With the loss of Willie Cauley-Stein, the Wildcats interior depth has taken a major hit, but Michigan also lost its All-American big man earlier in the season when Mitch McGary had back surgery.
Both teams are similar in some regards, but very much different in others. Let's look at the key points for both teams in their quest for a trip to Dallas:
Kentucky Keys to Win:
1. Perimeter defense has to be spot on today for Kentucky have a chance to reach the Final Four. Michigan's Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III are two of the most dangerous perimeter shooters in the country. Stauskas will be slightly shorter version of Louisville's Luke Hancock. If James Young and Aaron Harrison can keep both players in check, the Michigan offense could go stagnant.
2. Foul trouble can not come into play. Dakari Johnson, Julius Randle and Alex Poythress will have to stay out of foul trouble with the loss of Cauley-Stein. Michigan doesn't feature much interior depth, but its bigs do play physical.
3. Hit a few 3s of their own. If Kentucky can hit a few outside shots, it will force the Wolverines to extend their defense. Without the ability to double- and triple-team Julius Randle & Co., Michigan should not be able to slow down UK in the paint.
Key Player for Kentucky:
Aaron Harrison will determine the outside shooting as he's been the most consistent outside shooter in the last couple of games. James Young been battling foul trouble, so his shot has not been as consistent of late, but Harrison's key 3 to put Kentucky ahead of Louisville with 39 seconds left of the game was huge. If he can hit a few treys to loosen the Michigan defense, UK will shoot a much better percentage as a team.
Michigan Keys to Win:
1. Nik Stauskas has to hit several three's over taller players to help Michigan have a chance to move on to its second consecutive Final Four. If his shot is off, Michigan will have to rely on Glenn Robinson III and Jordan Morgan for offense.
2. Interior defense for Michigan will have to be A+ as the Wolverines are lacking interior depth. Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford will have to stay out of foul trouble while guarding Alex Poythress, Dakari Johnson, Julius Randle and potentially Marcus Lee. If Morgan and Horford can do that with Nik Staukas hitting 3s, the Wolverines will likely be in North Texas next weekend.
3. Being physical with the guards of Kentucky. If Glenn Robinson III can be physical with Aaron Harrison or James Young it may rattle the freshmen. However, playing too physical, fouls will be called. Kentucky has more depth than Michigan, but Michigan has the experience over the young Cats.
Key Player for Michigan:
Nik Stuaskas will be the key for Michigan to move onto the Final Four for the second year in a row or the season will be over for Michigan. He will have to hit 3s consistently in the game for the Wolverines have a chance. If UK's James Young or Aaron Harrison keeps him in check, Michigan will find it difficult to keep pace.