With Kentucky meshing together at the right time, Wisconsin will have a tall order when they play the Wildcats in the national semifinals of the Final Four. This is the Badgers and Wildcats first time playing since 2003, when Wisconsin lost to Kentucky in the Sweet 16.
In this Badger Nation feature, we will look at the three keys or questions for Wisconsin to have success against Kentucky in their Final Four matchup.
Both players have shown that they can score for Wisconsin but both have been battling shooting slumps as of late. Dekker has scored seven points in both of Wisconsin's last two wins after reaching double figures the last four games. Gasser has only scored in double figures once over the last five games, but still has shot 40 percent from the field.
Dekker has been able to assist in getting the ball to one of his open teammates even if he hasn't been able to score. With the length that Kentucky possesses, Dekker can open driving lanes for himself and the offense by knocking down a three or by attacking the hoop early. If Dekker can stretch the floor, he and Frank Kaminsky will make it hard for Kentucky to slow them down.
Gasser doesn't necessarily look to drive the basketball but when he does, he finds his way to get to the free throw line. Since the NCAA tournament started, Gasser is 11-for-12 from the line.
If Gasser can get himself open from the perimeter and can hit either a mid-range shot or a three, he'll be able to keep Wisconsin's offense balanced. Gasser on the year shot 43 percent in Big Ten play from three, which was the fifth best shooting percent in the Big Ten.
Mid-range jumper: Can Wisconsin slow down Kentucky's frontcourt?
With Willie Cauley-Stein expected to miss the game, it will help the Badgers in their mission to try and slow down Kentucky's frontcourt, which is averaging 35.4 points in the paint.
Wisconsin has struggled to defend the paint at times this year, especially during its January slump when they lost five of six games when it gave up an average of 36 points in the paint. But Wisconsin has done a better job of taking away the paint, especially over the last four NCAA tournament games (giving up an average of 21 points in the paint).
With Cauley-Stein doubtful, it will allow Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes to consistently try and get position around the hoop and see if they can take advantage of Dakari Johnson. Through shooting 57 percent from the field, Johnson has only averaged 5.1 points a game through the season. Even though Johnson can match up with Kaminsky height wise, Kaminsky should be able to go right at Johnson and show why he was named the West region's most outstanding player. If Wisconsin can force Kentucky to double team Kaminsky down low, it will result in someone being open for Wisconsin. That should allow Wisconsin to work the basketball around until they can find somebody with an open shot.
Anytime Wisconsin can force a one-and-out possession for Kentucky's offense is a good defensive possession for the Badgers, considering, Kentucky is fifth in the nation averaging 41.3 rebounds a game. Averaging 14.2 offensive rebounds a game, the Wildcats have given themselves an average of 15.5 second-chance points on the season.
Kaminsky and Hayes will to have to do a good job of boxing out, which should allow the Badger guards to attack the basket and grab a rebound. Kentucky freshman Julius Randle is one of the key components, as he averages 10.7 rebounds a game.
3-pointer: Can Wisconsin matchup with Kentucky's guard's size and athleticism?
Although in Wisconsin has struggled to match up with longer and more athletic teams, the Badgers have been able to better neutralize those disparities thanks to being a better team on offense. If Oregon and Arizona have been the two most athletic teams Wisconsin has faced so far through the tournament, UW has aced both tests by limiting what its opponents wanted to do on offense.
One way Wisconsin can make sure Kentucky doesn't get any easy points in transition is be able to consistently knock down its shots. The Badgers are shooting 37.5 percent from three, with all five starters shooting better then 32 percent from three on the year. When one of Badgers guards gets an open shot, they are going to have to be able to have to have a quick release so the shot doesn't get blocked by the long reach of Kentucky's lineup.
Wisconsin also can't try and force shots too early in the shot clock. They need to be able to work the ball around and make the Wildcats play deep into the shot clock. Doing that should allow scoring opportunities for Wisconsin as the game progresses. If Kentucky overplays one pass, it could result in a driving lane or an easy layup for Wisconsin.
When Wisconsin is on defense, the Kentucky guards are going to try and drive to the rim, using their size to convert in the paint and try and pick up fouls. As good as Kentucky is getting to the free throw line (28 times a game), Wisconsin has shown all year they have been able to play solid defense without fouling. Wisconsin is only averaging 15 team fouls a game, which is second in the nation. With Wisconsin consistently being disciplined on defense, it has resulted in its opponents only getting to the free throw line on average 15 times a game.
To make sure Kentucky doesn't get any easy opportunities to get to the free throw line, Traevon Jackson has to be able to limit his mistakes. To this point in the tournament, Jackson has a team high 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Kentucky is forcing opponents in to nine turnovers through its four tournament games, barely above UW's tournament average of 8.2 miscues a game. If Wisconsin can continue to take care of the ball, they'll be able to make Kentucky work while they are on defense.