Notes: No Shortage of Final Four Talent

Not only is Wisconsin and head coach Bo Ryan familiar with Kentucky and playing in the Final Four, the Badgers had a sampling of the other two Final Four teams this season, giving this weekend a familiar feel with the amount of star-studded power remaining in college basketball's final weekend.

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 Two

Calipari 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."

On embracing the atmosphere of the Final Four

"I mean, we played Super Smash Bros in our hospitality room for a while last night while the barber was in there, hanging out, chilling out, having fun. When we got on the court today for practice, all seriousness. We know how to flip it when we need to." - Kaminsky

"You know, I'm a serious guy. I know what the other side is like. As far as understanding that this is a lifetime experience, a small timeframe of four years, three, whatever the years are, you may as well enjoy it with the personalities that are there. You can either stifle certain things or you can feed certain things, you can enjoy certain things. But the fun that our guys have is all about the relationships and the things that they're interested in, thing things they're competitive about." - Ryan


The first 11 minutes of the opening press conference surrounded Ryan's and Calipari's opinions on players exiting college after their freshman years.

"John knows more about this than I do," Ryan said. "I wouldn't know how to answer it. Players (build a legacy) by doing what they're doing: winning, garnering national attention, playing in Final Fours, at least to the semis."

"In college, if people are stepping away, I don't call it dropping out, they're stepping away to pursue their passion. I can't tell you how many guys I've had, on a different scale, that played four years, were pretty good, but not good enough for the NBA. A lot of them have eight credits, 15 credits, 20-some credits left to go. The really neat part for someone like me is to see these guys chasing their dream, getting a paycheck, getting paid pretty well overseas, an then coming back and finishing their degrees. My guys are leaving in a different sense more so than John's."

"It's changed," Calipari said. "It's changed for all of us. It's changed from Internet to draft lists to the gazillions in the NBA. It's all that stuff that's made this different, our jobs different. I will tell you, we have universities here around this country, some of the top, that encourage genius kids to move on and do their things if they stayed on or two years. As a matter of fact, they'll invest in them financially and tell them, if it doesn't go their way, you can come back and your position will always be there. I don't understand why it's the same with basketball players. They kids have a genius. We'll have four on this year's team (to graduate). That's in six years. We've had two of those kids graduate in three years. We've had a 3.0 grade point average for five straight years... That may aggravate you, but that's the truth."

"Whether me or Bo, if Bo has a guy after a year, Bo is going to tell to go for it if he's a lottery pick. We're all in the same ting. You don't know when you recruit a kid if he's going to leave after a year. You don't know. You just coach them, then they make a decision when they want to. We just try to make sure this is about the kids. They don't always make the right decision. Like sometimes they should stay, an they choose to leave. Well, you got to live with that, too, because it's their life, not my life."

A glance ahead

Tomorrow (Friday): Head coach Bo Ryan will address the media at 1:15 p.m. ET.

Five selected Wisconsin players will be available to speak with the media immediately following.

Wisconsin will hold practice open to the media from 2 p.m. to 2:50 p.m.

The AP Player of the Year press conference is also scheduled for Friday.


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