team in rebounds per game with 6.1, despite his height.
Unlike Brust, sending Dekker to the free-throw line is far less dangerous, but the Wildcats must keep Dekker from attempting easy jump shots inside the three-point line.
Junior point guard Traevon Jackson is a critical player for Wisconsin. Jackson averages 5.2 assists per game and excluding the Arizona Elite 8 game, (4-14 from the field) Jackson is another excellent mid-range shooter.
Unlike Kentucky, UW will likely deploy only two freshmen into the game. One of those freshmen is Nigel Hayes. Hayes is likely the team’s second-best defensive player and along with fellow freshman Bronson Koenig, provides a competent relief off the bench for head coach Bo Ryan.
Wisconsin does nothing extraordinary. The Badgers are not a great rebounding team, which may be attributed to a severe lack of size. Kentucky is a powerful force on the boards and could give Wisconsin fits, especially on the offensive glass. UW is also not an exceptional defensive team, as they typically do not force many turnovers. This Wisconsin team is more akin to its mascot cousin, the honey badger, because it simply does not care about its limitations and finds a way to survive.
The Badgers have relied heavily on Kaminsky for rebounds, points and defense in the NCAA Tournament and the big man has delivered. If not for Kaminsky, this national semi-final matchup would have likely been Wildcats vs. Wildcats, as one-seeded Arizona nearly knocked off the Badgers in the Elite 8.
But the Badgers did beat Arizona and will attempt to extend Coach Ryan’s first Final Four appearance to Monday night. Ryan has coached Wisconsin since 2001 and coached basketball in the state of Wisconsin since 1984. The cheese state loves Ryan, but the bluegrass state worships Coach John Calipari.
Calipari had to literally win his way into the hearts of the Big Blue Nation. After turning around what appeared to be a lost season en route to the Final Four, only the most cynical of Wildcat fans still find reasons to dislike Coach Cal.
Love for Calipari is bested only by the adoration for the team. BBN’s heart rate has not decreased since the day before the third-round victory over Wichita State. The passionate fan base has been spoiled by the Wildcats, who have also stolen the national spotlight from the other three Final Four teams with stellar play and an astronomical amount of heart.
Ironically, a plethora of stars will be present in the Lone Star State during Final Four weekend. Kentucky possesses a superstar head coach, five-star players and a star-studded traveling fan base.
On Saturday night, the Wildcats may need all the stars to align to capture championship number nine.