It’s been 14 years since the Wisconsin Badgers last appeared in the Final Four. The last time they won a National Title was all the
way back in 1941.
Even though Kentucky, with their one and done player philosophy, is playing as well as any team in the tournament, the Badgers believe they have what it takes to win college basketball’s top prize.
Just to have the right to play for the title, Bucky needs to beat the Wildcats tonight at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
It’s the veteran Badger team taking on a young Kentucky team that win or lose, will break up and head for the riches of the NBA.
Kentucky was a preseason number one, but things certainly didn’t play out that way for a good portion of the season. The freshmen group struggled to mesh and quite frankly, played like freshmen. Then, as the regular season wound down, they started to come together, started to play as a team. While they were an 8-seed going into the tournament, most observers felt the Wildcats would be a potential dark horse and it has played out that way.
The Badgers started the season by winning their first 16 games, then hit the skids. Their normally strong defense was far from the standard that has been expected from Wisconsin teams and the Badgers lost 5 of the next 6. Head coach Bo Ryan knew things needed to change, or his Badgers wouldn’t have any chance at a deep run in the post season.
Well, things did start to change. Slowly, they gained confidence, started to pick things up on the defensive end and once again, started winning on a consistent basis.
The Badgers are scoring like no team has scored at Wisconsin in quite some time. They’re being led by their 7’0 junior center Frank Kaminsky. He’s dominated play inside and out, scoring 28 points in Wisconsin’s overtime win over Arizona in the West Regional final. While he’ll need more help from his teammates against Kentucky tonight, Kaminsky may still hold the key to the Badgers having a chance.
If Kaminsky draws double teams from the Kentucky defense, he’ll be able to kick the ball to open shooters like Ben Brust, Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson. But on the other end, the Badgers will have to try to find a way to slow down Kentucky’s big man, Julius Randle. Randle has been a one man wrecking crew, averaging 15.1 points and 10.7 rebounds a game.
Most teams send a couple of players to the offensive glass and keep two or three back. Kentucky sends all five players crashing the boards and they’re getting second and third chances to score. The Badgers must figure a way to box out, keep the Wildcats off the glass and perhaps get Randle in foul trouble. Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and freshman forward Nigel Hayes will have to keep Randle in check. If that doesn’t happen, the Badgers will likely stand no chance.
Kentucky has become a complete package. Outside shooting was a struggle early in the season. They’ve found their range from distance and can now score at will inside and out.
The Badgers have beaten some big time opponents already this season and this no doubt will be their tallest order. Bo Ryan has found a way at finding the other teams weaknesses and exploiting them. The question is, does Kentucky have a weakness to exploit?
I’ll be pulling for the Badgers like all of the Badger fans and I hope I’m wrong. But I don’t feel good about this one. I’ll take Kentucky to win 73-59. Like I said, I hope I’m wrong!!!!