WHEN: Saturday, 8:49 p.m. ET (TBS)
MAJOR STORY LINES: I’m just going to go ahead and skip right on over the whole 40-0 aspect here, because ‘duh’. If you must read more about Kentucky’s pursuit of perfection, I spent 1,000 words discussing whether or not this is the greatest team of all time.
But that’s far from all we got going on in the Final Four’s nightcap that just so happens to be a rematch from last season’s Final Four nightcap, which was one on a three from Aaron Harrison with six seconds left. This season, however, it pits the nation’s two best front lines, one headlined by the National Player of the Year — Frank Kaminsky — and the other by a potential No. 1 pick in June and a first-team all-american — Karl Anthony-Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein, respectively.
KEY STATS: Here’s what’s great about this matchup: Wisconsin currently ranks as the most efficient offense that we have seen in the KenPom era, dating back to 2002, and it’s by a wide margin. Kentucky? Well, they’re no longer the historically great defense that we saw earlier this season, but they’re still the nation’s best defensive team and one of the best that we’ve seen this decade. Does it get better than that?
KEY PLAYERS: As I mentioned earlier, Wisconsin has the National Player of the Year on their roster while Kentucky boasts a potential No. 1 pick and a first-team all-american. But I’m going to go ahead and call Sam Dekker the key player in this game. He has the talent to be the best player on the floor on Saturday — Remember last weekend? — but he doesn’t always play with that assertiveness. How Dekker plays, which is dependent on who ends up guarding him (more on that in a second), will be a major factor in who ends up winning this game.
POINT SPREAD: Kentucky (-5)
THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:
1. Who’s guarding Kaminsky and who’s guarding Dekker?: Easily the most intriguing part of this matchup from a coaching perspective is who Coach Cal decides to use to guard Kaminsky and Dekker. What makes Wisconsin such a tough matchup for Kentucky is that all of their front court players are perimeter threats. Who does Cauley-Stein guard, Dekker or Kaminsky? Can Towns matchup with Kaminsky or Nigel Hayes on the perimeter?
2. Can Wisconsin capitalize on Kentucky’s defense being spread out?: What made Notre Dame so successful against Kentucky is that they were able to spread out Kentucky’s defense with their shooters, with Jerian Grant and Zach Auguste taking advantage of the wide-open lane. Wisconsin will be able to pull the UK big men away from the rim, but they don’t have a penetrator the likes of Grant or Demetrius Jackson. Will they be able to get into the paint on a consistent basis?
3. Battle of the boards: Kentucky is the sixth-best offensive rebounding team in the country. Wisconsin is the fourth-best defensive rebounding team in the country. Will the Badgers keep Kentucky from getting second shots?
CBT PREDICTION: Kentucky