Tale of the Tape
The Midwest Regional champion Kentucky Wildcats will take on the West Regional champion Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday in the NCAA Tournament Final Four. The game will take place in Arlington, Texas with the opening tip scheduled for 8:45 PM ET. According to NCAA basketball odds at the time of this writing, Kentucky is a 2.0 point favorite and the posted total is 139.5.
Super Impressive Run by Kentucky
The Kentucky Wildcats have truly earned the right to be in the "Final Four" despite being dubbed with the #8 seed in the Midwest Region. They knocked off Kansas State, previously unbeaten Wichita State, the Midwest Region betting favorite Louisville, and the Big 10 regular season champion Michigan. All 4 of those opponents are from power conferences, and had cumulative records this season of 114-29 (.797). The Wildcats are shooting 47.4% from the field and averaging 70.7 points per game in their 4 NCAA Tournament games. Those numbers are even more impressive considering in their opening game of the tournament, they shot just 38% from the floor in a 56-49 win over Kansas State.
Kentucky possesses an extremely athletic and powerful front court. They've dominated opponents on the glass this season as evidenced by their +10 rebound per game differential on the season. Nothing has changed in that regard through their first 4 tournament games as they're a combined +40 in the rebounding department. The Kentucky head coach John Calipari has been there and done that. Calipari has taken three different programs to the Final Four in his stops at Massachusetts, Memphis, and his current job with Kentucky. He guided the Wildcats to the 2012 national championship, and his Kentucky teams are a perfect 7-0 SU&ATS in their last 7 NCAA Tournament games.
Before the tournament started I would've said that Kentucky's inexperience would cost them at some point. Through 4-games that's been a moot point. The jury is still out on whether that will come into play on the biggest stage, but considering it a weakness, without it being exposed so far, puts this potential concern on the back burner. Let's talk about what has shown to be a weakness. Lost in their emotional wins over Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan was some suspect defensive play. In those 3 contests Kentucky allowed those opponents to shoot a combined 50.3% from the field, and average 72.3 points per game. They were able to cover that up that flaw with superior offensive rebounding, and by shooting better than advertised The Ducks host the Jets on Monday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California with the opening face-off slated for 10:05 PM ET. According to NHL betting odds Anaheim is is -200 money line home favorite and the posted total from beyond the three-point line. If they hope to win their 2nd national championship in 3-years, they will have to do a better job in that area.
Badgers Fly in Under the Radar
Although the Wisconsin Badgers were a #2 seed, they didn't get a lot of mention in regards to being a possible Final Four participant. After all, beating Arizona in their own back yard with a partisan crowd against them, seemed to be an extremely difficult task, and highly improbable. It wasn't easy by any stretch, but they showed the heart of a champion in doing so.
The Badgers aren't a team that's going to woe you with their style of play. They're disciplined, fundamentally sound, and don't beat themselves. The Badgers have committed an average of just 7.7 turnovers per game in their last 13 contests. They've allowed opponents an average of just 15 free throw attempts per game, which is incredible considering they play in one of the most physical NCAA basketball conferences. They've shot 37% from beyond the three-point line, and have converted 74% of their free throw attempts on the season. The Badgers head coach Bo Ryan is vastly underrated, and has finally shed the tag of never getting his team to the Final Four.
The Badgers have size, but their ability to contend with Kentucky's huge and athletic front line is a genuine concern. Wisconsin is solid defensively but not adept at getting opponents to commit turnovers. The Badgers road to get to this point doesn't possess the degree of difficulty that Kentucky had to endure. Their first 2-games of the tournament were played in Milwaukee which is approximately 90-miles from their campus, and needless to say they enjoyed tremendous crowd support in those contests. Their first 4 opponents had a cumulative winning percentage that was .077 less than what Kentucky had to face.
NCAA Betting System
Any team (Wisconsin) with a total of between 130.0 to 139.5, that's committed 11 turnovers or less in each of their previous 2-games, versus an opponent who forced 11 turnovers or less in their previous game, has seen 73 of those 115-games (63.5%) go over the total during the last 17 seasons.