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

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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)

THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

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.

CBT PREDICTION: Kentucky

NEW PODCAST: Indiana, Cal, troublesome trends and a weekend preview

California's Jabari Bird celebrates a score against Oregon in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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The gang is back together again for another episode of the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk Podcast, with Rob Dauster hosting and Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips joining him. Today’s episode touched on big wins picked up Thursday night by California and Indiana, discussing the performances of those teams and also touching on their prospects down the line.

Also discussed were the recent performances of Iowa State, Providence and Texas A&M (which are you more worried about?), and some of the top games on this weekend’s schedule headlined by Kansas visiting Oklahoma. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you may take umbrage with some of Rob’s comments at the beginning of the podcast.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Key contests in Atlantic 10, Pac-12

Arizona head coach Sean Miller talks with guard Allonzo Trier (11) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Northwestern State in Tucson, Ariz., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. (Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star via AP)  ALL LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; PAC-12 OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT; GREEN VALLEY NEWS OUT
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: UCLA at No. 17 Arizona, 9:00 p.m.
The Bruins and Wildcats have already met once this season, with a Bryce Alford three-pointer giving UCLA an 87-84 win. But UCLA has continued to struggle with consistency since then, and the chance at payback should serve as a motivating factor for Arizona. Sean Miller’s team welcomed back Allonzo Trier in Saturday’s win at Washington, and in forward Ryan Anderson they have one of the conference’s best players. The “rivalry” aspect of this game should make it a good one, as UCLA tends to show up for big-name opponents, but it could also be another major blow to the Bruins’ fleeting hopes of getting back to the NCAA tournament.

THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 19 Dayton at Rhode Island, 7:00 p.m.
The Rams have struggled with injuries all season, most recently dealing with Jarvis Garrett’s broken jaw and Kuran Iverson’s concussion. Garrett’s back on the floor, playing with a face mask that appears to be inspired by Hannibal Lecter, and it’s that team toughness that makes URI a serious threat to first-place Dayton at the Ryan Center (Iverson’s been medically cleared but remains a game-time decision). Charles Cooke has been outstanding for the Flyers this season, and Dayton’s depth makes them a tough matchup for any team much less one as banged up as URI.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

1. As a result of No. 11 Oregon’s loss at Cal last night, No. 23 USC finds itself tied in the loss column atop the Pac-12 standings heading into their game at Arizona State (8:00 p.m.). Outside of keeping opponents off the offensive glass the Sun Devils have had issues defensively in conference play, and with the Trojans’ many scoring options led by guards Jordan McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs this will be a tough matchup for the home team.

2. Monmouth looks to maintain its lead atop the MAAC standings, as they visit Rider (9:00 p.m.). The Broncs haven’t been the conference contender many envisioned them being when the season began but they’re still dangerous, with players such as guard Teddy Okereafor capable of giving opponents fits. Justin Robinson, who’s been excellent at the point all season long, leads the way for a Monmouth team that still has hopes of earning an at-large bid should they need it.

3. Having lost to Yale last weekend, Columbia’s in a position where they need to hold serve ahead of the rematch in New York City March 5. That makes games like tonight’s against Penn (7:00 p.m.) that much more important for Kyle Smith’s Lions, who have done a good job of turning opponents over in league play (22.8 TO%). Penn’s had issues taking care of the basketball, and that combined with Columbia’s tandem of Maodo Lo and Alex Rosenberg could prove to be the difference at Levien Gym.

4. Two teams looking to make a push in the MAC East race meet in Buffalo, as the Bulls host Ohio (7:00 p.m.). Nate Oats’ team had its four-game win streak snapped by Toledo, with the Rockets beating Buffalo by two Wednesday night. They’ll look to rebound with a defense that has been the best in the MAC in conference play (tops in defensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage), but they have to take care of the basketball in order to do so.

5. Grand Canyon, which can’t play in the NCAA tournament as they’re still in the Division I transition process, looks to remain a game behind New Mexico State in the WAC standings. Dan Majerle’s Antelopes visit Seattle (10:00 p.m.), which handed GCU its first conference loss 13 days ago. GCU shot just 6-for-23 from three in that game, which they led by ten late in the first half. If Seattle is to win they’ll need to slow down the tandem of sophomore Joshua Braun and senior Grandy Glaze, who combine to average 31.5 points and 13.6 rebounds per game.