Date/Time -Saturday, April 5, 7:49 p.m. Central
Arena –AT&T Stadium (77,122)
Television -TBS (Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony, Steve Kerr and Tracy Wolfson)
Wisconsin Television -TruTv (Wayne Larrivee, Mike Kelley and Phil Dawson)
Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
National Radio - Westwood One (Kevin Kugler, John Thompson, Bill Raftery and Jim Gray)
Series – Kentucky leads 3-1 (Series tied 1-1 on neutral courts)
Last Meeting - Kentucky won, 63-57, on March 27, 2003, in the Sweet 16 in Minneapolis
Wisconsin Probable Starters
1 Ben Brust (6-1 Senior Guard, 12.8 ppg)
12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Junior Guard, 10.7 ppg)
15 Sam Dekker (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 12.4 ppg)
21 Josh Gasser (6-3 Junior Guard, 8.9 ppg)
44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Junior Forward, 14.1 ppg)
Off the Bench
10 Nigel Hayes (6-7 Freshman Forward, 7.8 ppg)
13 Duje Dukan (6-9 Junior Forward, 2.7 ppg)
24 Bronson Koenig (6-3 Freshman Guard, 3.3 ppg)
Kentucky Probable Starters
1 James Young (6-6 Freshman Forward, 14.1 ppg)
2 Aaron Harrison (6-6 Freshman Guard, 14.1 ppg)
5 Andrew Harrison (6-6 Freshman Guard, 11.0 ppg)
30 Julius Randle (6-9 Freshman Forward, 15.1 ppg)
44 Dakari Johnson (7-0 Freshman Center, 5.1 ppg)
Off the Bench
00 Marcus Lee (6-9 Freshman Forward, 2.4 ppg)
22 Alex Poythress (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 5.8 ppg)
25 Dominique Hawkins (6-0 Freshman Guard, 0.7 ppg)
Last Time Out
Coming up with big stop after big stop down the stretch, the Badgers saved the best for last, as Wisconsin didn't allow Nick Johnson to get a shot off in the final 2.3 seconds and clinch a 64-63 overtime victory over top-seeded Arizona in the West regional final in front of 17,184 fans at the Honda Center.
The Final Four is the first for Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, considered the missing piece of his sparking resume, and it comes on the day of his late father's 90th birthday and on the 73rd anniversary of the school's one and only national championship.
Named the West region's most valuable player, Kaminsky scored a game-high 28 points – the second most points in a tournament game for a UW player in school history - and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Going 11-for-20 from the floor, Kaminsky was the only starter who shot over 40 percent, as the Badgers were held to 39.3 percent shooting by a defense that held 21 of its 38 opponents under the 40 percent mark.
A seesaw affair that saw seven ties and yielded plenty of tension in the second half, Wisconsin and Arizona (33-5) traded punches well into overtime, each answering one another's bucket with one of its own for the first two minutes of the extra session. UW took the lead for good after Kaminsky made a tough right-handed hook shot in the face of 7-0 center Kaleb Tarczewski.
On the ensuing possession, Josh Gasser – who finished 1-for-5 shooting – wrestled away a rebound from Tarczewski after Nick Johnson's shot rimmed out and drew a foul.
Following Gasser going 1-for-2 from the line and Tarczewski making a pair of foul shots on the ensuing possession, Kaminsky delivered the eventual winner, tipping in an offensive rebound off a Traevon Jackson miss to put UW up 64-61 with 1:11 remaining. Despite Arizona's length inside, the Wildcats barely outrebounded Wisconsin 39-38 and were dead tied on the offensive glass at 13 apiece.
But it was the defense that carried Wisconsin to the final line. With Arizona able to hold for the final shot, Gasser drew a questionable charge call on Johnson with 3.2 seconds left when the Pac-12 player of the year drove the lane and appeared to lower his left shoulder into Gasser at the high block.
In the final 10:25, Gasser held Johnson without a point, helping UW beat a top four seed in the tournament under Ryan for the first time.
Jackson – Wisconsin's Mr. Clutch - had a chance to win it in regulation and got a good look, but was just short on his step back attempt from just inside the 3-point range. He also grazed an inbounds pass out of bounds following Gasser's drawn charge, a review that took approximately five minutes, giving the ball back to Arizona with 2.3 seconds left in the extra session and the Wildcats down one.
But the junior made up for it on the final play, meeting Johnson at the 3-point line and cutting off his driving lane to the basket, allowing just enough time to tick off and the celebration to commence.
- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com
Tonight's game will mark the fifth meeting between the two programs, three of which came before 1977.
Bo Ryan (704) and john Calipari (554) are both members of the 500-win club but have never faced each other.
UW is 24-17 all-time against members of the SEC, which includes a win over fellow Final Four team Florida this past November.
Wisconsin is 1-1 in national semifinal games, beating Pittsburgh in 1941 and losing to Michigan State in 2000.
The Badgers are the only team in the nation to win a game this season while scoring in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 100s.
Wisconsin has outscored opponents 114-80 in the paint during the NCAA tournament, including outscoring opponents 40.0 to 22.8 in the second half.
In its last 112 games, Wisconsin is 110-2 when shooting a higher field goal percentage than its opponents.
Kentucky is playing in its 16th Final Four- the third most in NCAA history.
Th Wildcats are 8-2 in national semifinal games, including 1-1 under Calipari. kentucky is also 17-2 (.895) in the NCAA tournament in five years under Calipari.
Kentucky was the first program to win an Elite Eight game with five freshman starters since Michigan's Fab Five in 1992.
With wins over Louisville in the Sweet 16 and Michigan in the Elite Eight, Kentucky became the first team in NCAA history to eliminate the previous tournament's champion and runner up. UK also eliminated Wichita State in the third round, making the Wildcats the only team to eliminate three Final Four teams from the previous season.
The matchup with Kentucky and Wisconsin has been dissected all week, and it's no surprise to hear Bo Ryan say the Badgers don't matchup with the Wildcats. They don't. Kentucky's starting five is a tall, athletic group who crashes the glass and hit its jumpers.
Aaron Harrison and James Young are talented 3-pointer shooters and their size (6-6 and 6-9, respectively) makes them hard to defend on the perimeter, meaning the Badgers will have to make sure no player finds an open shot. With a group of McDonalds All-Americans running a variation of Calipari's dribble-drive offense (i.e. an offense that doesn't use many screens in order to open driving lanes), Kentucky is formidable, especially when it dabbles in post play.
Spacing is key with Kentucky, which is opens up opportunities for its athletes to crash the glass and do so effectively. The Wildcats ranked second nationally in rebounding margin at 9.8 per game and have the best frontcourt of the remaining four teams. Forward Julius Randle is a double-double machine, leading the country with 24 such games, registering a double-double in his last three tournament games is averaging 10.7 rebounds per game.
Kentucky is averaging an offensive rebound on 48 percent off its missed shots.
"You saw we were good for awhile (with our spacing), then we hit a bump and now we're playing at the level or even better than what we were at the start of the year," said Kaminsky. "It comes with having a new team this year, figuring everything out and now everybody plays off each other. We have this formula for success right now that's really been working for us."
Defending an offense that likes to space the floor should be nothing new for Wisconsin (hello? The Swing?), but the Badgers playing for a national championship on Monday will likely come down to whether or not the veterans on this roster can hit some shots, taking care of the ball and wearing down the Kentucky – there's probably not many teams in the SEC that show the kind of patience that Wisconsin does.
"Our shot selection has been really good," said assistant coach Lamont Paris. "Sometimes it's an early shot. Sometimes it's not an early shot. Guys have done a really good job of recognizing when the best available shot for them at that moment is. Circumstances are factored into that. If we've gone a couple minutes without a bucket, we're probably not going to kick it ahead and shoot a three. Our decision as to when to shoot and what kind of shot we're going to get has been really good."
There are two sides to the debate on how to beat Kentucky. One is to beat the Wildcats in transition, not letting the roster of future pros get set up and comfortable and use their length. The other is to stay patient, make them work and defend deep into the shot clock, hoping to draw them into a mistake. Expect Wisconsin is trend more toward the latter than the former.
"The more situations where a team has to make decisions, the more opportunities for a mistake to be made," said Paris. "We'll try to get them involved in as many of those situations as we can."
Shot fakes have been a key component all season long for Wisconsin, part of the reason why the Badgers have been drawing fouls and upping their points per game.
In 35 games last season, Wisconsin attempted 582 free throws, making only 63.4 percent of its attempts (last in the league and one of the worst in the Ryan era). This season Wisconsin has made 623 free throws (841 attempts), and is shooting 74.1 percent.
Part of the reason Wisconsin is averaging 6.1 more free throw attempts per game this year than a year ago is because it has played more games with a lead, but that comment cheapens the post work and the aggressiveness taken by the group.
"I think this group was going to pretty good offensively no matter what," said associate head coach Greg Gard. "The diversity within it, the maturity that has taken place, the development that's happened with certain individuals that are older … we're not where we are without everybody contributing on the team. Everybody on the team has played an importance piece at one time."
A team effort is needed to beat Kentucky, especially if Cauley-Stein makes a remarkable comeback. Kentucky is going to score and they will get rebounds, but the Badgers will have to try to make things as challenging as possible, cut off driving lanes and try to keep Kaminsky out of foul trouble. More importantly, UW will have to stay poised on offense.
I see that happening, despite the bizarre surrounding for a college basketball game. More importantly, I see Wisconsin advancing to the national championship game with a four point win.
Worgull's Record: 26-11
Points off Prediction: 345 (9.3 per game)