INDIANAPOLIS - Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan knows a thing or two about the high level of competition featured in this year's Final Four.
The Badgers hosted Duke back at the Kohl Center in December and faced off twice with Michigan State back in March, causing Ryan and his assistant coaches to have their hands full preparing for players like Duke's Quinn Cook and Jahlil Okafor and Michigan State's Branden Dawson and Travis Trice.
And in case you haven't forgotten, Kentucky and the wealth of talent at head coach John Calipari's fingertips ended Wisconsin's 2013-14 season with a one-point victory in the national semifinals a year ago in Arlington, Texas."What I can say about the talent is there's shooters, there's ball handlers there's bigs," Ryan said at his Final Four press conference Thursday. "You can go from every aspect of the game of basketball land look at these four teams, there are guys that are just blue-collagr guys that are there to rebound and play defense, there are guys that are there to score, there are guys that are there to kill you in the post, there's guys defensively that can lock you down. I would say in this Final Four, there's a little bit of everything, and it's at a very high level."
There's especially no shortage of talented frontcourt players, either, and that's just in the nightcap between Wisconsin (35-3) and Kentucky (38-0).
Kentucky features three starters that are 6-10 or taller, but Wisconsin features Sam Dekker at the three spot. The 6-9 junior set a new career high in scoring on consecutive nights with 23 points against North Carolina in the Sweet 16 and 27 points against Arizona in the Elite Eight, including going 5-for-5 on 3-pointers in the second half. Cauley-Stein addressed the possibility of stepping out into the perimeter to defend Dekker:"I think with the guys that we have, we're going to do a lot of switching anyway," Cauley-Stein said. "Not one person is going to be on that set player during the whole game. Everybody in practice has been guarding guards and bigs. We're just kind of ready for everything." Notre Dame has been the only team in the tournament thus far to shoot better than 40 percent from the field against Kentucky. In their 68-66 loss to the Wildcats Saturday, the Irish shot 46.7 percent overall but just 28.6 percent from behind the arc, which had been their bread and butter all year. Notre Dame utilized dribble-drive to score a majority of its buckets and get open looks against the Wildcats.
Cauley-Stein noted similarly the Badgers will attempt to garner as many open looks close to the rim as possible."Watching film, they (Wisconsin) run angles a lot," Cauley-Stein said. "One of our biggest things in the Notre Dame game was giving up backdoors, easy baskets. They utilized that. Wisconsin kind of prides themselves on exploring people's weaknesses and taking over from it. So that's our biggest thing is not giving up easy baskets, not letting him play angles against us." Likewise, Kaminsky addressed defending Kentucky's size in the post: "They have like seven guys over 6-foot-10... it's going to be fun," Wisconsin senior Frank Kaminsky said. "I can't wait. It's not going to be easy to prepare because obviously there's no scout team in the country that can replicate what they have on their team. We'll just be prepared for whatever."
Defending Kaminsky: Round TwoCalipari was asked to describe how Kentucky limited Kaminsky's production last year in the Final Four to just eight points on seven shots from the field. "Well, we didn't have Willie (Cauley-Stein). Marcus Lee played him some. We really played him with a bunch of different guys. I don't think there's one thing that we did. He missed some shots that he normally makes. Just looking at it, because I glanced at it again to make sure, what did we do? We played like we always play. Dakari Johnson played him a lot in that game, and Marcus Lee was the other. I even think we put - I don't know if we put any smaller guys on him, I can't remember.
"We know how good he is. I just saw him out in the hallway. I told him I'm so tired of looking at your tape right now... How much better he's gotten in a two-year period is almost scary."