The Final Four is just a few days away and the excitement around Madison is steadily growing. Wisconsin will be facing off against the 8-seed Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday night. The ‘Cats are suddenly the trendy pick to win it all.
There is an X-Factor for the Badgers in this game. If they can execute it, they will move on to the National Championship Game. If they cannot, they’ll fall to this inexperienced but talented Kentucky squad.
That X-Factor is: the three-point shot.
Plain and simple, if the Badgers can hit the three-pointer consistently against Kentucky, they will find themselves in the title game. With that said, it will not be easy for Bucky to hit shots from the perimeter with the regularity it usually enjoys.
Breaking Down The Numbers:
In the tournament so far, Kentucky’s opponents are shooting just .346% from the three-point line (26/75). The Badgers have depended on making shots from three-point land all year and will need to once more against Kentucky. Wisconsin shot three-pointers at a .375% clip over the course of this year. Will the Badgers be able to keep up that pace against the aggressive Wildcats? That remains to be seen.
Every one of the Badgers’ five starters made at least 33 three-pointers this year. Plus, two of the three reserves Bucky uses with regularity shoot the three well, too. Kentucky only has three starters that can hit the three with any semblance of confidence. These two offenses could not be more different. Bucky depends on its three-point shooting to draw out their opponents defense to the perimeter which opens up the post for Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes down low. Inversely, Kentucky starts down low and will look to exploit Wisconsin in the paint.
Senior Ben Brust hit 14 more three-pointers this year than Kentucky’s top shooter, freshman James Young. If Kentucky hits a few threes, it will be Young whose name will be called over the loud speaker.
Unlike most games this year, Wisconsin will not have to draw out the Wildcats’ defense. Kentucky will already be out there. They will challenge the Badgers from behind the arc on nearly every possession.
Kentucky’s perimeter defense is great. Their length on the defensive side of the ball is something Wisconsin really hasn’t seen this year. But, the Badgers will need to overcome the newness of Kentucky’s defense early to compete with the extremely athletic ‘Cats.
The Wildcats’ shortest starter is 6-foot-6. The Badgers only have two starters that eclipse that height, Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky. Kentucky’s guards have a dramatic heigh advantage over the Badgers’ ball-handlers. Whether that will become a factor or not will be determined by Wisconsin’s shooting ability.
If the Badgers can find a way, either through ball screens or passes from the post, to hit threes they will be in great shape. Wisconsin must be creative though. Bo Ryan has been trying to simulate the Wildcats’ length, and defense, in practice this week.
Here’s to hoping Wisconsin is prepared to deal with Kentucky’s length and able to hit numerous three-pointers en route to a victory. And here is what the Badgers are saying about the upcoming game.
On Wisconsin, hopefully to the National Championship Game! Do you think they will win? Take the poll.
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