Published on April 2nd, 2012 | by Bryant West, Columnist0
NCAA Championship Breakdown: Kentucky vs. Kansas
Who: #1 Kansas vs. #2 Kansas
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
When: Monday, April 2nd, 9:23 p.m. Eastern, 6:23 p.m. Pacific
Projected Starting Lineups:
For Kentucky -
Anthony Davis (14.3 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 4.6 BPG, 1.3 SPG, 63.3% FG, 71.2% FT)
Terrence Jones (12.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 1.3 SPG, 50.1% FG, 64.1% FT, 33.3% 3PT)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (12.0 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.9 APG, 48.6% FG, 75.5% FT)
Doron Lamb (13.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 47.1% FG, 82.9% FT, 47.1% 3PT)
Marquis Teague (10.0 PPG, 4.8 APG, 2.6 RPG, 2.8 TPG, 41.2% FG, 71.6% FT)
For Kansas -
Jeff Withey (9.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.5 BPG, 54.8% FG, 79.4% FT)
Thomas Robinson (17.7 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, .9 BPG, 51.2% FG, 68.1% FT)
Elijah Johnson (10.0 PPG, 3.6 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 42.5% FG, 69.6% FT, 33.5% 3P)
Travis Releford (8.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 50% FG, 64.3% FT, 31.2% 3P)
Tyshawn Taylor (16.7 PPG, 4.7 APG, 2.3 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 3.5 TPG, 48.2% FG, 68.2% FT, 38.5% 3P)
According to ESPN, a total of 9.8 percent of 6.45 million brackets had a Kentucky-Kansas matchup – not quite as unpredictable a matchup as last years’ UConn/Butler matchup, which only 881 brackets of 5.9 million from last year had correct. But on the flip side, this matchup certainly has more big time, big name matchups, including three players who will find their names called in the top five picks of this year’s NBA draft should they enter (Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Thomas Robinson).
So 52 percent of ESPN’s brackets had Kentucky in the championship game, while 18.2 percent had Kansas in. And really, it shouldn’t be a surprise for Kentucky. If the Wildcats had lost along the way, it really would have been the utter nail in the coffin of Coach Calipari’s reputation as a leader who can’t lead you all the way. Kentucky has way, WAY too much talent, way too much size, and way too much motivation.
Can Kansas stop them? It’ll be close, but after Saturday’s contests, their chances in my opinion increased. Kentucky battled a tough defensive squad in Louisville, and while the Cardinals were a very deep squad they had no business sticking with Kentucky as close as they did. Meanwhile, Kansas AGAIN managed to come up big in the final minutes and pull off a last second 64-62 win over Ohio State.
The Jayhawks don’t have the depth or talent level the Wildcats do – of course, no NCAA team has – but they may have just enough. Thomas Robinson beasted down the stretch for the Jayhawks, Jeff Withey played huge against a very good Buckeyes big man line, and TyShawn Taylor played a very composed game. Kansas has the talent, but they’ll need to play a spotless game to win.
Hit the jump for the rest of Bryant’s preview…
Here is the biggest reason Kentucky will win – they simply have more talent than the Jayhawks. I am a huge fan of Thomas Robinson, and as he showed on Saturday, he is a player you can absolutely go to war with – but isn’t he going to be just the third best player on the court tonight?
Certainly, if you lined up all the players street style and let the coaches pick their squads – Anthony Davis would go first, no question. But the second pick is where it gets very, very interesting. Robinson, or Kidd-Gilchrist? My gut says Kidd-Gilchrist. Robinson is a very, very good player, but Kidd-Gilchrist is just as good, and Kidd-Gilchrist won’t have to spend the night being guarding by Anthony Davis.
You can say this, thought – no one that Davis has guarded this offseason is as talented and athletic as Robinson is. But Robinson hasn’t been defended by anyone half as good as Davis, and he’s struggled at times against lesser interior defenders (see the matchup against Purdue). I trusted in Thomas Robinson to get the Jayhawks here – now? The smart money is no longer in Robinson’s favor.
Keys for Kentucky:
1. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: Davis and Terrence Jones have faced tough interior defenders in the tournament, but the combination of Robinson and Jeff Withey are the toughest they’ve faced yet. This leaves Kidd-Gilchrist as the Wildcats’ main weapon. He’s matched up against Elijah Johnson, who is a very good defender, but Kidd-Gilchrist has the athletic advantage. If he attacks, he can score.
2. Marquis Teague: Teague doesn’t need to score for Kentucky to win. He needs to do two things – one, facilitate the offense (he’s averaging 5.2 assists a contest in the tournament) and focus on stopping TyShawn Taylor. While the Wildcats don’t need Teague to score to win, Kansas NEEDS Taylor to score in order to win.
3. Get out Early: The Wildcats found a tougher opponent in Louisville than they obviously expected. Kansas is more talented than the Cardinals, and the Wildcats can’t afford that mistake again. They need to go for the kill from the start or Thomas Robinson will rally the troops and keep this one close.
Keys for Kansas:
1. Robinson Against the Cats: I know I just spent two paragraphs talking about how Davis has the advantage against Robinson, but Robinson means more to his team than just being their primary offensive weapon. He is their team captain, a vocal leader with a determination and grit rarely seen from a 21 year old player. He plays fast and loose at times, but he is a man among boys. If the Jayhawks win this, it will be because of him.
2. Make Kentucky play the Perimeter: Despite the fact that Kansas has two great defenders inside, they need to make Kentucky beat them from the outside as much as possible. The Wildcats have some decent shooters (Doron Lamb and Teague both are good) but the less that Kentucky gets the ball into Anthony Davis’ hands, the better.
3. Don’t be Intimidated: Whatever advantages the Wildcats have, the Jayhawks must not come out with the deer in the headlights look. They certainly didn’t have it late against Ohio State – they went for blood late. Even knowing somewhere deep inside that they are outgunned, they must play every moment like they have the advantages.
Prediction: Kentucky is just too deep and talented for any squad to matchup. The only way they lose this is if they beat themselves enough and Kansas takes absolute advantage. But I just don’t see that happening.
Kentucky 67, Kansas 58