The Final Four is here and the most interesting question in Texas this weekend is whether Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin Badgers can match up with John Calipari’s Big Bad Kentucky Wildcats.
It’s the cliché “contrast of styles” with one side yielding experience versus the new “Fab 5” of freshman.
In part one of a two-part series, we take a look at Kentucky’s lengthy frontcourt up against the Wisconsin’s versatile forwards.
1.) Center Dakari Johnson (7-0, 265)
Likely Counterpart: Forward Frank Kaminsky (7-0, 234)
Matchup: I’ll start off by saying I have no idea why ESPN has Kaminsky listed as 7-0 because he’s a lot closer to 6-10 than the seven foot mark. Despite the inch or two short, Kaminsky has been a MONSTER in this year’s tournament. Johnson will have his work cut out for him to stop Kaminsky who has 74 points on a blistering 54 percent shooting in the tournament. Johnson isn’t nearly as gifted on the offensive end and will struggle guarding Kaminsky who stretches his defenders out to the perimeter. One thing that Johnson has going for him is the recent increase in minutes due to Willie Cauley-Stein’s ankle injury. Johnson averaged a mere 13.7 minutes per game during the season, but has logged 21 a contest in the tournament. The young and strong role player is improving for Coach Calipari each and every game.
2.) Forward Julius Randle (6-9, 250)
Likely Counterpart: Forwards Sam Dekker (6-8, 220) and Nigel Hayes (6-7, 250)
Matchup: This is one of the key match-ups and will most likely decide the game. If Dekker and Hayes can limit Randle from wreaking havoc on the boards, the Badgers could be headed to the National Championship Game. Good luck though as not even the fiercest interior defenders have been able to stop Randle who’s averaging 15.8 points and 12 rebounds in the tournament. Everyone thinks of the Badgers as a defense-first team and that certainly would be true in the past. However, this year’s team has actually struggled on that side of the court (just look at the Oregon game). Dekker is quite a bit smaller than Randle and Hayes is still a bit raw to defend someone of Randle’s ability. I’m not sure Ryan wants to do it, but he may have to use Kaminsky on Randle. It’s also worth noting that the refs will play a huge role in this game as foul trouble for either Randle or Kaminsky would be a game-changer.
3.) Forwards Alex Poythress (6-8, 239) and Marcus Lee (6-9, 215)
Likely Counterpart: Forwards Dekker, Hayes and Duje Dukan (6-9, 220)
Matchup: Poythress is the lone sophomore who plays for this team and is a typical role player off the bench. Lee stole the show in Kentucky’s win versus Michigan with 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. All this after playing only one minute total in the entire tournament. Eight of Lee’s 10 points came on put back dunks from Kentucky misses. The kid is tremendously athletic around the rim. Wisconsin’s forwards will have to hold firm in the paint and make sure these guys don’t get any dunks. On the offensive end, the Badgers will have to do what they do best and stretch these interior players to the outside where they aren’t near as comfortable.
Advantage on the Frontcourt: Kentucky Wildcats
Kaminsky may be the most skilled player left in the tournament, but the depth and pure talent on the Wildcats roster makes them way far more adept in the frontcourt. Additionally, Kentucky’s big guys thrive in the paint and that’s bad news for a Badgers team who hasn’t impressed on their interior defense this year. Wisconsin won’t foul you much, but they will give up a lot of points at the basket.
Tune in tomorrow as I take a look at the matchups looming in the backcourt.
Do you think the Badgers will have a problem matching Kentucky’s size and athleticism? Let me know by commenting below.
Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers. He also enjoys sharing Fantasy Advice and pretends to be a Golf expert from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best. If social media is not your thing, shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Pictures obtained from espn.go.com and centralkynews.comPowered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks