Wisconsin looks to tame the Wildcats with experience Saturday night
Saturday night will be the ultimate test of experienced veterans against the young guns of the NCAA.
Wisconsin and Kentucky meet as the only two remaining teams to have knocked off a number one seed in this year’s tournament.
Wisconsin’s journey through the tournament was fairly mellow leading up to the game against the Arizona Wildcats. The Badgers took care of American, Oregon, and Baylor fairly easily.
The recent 64-63 overtime victory for Wisconsin may just be the right type of momentum the Badgers can carry on in an effort to tame the Wildcats of Kentucky. The Badgers will rely heavily on the consistent efforts of 7’0 foot playmaker Frank Kaminsky.
The athletic forward is averaging 22 points per game and just above 6 rebounds a game throughout the last three games of the tournament.
With four of the five Wisconsin starters being upperclassmen, the experience has been noticeably crucial to this year’s success. Players like Kaminsky and Traevon Jackson have used their learned experience from previous seasons to help this Badger team reach the Final Four.
Coach Bo Ryan has his boys playing at their best, at the absolute perfect time. With Wisconsin losing two of their last three regular season games, some experts began doubting whether or not the Badgers could make a legitimate run against teams like Arizona and San Diego State in their regional bracket. The Badgers have silenced these critics, with impressive dominating wins against Oregon and Baylor.
If Wisconsin plans on taking care of business Saturday, they will need to execute in Big Ten fashion. That is, fundamental basketball that focuses on stifling defense and smart shot selection. Wisconsin and most Big Ten teams do not run the same style as schools like Kentucky and Florida in the tournament. Look for the Badgers to work pretty strongly on controlling the tempo of this game.
Expect the talented junior Kaminsky to come out strong in this matchup over the weekend. While he may not knock down as many 3 three pointers in this contest as in the Arizona game, he should get his shots and lead the team in scoring for the Badgers to have a shot. With the veteran role players by his side, the Badgers simply need to execute and take smart shots against this red-hot Kentucky squad.
For the eighth seeded Wildcats, this experience is completely new to the young stars. Kentucky is the only remaining team in the tournament with all five starting players being just a freshman. This will by far be the biggest stage these young men have performed on thus far.
Do not be fooled though, these kids have the tenacity and basketball knowledge to match up against any team in the nation. Coach John Calipari has molded his young starters into some of the best young talents in the NCAA this season.
Kentucky’s team is led this March by the double-double machine that is Julius Randle. The freshman forward has averaged 14.6 points per game along with 11 rebounds per game in the last three games. His presence must be felt if the Wildcats do complete the upset in this one.
Expect a strong performance from the Harrison brothers as well for the Wildcats to keep pace with the Badgers this weekend. It was a crucial pass and three point shot between the brothers that helped Kentucky defeat Michigan last weekend in the thrilling 75-72 victory.
In the end, this game will come down to whether or not the Wildcats can keep their composure and calm their nerves in the moment. Keep in mind, this is the first time an all-freshman starting five have been to the Final Four since Michigan’s “Fab Five” back in 1992.
By no means is anyone making the comparison of this starting five to the legendary ones of Michigan. However, Kentucky has some impressive victories this tournament against very good teams like Wichita State, Louisville, and Michigan. These freshmen are proving to the nation that they are more than some sort of fluke. With this being said, Wisconsin should not let off the gas pedal in this game.
While two of the NCAA’s best coaches are present in this matchup, it will be up to the players to ultimately motivate themselves Saturday. Both teams understand the stakes, and have had their near-death experiences in the tournament.
If Wisconsin can march on to the championship game, there is a good chance they will face the Florida Gators. The Gators are on a 30 game winning streak, and have only lost two games this season. However, one of the two losses came from the Wisconsin Badgers back in November. If Wisconsin can handle their business, they know what lies ahead.
Only three more games remain in this tournament. March has been good to us. The madness has been exhilarating, and expect a little more before this is all said and done.