2015 NCAA Tournament
#1 Wisconsin Badgers vs #1 Kentucky Wildcats
Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, Indiana
Saturday, April 4, 2015, 8:45 pm Eastern, TV: TBS
Opening Line: Kentucky -5 1/2
Current Line: Kentucky -5
Opening Total: 130
Current Total: 131
Opening Money Line: Kentucky -250 / Wisconsin +210
Current Money Line: Kentucky -240 / Wisconsin +200
The Kentucky Wildcats are 38-0 and are looking to become the first undefeated team to win a national championship since Indiana in 1976. Kentucky is the first team to reach the Final Four with an undefeated record since UNLV in 1991. Kentucky won the Midwest Region and will take on the 35-3 Wisconsin Badgers who won the West region in the Final Four Saturday in Indianapolis. The winner between the Wildcats and Badgers will play either Duke or Michigan State in the national championship game Monday.
Kentucky leads the series 4-1 against Wisconsin. This is only the third meeting between the teams since 1976, with all three coming in the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky beat Wisconsin 74-73 in the Final Four last season. The Wildcats would then lose to Connecticut in the national championship game.
Wisconsin won the Big Ten by two games at 16-2. The Badgers won the Big Ten Tournament by beating Michigan State 80-69 in overtime in the championship game. Wisconsin beat #15 Coastal Carolina 86-72 in the second round and #8 Oregon 72-65 in the third round, both in Omaha. Wisconsin pulled away late against #4 seed North Carolina for a 79-72 win in the Sweet 16 before beating #2 Arizona 85-78 in the West Regional Final Saturday in Los Angeles.The Badgers are making their 17th straight trip to the tournament and 21st overall. The Badgers are making their fourth ever trip to the Final Four and second straight. Wisconsin won the national title in 1941. Wisconsin went 15-2 against NCAA Tournament teams this season.
Kentucky won the SEC at 18-0 by 5 games over Arkansas. The Wildcats also beat Arkansas in the SEC Championship game. Kentucky was given the #1 seed in the Midwest Region. The Wildcats beat #16 seed Hampton 79-56 in the second round and #8 seed Cincinnati 64-51 in the third round, both in Louisville. Kentucky beat #5 West Virginia 78-39 in the Sweet 16 and escaped with a 68-66 win over Notre Dame in the regional final Saturday, both in Cleveland. Kentucky is making their 54th trip to the tournament and 18th trip to the Final Four with 8 national titles. The Wildcats won the championship in 2012 and are making their fourth trip to the Final Four in the last five years. Kentucky went 17-0 against NCAA Tournament teams this season.
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Wisconsin is coached by Bo Ryan. The Badgers have a home loss to Duke and road losses to Rutgers and Maryland. The Badgers have won 20 of the last 21 games, including 10 straight. Wisconsin has key home wins over Green Bay, Boise State, Buffalo, Penn State, Purdue, Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, Northwestern, Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan State, neutral site wins over UAB, Georgetown and Oklahoma in a tournament in the Bahamas, Michigan, Purdue, and Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament plus road wins over Marquette, Milwaukee, Cal, Northwestern, Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, Penn State, Minnesota and Ohio State. The Badgers are 20-17-1 ATS and the total is 18-20 this season. Wisconsin was a 1.5 point underdog to Arizona and the total was 132.
Kentucky is coached by John Calipari. The Wildcats have neutral site wins over Kansas in Indianapolis, UCLA in Chicago, Florida, Auburn, and Arkansas in the SEC Tournament in Nashville, home wins over Buffalo, Bradley, Providence, Columbia, North Carolina, Ole Miss, Missouri, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Auburn, Arkansas and Florida. Kentucky has road wins over Louisville, Texas A&M, Alabama, South Carolina, Missouri, Florida, LSU, Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Georgia. The Wildcats are 19-17-2 ATS and the total is 15-23 this season. Kentucky was an 11 point favorite against Notre Dame and the total was 137.5
Wisconsin is outscoring teams 73-58. The Badgers are #12 nationally in points allowed. Wisconsin is shooting 48.2% from the field including 36.4% from 3 point range. The Badgers are #17 nationally in field goal percentage. Wisconsin makes 76.4% of their free throws and is #11 nationally in the category. Opponents are shooting 42.6% from the field and 37.4% from 3 point range. Wisconsin averages 33.6 rebounds per game and opponents average 25.3 per game. The Badgers are #2 nationally in rebounds allowed. Wisconsin averages 12.7 assists, 7.4 turnovers, 4.5 steals and 3.3 blocks per game. Opponents average 9.1 assists, 9.7 turnovers, 4.1 steals and 1.9 blocks per game.
Wisconsin forward Frank Kaminsky averages 18.7 points, 8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game. He was named the AP Player of the Year on Friday. Sam Dekker averages 13.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. Nigel Hayes averages 12.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. Guard Traevon Jackson averages 8.6 points, 1.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Jackson returned against North Carolina after missing the previous 19 game with a foot injury. Bronson Koenig averages 8.6 points, 1.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game Josh Gasser averages 6.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists. Duje Dukan and Vitto Brown will also get minutes in the rotation.
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Kentucky is outscoring teams 75-54 this season. Kentucky is #30 in scoring and #3 in points allowed nationally. The Wildcats are shooting 46.8% from the field and 34.7% from 3 point range. Kentucky is #39 nationally in field goal shooting. The Wildcats make 72.5% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 35.1% from the field and 26.7% from 3 point range. The Wildcats are #1 in field goal defense and #2 in 3 point defense nationally. Kentucky averages 38.4 rebounds per game and opponents average 27.3 per game. The Wildcats are in the top 30 nationally in both categories. Kentucky averages 14.4 assists, 10.6 turnovers, 6.5 steals and 6.9 blocks per game. Opponents average 7.7 assists, 13.8 turnovers, 4.8 steals and 2.4 blocks per game.
Aaron Harrison averages 11 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Devin Booker averages 10.1 points, 2 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. Karl-Anthony Towns averages 10.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 2.3 blocks per game. Andrew Harrison averages 9.2 points, 2.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. Willie Cauley-Stein averages 9.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1.2 steals and 1.7 blocks per game. Trey Lyles averages 8.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game. Three other players average at least 11 minutes a game in the rotation. Alex Poythress is out for the season with a knee injury.
Kentucky is 2-0-2 ATS against Big Ten teams, 12-4-2 in neutral site games, and 1-4-1 in NCAA Tournament game.
Wisconsin is 9-3-1 ATS in NCAA Tournament games, 21-7-1 in non-conference games, 14-5-1 in neutral site games, and 1-3-1 against SEC teams.
People are saying Notre Dame provided the blueprint to beating Kentucky by spreading the floor and hitting threes. The Badgers aren’t terrible at shooting the three and have the size to compete with Kentucky’s front court. Still, I think Kentucky wins again but Wisconsin keeps it close in a low scoring game.