Kentucky and Wisconsin are the main event, following the first national semifinal between Florida and UConn. The Wildcats and Badgers haven't been frequent foes on the hardwood. The last meeting came in the 2003 Sweet 16 as UK downed Wisconsin 63-57.
Bo Ryan May have his best Wisconsin squad ever, but he could be facing the hottest team on the planet in Kentucky, which knocked off No. 1 seed Wichita State, No. 4 seed Louisville and No. 2 seed Michigan to get to the big stage at AT&T Stadium.
Kentucky's freshman-dominated team has undergone a boys-to-men transformation late in the season. Can the Cats keep it going for one more day to earn a spot in the national championship game?
KENTUCKY KEYS TO WIN:
1. Use Length To Bother Wisconsin Backcourt. The size and length of Kentucky's guards may cause problems for the smaller Badgers, both in attempting to drive the lane and in feeding the post. Wisconsin has lived and died by the 3-point shot most of the season. If Kentucky can limit the damage from long range, it has a great shot to play on Monday night.
2. Slow Down Frank Kaminsky. The Wisconsin 7-footer has some of the best offensive skills of any big man in the country. It appears to be a matchup dilemma for John Calipari. Dakari Johnson may be a step slow, and other UK defenders may be on the smaller side. If so, they'll have to be active and physical. Could Marcus Lee be an X-factor again for the Cats?
3. Perimeter Shooting. It will be the single-biggest factor for UK the entire game. With Aaron Harrison shooting so well in the postseason, he'll command a lot of attention from the Badgers. Andrew Harrison, James Young and perhaps even Alex Poythress will have opportunities to hit open looks from beyond the arc and keep Wisconsin's defense honest on Julius Randle. If they can combine to knock down seven or eight shots and make a decent percentage, it will be a good night for the Big Blue.
KENTUCKY KEY PLAYER:
Freshman center Dakari Johnson will have to show up big in this game. With Willie Cauley-Stein still doubtful to play due to an ankle injury, Johnson will have to stay out foul trouble while defending the dangerous Kaminsky. But the Badger big man also has to defend him. If he can create some contact with Kaminsky and eventually get him in foul trouble, Kentucky will have a field day in the paint as Wisconsin doesn't have the size to stop Kentucky's interchanging big men.
WISCONSIN KEYS TO WIN:
1. Hit The 3. For Wisconsin to move on, it must hit from long range. Kentucky has been a decent defensive club against the 3-point shot this season, so that could bode well for the Cats, but they haven't faced too many squads that operate with the kind of offensive efficiency that the Badgers show.
2. Play off Kaminsky. The young Cats will likely be focused to stopping the Wisconsin big man, so other Badgers will have opportunities to make things happen. Can they feed off their top players' energy and confidence?
3. Defending Julius Randle. It's the biggest task for the Badgers. The UK freshman forward has posted 24 double-doubles and needs just one more to tie Dan Issel's school record. None of the Badgers have the combination of size, strength and athleticism to match up with him one-on-one, so quick double-teams and traps will be important to Wisconsin's hopes. Randle had been prone to turnovers in such situations earlier this season, but has been much better of late.
KEY WISCONSIN PLAYER:
Frank Kaminsky will have to carry the Badgers if they want to play for the national championship. He has the outside touch and quickness to give Dakari Johnson trouble. If he comes out hitting shots from outside and down low, the Cats will have to make in-game adjustments, which will create more opportunities for the Wisconsin perimeter players to shoot open jumpers.