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Wisconsin Takes on History

Will Wisconsin beat Kentucky? YES.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

I don't like David versus Goliath comparisons, and I'm glad I haven't seen any regarding this game. Yes, Kentucky has approximately 32 future NBA players on their roster, and Wisconsin's best player only had scholarship offers from Wisconsin, Northwestern, DePaul, Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois, and Bradley. This Wisconsin team is 35-3, and Frank Kaminsky was the best player in college basketball this year. Duke (and arguably Maryland before the Notre Dame game) are both better than anyone Kentucky has played (screw Kansas and the Big 12 in general), take away a Frank Kaminsky concussion, and give Wisconsin Kentucky's schedule and Wisconsin very well might be 38-0. It does not matter that Kentucky is 38-0, this Wisconsin team is every bit as good as Kentucky.

Backcourt: This isn't the strength of either team, but it goes without saying both teams have solid guard play. Which team is better depends on Traevon Jackson. If the senior is healthy and can actually play significant minutes, Wisconsin has two all-conference caliber point guards at its disposal. If Trae is only capable of playing eight minutes a game like last weekend, obviously that does not help Wisconsin's depth issue (I still love you Zak Showalter). Bronson Koenig is probably the best guard on the floor on Saturday night. With all due respect to the Harrison twins, Tyler Ulls, and Devin Booker, none of them have as complete a game as Koenig. Josh Gasser will play good defense, make zero mistakes, hit threes, and tackle Aaron Harrison into the third row if he has any chance of taking a dagger three with less than two minutes left. The first three things will definitely happen, the last one I can only hope would happen since playing fundamentally sound defense did not work last time. In what is a common theme regarding this matchup, it is more about the depth of Kentucky than it is about Wisconsin not being able to match talent. Bronson Koenig may be better than Aaron Harrison, but Zak Showalter is nowhere near as good as Devin Booker. This is why how much and how well Trae plays is critical.
Advantage: Push


All the "analysis" I can possibly do about the two frontcourts.

In case you have been trapped under a rock all of basketball season and apparently decided that you have nothing better to do with your new found freedom than read this article written by someone who would be honored to be considered a hack... (Was that sentence run on-y enough for hack status?)

1- I pity you. Go to a bar, and make some friends. I met a guy with an eye patch last night (fireworks accident). He was a cool guy, and you get over staring at the eye patch.

2- Kentucky and Wisconsin have really good forwards. Like "all 6 of these guys will probably get drafted in the first round when they graduate (Wisconsin... FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SAM STAY IN SCHOOL) or declare early for the draft (Kentucky)" good. Picking which one of these guys is the best like trying to pick the biggest attention whore on Teen Mom. Karl-Anthony Towns is probably going to be the first one drafted, but he isn't the best defender or athlete on his team. That would be Willie Cauley-Stein. Trey Lyles was a consensus top 15 recruit last year, and has only started 20 games this year. Frank Kaminsky is winning all the national player of the year awards, but Sam Dekker was the West Region Most Outstanding player. Meanwhile, Nigel Hayes will interrupt his courting of stenographers to drop 12 points and grab 6 rebounds on the court... And Wisconsin brings crafty forward Duje Dukan off the bench.

Advantage: Kentucky (barely, something something more depth something)


I like making lists, so I'm going to make a simple list of 10 things Wisconsin must do to beat Kentucky. Some of them are obvious (for the "trapped under a rock" crowd), and they are in no particular order of importance because they are all important for my emotional well being Wisconsin to win.

1- Keep Kentucky off the offensive glass.

Wisconsin was 4th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage this year, but it is concerning that UNC and Arizona crashed the glass effectively. This trend cannot continue.

2- Stay out of foul trouble.

Alright, I lied. The first two things on this list are absolutely of paramount importance to Wisconsin winning. Not just winning, but this game even being competitive. Duje Dukan guarding Cauley-Stein or Towns for an extended period of time? #lol No amount of twitter man-crush will help Duje there #sorryduje

3- Get Kentucky in foul trouble

Kentucky only has 9 McDonald's All-Americans, so after you get those 9 to foul out, they're playing just normal college basketball players. Wisconsin non-blue chip players (blah blah Wisconsin has 3 top 100 recruits in their starting lineup, quit cherry picking facts... oh wait I'm writing an article, not commenting on one...) are better than the back of Kentucky's bench. It is of nearly tantamount importance to make Kentucky's bigs (particularly Cauley-Stein) play with foul trouble.

4- Make open shots

This should be self explanatory. Kentucky plays a ton of help defense, that is just one of the reasons they block a lot of shots (being tall and athletic helps too). Wisconsin excels at making the extra pass. There will be open shots to be had. Not just from three either, I would bet a large sum of money we see at least 2 weak side dunks tomorrow night. Wisconsin needs to make them all.

5- Spread the floor

This is related to number four, and it is a big reason Notre Dame gave Kentucky all they could handle. When did it start falling apart for Notre Dame? When Jerami Grant started playing hero ball every possession and the spacing fell apart. Wisconsin is an even moore dangerous shooting team than Notre Dame, and Kentucky has to respect that.

6- Don't shoot 30 threes

By all means shoot 30 threes if you're hitting two-thirds of them like against Arizona. That would actually be cooling off for certain Badgers /Sam Dekker hits another step back three in Hollis-Jefferson's face

6- Don't settle for threes

Back in the day, my 8th grade coach would bench us if we took a three without there being a post touch. This seems like something Bo Ryan would do, and something he should consider doing. Wisconsin doesn't need to bomb Kentucky into submission, Wisconsin's post players are more than capable of scoring on the block. They may be the only non-NBA team that can say that.

7- Don't turn the ball over

Captain Obvious tells me Wisconsin also needs to score more than Kentucky to win.

8- Make Kentucky play from behind

Everyone (including me) wants to talk about what Wisconsin needs to do to beat Kentucky. What about what Kentucky needs to do to beat Wisconsin? Wisconsin is a great free throw shooting team that doesn't turn the ball over. If Kentucky lets Wisconsin take control of this game, the Wildcats will have more in common with 1991 UNLV than 1976 Indiana. Just ask Arizona how much fun it is to play Wisconsin when you can't take the lead.

9- Stay in front of guys

Karl-Anthony Towns is the only Kentucky post player with a diverse post game. Cauley-Stein and Lyles rely on being bigger, stronger, and faster than you. They catch passes and dunk, and they grab offensive rebounds and dunk. Kaminsky, Hayes, Dekker, and Dukan... BOX OUT AND DON'T OVERHELP. Gasser, Koenig, Jackson, and Showalter... STAY IN FRONT ON DRIBBLE PENETRATION. When these things happen, Kentucky can go on scoring droughts, which leads to...


For student-athletes, for the post-secondary education system itself, for America. You guys need to do these things and beat Kentucky.

you can do it