2014 NCAA Tournament
AT&T Stadium – Arlington, Texas
#8 Kentucky Wildcats vs #2 Wisconsin Badgers
Saturday, April 5, 2014, 8:49 pm Eastern, TV: TBS
Opening Line: Kentucky -2
Current Line: Kentucky -1 1/2
Opening Total: 138 1/2
Current Total: 139
Opening Money Line: Kentucky -130 / Wisconsin +110
Current Money Line: Kentucky -125 / Wisconsin +105
The 28-10 Kentucky Wildcats and 30-7 Wisconsin Badgers meet in the Final Four Saturday in Arlington, TX. The winner will face either Florida or Connecticut in Monday’s National Championship game. This game is a battle of Kentucky’s extremely talented but very young team (the Wildcats start 5 freshmen) against Wisconsin’s veteran team.
Kentucky leads the series against Wisconsin 3-1. The Wildcats won the last meeting in the 2003 Sweet 16 63-57. The other three meetings were all prior to 1976.
Kentucky went 12-6 in the SEC and tied for second with Georgia behind 18-0 Florida. Kentucky lost to Florida 61-60 in the SEC Championship game. The Wildcats were given the #8 seed in the Midwest region. Kentucky beat #9 seed Kansas State 56-49 in the second round and then upset #1 seed Wichita State 78-76 in the third round in St. Louis. The Shockers were 35-0 heading into that game. In the Midwest regionals in Indianapolis, Kentucky beat in-state rival #4 seed Louisville 74-69 in the semifinals. The Wildcats beat #2 seed Michigan 75-72 in the regional final to advance to the Final Four for the third time in the last 4 seasons. Kentucky won the national championship in 2012.
Wisconsin tied with Michigan State at 12-6 for second in the Big Ten behind Michigan. The Badgers lost to Michigan State in the Big Ten semifinals. Wisconsin was seeded #2 in the West Region in the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin crushed #15 seed American 75-35 in the second round, and came back from a 12 point halftime deficit against #7 seed Oregon to win 85-77 in the third round. Wisconsin played both those tournament games in nearby Milwaukee. The Badgers advanced to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time since 2008, and Wisconsin beat #6 seed Baylor 69-52 in the Sweet 16. The Badgers won a 64-63 overtime thriller against #1 seed Arizona in the West regional Final in Anaheim. Wisconsin is playing in their third Final Four in program history, and first since 2000. The Badgers have gone 13-2 in their last 15 games, after losing 5 of 6 games before that.
Kentucky is coached by John Calipari. The Wildcats have losses to Michigan State in Chicago, Baylor in Arlington, TX, at North Carolina, Arkansas twice, at LSU, Florida 3 times, and at South Carolina. Kentucky has key wins over Robert Morris, Cleveland State, Eastern Michigan, Providence in Brooklyn, Boise State, Belmont, Louisville, Mississippi State twice, at Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Georgia twice, at Missouri, Ole Miss twice, at Auburn, LSU twice, and Alabama. Kentucky is 19-15-2 ATS and the total is 15-19-1 this season.
Kentucky is outscoring teams 75-67 this season. The Wildcats are shooting 45.4% from the field and 33.2% from 3 point range. Kentucky makes 68.5% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 41% from the field and 32% from 3 point range. Kentucky is #58 or better in both categories nationally. The Wildcats average 40.6 rebounds per game and opponents average 27.2 per game. Kentucky is #6 in rebounding and #15 in rebounds allowed nationally. The Wildcats average 11.2 assists, 12.2 turnovers, 4.7 steals and 6.1 blocks per game. Opponents average 10.4 assists, 10.8 turnovers, 5.8 steals and 3.1 blocks per game.
Forward Julius Randle averages 15.1 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists. He is expected to be a high lottery pick in the NBA Draft. Forward/guard James Young averages 14.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists. Guard Aaron Harrison averages 14.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. His twin brother Andrew averages 11 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game. Forward Willie Cauley-Stein averages 6.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 2.9 blocks per game. He injured his ankle in the first half against Louisville and missed the Michigan game. He is listed as questionable against Wisconsin. Alex Poythress and and Dakari Johnson will also get significant minutes.
Wisconsin is coached by Bo Ryan. The Badgers have losses at Indiana, Michigan, at Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State at Nebraska, and Michigan State. Wisconsin has key wins over St. John’s in Sioux Falls, SD, Florida, at Green Bay, Bowling Green, Oral Roberts, Saint Louis and West Virginia both in a tournament in Cancun, at Virginia, Marquette, Milwaukee, at Northwestern, Iowa twice, Illinois twice, Purdue twice. Michigan State, Minnesota twice, at Michigan, Indiana and at Penn State. The Badgers are 21-16 ATS and the total is 19-17 this season.
Wisconsin is outscoring teams 74-64. The Badgers are #37 in points allowed nationally. Wisconsin is shooting 45.9% from the field and 37.5% from 3 point range. The Badgers make 74.1% of their free throws. Wisconsin is #38 in free throw shooting nationally. Badger opponents are shooting 42.7% from the field and 34% from 3 point range. Wisconsin averages 33.8 rebounds per game and opponents average 29.2 per game. The Badgers average 12.4 assists, 8.1 turnovers, 4.8 steals and 3.4 blocks per game. Opponents average 9.6 assists, 9.9 turnovers, 4.2 steals and 2.8 blocks per game.
Forward Frank Kaminsky averages 14.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.7 blocks per game. Guard Ben Brust averages 12.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. Forward Sam Dekker averages 12.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.4 assists. Guard Traevon Jackson averages 10.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4 assists. Guard Josh Gasser averages 8.9 points, 4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Forward Nigel Hayes averages 7.8 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. Duje Dukan, Bronson Koenig, and George Marshall will also get significant minutes in the rotation.
Kentucky is 7-0 ATS against teams with winning records, overall and in neutral site games, 6-0 after a cover, 5-0 after a straight up win, in NCAA Tournament games, and in non-conference games, 7-1-1 against Big Ten teams, and 1-5 in Saturday games.
Wisconsin is 4-0 ATS in NCAA Tournament teams, against teams with winning records, overall, and in neutral site games, 10-1 in neutral site games, and 5-2 after a cover.
Most of the time when a #8 seed meets a #2 seed, the #2 seed is a significant favorite. However, Kentucky is far from a typical #8 seed. The Wildcats were the #1 team in the preseason poll, with a roster loaded with one and done NBA prospects. However, the young Wildcats failed to live up to those lofty standards. However, Kentucky is playing their best basketball of the season winning 6 of the last 7. After epic nail-biters against Wichita State, Louisville, and Michigan, the Wildcats are looking to win the 9th national title in program history. It won’t be a cake walk against a very good Wisconsin team, but I think Kentucky pulls out another game at the wire.