For the Kentucky Wildcats and Wisconsin Badgers there’s a feeling of déjà vu as for the second year in a row the two teams will be facing off in basketball’s NCAA March Madness Final Four (8:45pm ET on TBS).
Last year’s match-up was an instant classic, won by the Wildcats by a score of 74-73. Leading the way for Kentucky were the Harrison twins of Andrew and Aaron, and Frank Kaminsky for Wisconsin. This year those three players will once again need to come up big if their team is to win and advance to the championship.
Here are the major story lines to follow in advance of Saturday’s March Madness showdown, with our betting picks and predictions for this NCAA Final Four game.
Can the Wisconsin Seniors beat the UK Freshmen?
Kentucky has been considered a ‘one and done’ school for the better part of the last five years, meaning that each year the team is basically starting over. This year, this is really no different, that is of course with the main exception being the Harrison twins.
As mentioned above, the Harrisons are a big part of why last year’s Kentucky team reached the championship final. Aaron even hit the game winner against Wisconsin, just one of many he had that year.
This season, Kentucky’s success has once again been aided by the Harrisons and the 20 points they averaged before the tournament started. Both were key players in the closely contested Notre Dame game.
But more than the twins, Kentucky owes its success to its recruiting having once again brought in a solid class of Wildcat stars. Leading the pack is Karl Anthony Towns, the freshman sensation who is considered right there with Duke’s Jahlil Okafor as the possible top pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Towns has done everything for Kentucky this year and despite having a quiet tournament, absolutely crushed it against Notre Dame. Towns had 25 points in that game with five rebounds and two steals. It is safe to say that without Towns, Kentucky would have lost that game.
Kentucky’s youth is well served and has been with four Final Four appearances in the last five years, each time with a vastly different roster. But Wisconsin has been successful too and they’ve done it the opposite. If Kentucky is a class of freshman, there is no doubt the Badgers are a class of seniors.
Wisconsin is led by the duo of Sam Dekker (pictured) and Kaminsky, both of whom were leading scorers in last year’s effort. The two have been at it again in 2015, both playing impressive defense and shooting lights out from the arc. Kaminsky has had a great year and is a Player of the Year candidate due to his 18+ points and eight rebounds a game. And Dekker, despite being only a junior, has been playing as a tournament MVP, having scored no less than 17 points in a single one of the team’s tournament games this year.
Kaminsky and Dekker are a great duo and they lead an equally impressive team who is worthy of its number one seed. No one ever said defeating Kentucky would be easy but if anyone has the ability to do it, with its size, athleticism and just pure shooting talent, it would be Wisconsin.
Can the Wildcats go Undefeated? Not if Wisconsin has anything to Say About it
Kentucky has set out to do something no other team in the history of the game has done and that is go a perfect 40-0. So far, they are 38-0 and are favorites to win their next two games. But being the favorites doesn’t make it a sure thing. There are added pressures to the ‘perfect’ season. Is it possible this could ultimately be Kentucky’s downfall?
During the regular season, there were times when Kentucky looked beatable. The team took several games to the wire including a double overtime thriller which was eventually won against Texas A&M. They have shown grit and tenacity, some of which is surprising given the youth and inexperience of the team.
But good teams find ways to win and Kentucky has done just that. Against Notre Dame, this is exactly what happened. This was probably the closest UK has come to losing this year and for what it’s worth, the game did show a way for an opponent to really get at the Wildcats in a meaningful way. Notre Dame played well enough to win that game until the last few minutes.
Against Wisconsin, Kentucky is set to face an even bigger test. The Badgers are one of the best shooting teams in the nation, especially from deep. They play a game of pace and all throughout the tournament they have been in control. And they have Notre Dame as an example. They should know what to do and how to do it. Honestly, Kentucky is nowhere near a lock in this one.
Wisconsin Badgers vs Kentucky Wildcats Betting Picks & Predictions
Kentucky may not be a lock but they are still a five point favorite with the USA sportsbooks and with good reason. The team has taken every challenge, every test, and has done so with class. They have come out on top every single time and there is really no reason to see why that would change.
Wisconsin is a great team, that’s for sure, but the only chance they have to defeat Kentucky is to have an almost perfect shooting night. They will need everything Kaminsky and Dekker have and given UK’s excellent perimeter defense, this is unlikely. Towns will be tough to keep away from the boards and the shooting of Aaron Harrison, which is has been pinpoint as of late, will be just as difficult to stop.
Kentucky has too many weapons, too many shooters and too good a game to fall. Even if one aspect isn’t clicking or one player is having an off night, there’s at least two guys coming off the bench who can take his place.
- So all of that said, take Kentucky to win outright but crucially from a betting point of view take the Badgers +5pts to cover the spread @ best odds of -105 with Betonline Sportsbook. It is -110 with Bovada and 5Dimes. This game will undoubtedly and once again be a close one.
- Also, with some strong defense on display take the under 132 total points for the game with Bovada. It is under 131 with the other two major sportsbooks, BetOnline and 5Dimes.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.