Preview: Kentucky vs. Wisconsin
Kentucky was anointed the top team in the country prior to the season and suddenly has an opportunity to emerge as the best at the end of it after a bumpy ride. The eighth-seeded Wildcats face second-seeded Wisconsin in Saturday’s Final Four at Arlington, Texas, and are brimming with confidence due to an impressive tournament run through the Midwest regional. The Badgers qualified for the national semifinals with a solid win over Arizona in the West regional final.
Wisconsin can match the school record for victories by reaching the national title game but will be at an athletic disadvantage against the Wildcats and the players are weary of hearing about it. “You’re in the Final Four, you obviously did something right,” Badgers guard Josh Gasser said at a press conference. “Kentucky deserves credit for a being a good team and I think so do we. We’ve beaten a ton of good teams this year and I think that speaks for itself. We don’t really care what the outside perception is of us.” Wisconsin is in the Final Four for the first time since 2000 while Kentucky is back for the third time in five seasons during John Calipari’s coaching tenure.
TV: 7:49 p.m., TBS
ABOUT KENTUCKY (28-10)
7 Double-double machine Julius Randle (15.1 points, 10.7 rebounds) is the best NBA prospect of the starting freshmen but guard Aaron Harrison (14.1) was the hero in the Elite Eight victory over Michigan when he drained the game-winning 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds remaining. “I think we all just learned it’s all about winning,” Harrison told reporters at a midweek press conference when asked about Kentucky’s strong tournament showing. “It doesn’t matter individually what you’re doing. You just have to do whatever you can for the team to win.” Guards James Young (14.1) and Andrew Harrison (11 per game) also average in double digits.
ABOUT WISCONSIN (30-7)
Center Frank Kaminsky (14.1 points) had 28 points and 11 rebounds against Arizona as he continues his transformation from role player last season to go-to scorer. “I really can’t explain it,” Kaminsky told reporters. “It’s just something more of an opportunity this year than in the past. But I can’t thank my teammates enough for helping me get through this.” Guard Ben Brust averages 12.8 points and is 12-of-23 from 3-point range in the NCAA tournament, while forward Sam Dekker (12.4) and point guard Traevon Jackson (10.7) also average in double digits.
1. Kentucky has won three of the previous four meetings, including a 63-57 victory in the Sweet 16 in 2003.
2. Wildcats C Willie Cauley-Stein (ankle) is expected to miss the game, which will again provide opportunity for backup F Marcus Lee, who 10 points and eight rebounds in 15 minutes against Michigan.
3. Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan is coaching in the Final Four for the first time despite ranking fifth among active coaches with 704 career victories over 30 seasons.
PREDICTION: Kentucky 76, Wisconsin 73