The Matchup: Wisconsin (1) vs. Kentucky (1)
When: Saturday, April 4; 7:49pm CT
Where: Staples Center (19,079) – Los Angeles, Calif.
TV: TBS (national); truTV (homer w/ Wayne Larrivee, Mike Kelly and Phil Dawson)
Radio: Badgers Sports Network
Last Meeting: UK won, 74-73 (4/5/14) in 2014 NCAA Semifinals in North Texas
All-Time Series: UK leads 4-1
G Aaron Harrison — So. (11.1ppg, 1.4apg)
G Andrew Harrison — So. (9.3ppg, 3.6 apg)
F Trey Lyles — Fr. (8.5ppg, 5.3rpg)
F Karl-Antony Towns — Fr. (10.0ppg, 6.8 rpg)
F Willie Cauley-Stein — So. (9.3ppg, 6.4rpg)
G Bronson Koenig – So. (8.6 ppg, 2.4 apg)
G Josh Gasser – Sr. (6.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
F Sam Dekker – Jr. (13.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg)
F Nigel Hayes – So. (12.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg)
C Frank Kaminsky – Sr. (18.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg)
Biggest Matchup: Bronson Koenig vs. Aaron Harrison
Everyone wants to talk about Willie Cauley-Stein against Frank Kaminsky, and no doubt the battle between the two will be important. However, the play of Wisconsin’s guards, and specifically Bronson Koenig against Aaron Harrison is going to key everything that happens in this game.
For the first time all season long, the Badgers won’t be able to play the height advantage game. That’s because the 6-6 Harrison twins are the smallest Wildcats on the court. It also means the 6-4 Koenig won’t have a huge advantage of the opposing point guard either.
Koenig can’t be just an outside shooter in this matchup either, because the Badgers are going to need him to help create space. That means seeing him slashing to the basket much more than he’s ever done and it also means him finding ways to switch the court to combat the length that Kentucky puts on the court.
Watching what Notre Dame guards did against the Kentucky defense should give Koenig some confidence. However, Aaron Harrison isn’t just a defensive stopper either and Koenig’s defense is going to be just as key as his ability to change his offensive game just a bit.
3 Numbers to Know:
- 0: Wisconsin and Kentucky will meet for the third time in the NCAA tournament, but the Badgers are o for 2 in the previous two meetings. The Badgers lost last season 74-73 in the national semi-final and also lost in dramatic fashion, 63-57 in the 2003 Sweet 16.
- 91: That is Frank Kaminsky’s 2015 NCAA tournament point total, leading all players in the tournament in points scored. He also leads all players who participated in the Elite Eight with an average of 22.8 points per game.
- 60.4%: Sam Dekker is shooting an unreal 60.4 percent from the field during this NCAA tournament, including a ridiculous 48.1 percent from beyond the arc.
Prediction: Kentucky 78, Wisconsin 74
These two teams have a ton of respect for each other after the battle that went down last season. However, one look at the two teams playing on Saturday and you can throw out what happened last year in the Final Four. These two teams are much better and much more diverse than they were one year ago.
It’s just too bad the Badgers don’t have the length and overall athleticism to compete with what Kentucky will bring to the court. Unless Kaminsky, Dekker and Hayes completely take this game over, Wisconsin’s guards are in some serious trouble against the Harrison twins this time around. Look for those two to build enough on the perimeter to pull ahead of the Badgers late in the contest, and Wisconsin losses a heart-breaker once again.