(1) Kentucky vs. (2) Kansas: National Championship
Kentucky 37-2, 16-0 SEC
Kansas 32-6, 16-2 Big 12
Time: 9:23 p.m. Monday
Location: Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans
Kentucky def. Western Kentucky, 81-66; def. Iowa State, 87-71; def. Indiana, 102-90; def. Baylor, 82-70; def. Louisville, 69-61
Kansas def. Detroit, 65-50; def. Purdue, 63-60; def. North Carolina State, 60-57; def. North Carolina, 80-67; def. Ohio State, 64-62
Kentucky No. 1 AP; No. 1 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Kansas No. 6 AP; No. 6 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Nov. 15 – Kentucky def. Kansas, 75-65
Line: Kentucky -7 (O/U 139½)
Players to Watch
Kentucky: F Anthony Davis, 6-10 Fr. (14.3 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 4.6 bpg); F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, 6-7 Fr. (12 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 48.6% FG); F Terrence Jones, 6-9 So. (12.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 50.1% FG); G Doron Lamb, 6-4 So. (13.6 ppg, 47.1% 3s); G Marquise Teague, 6-2 Fr. (10 ppg, 4.8 apg); G/F Darius Miller, 6-8 Sr. (10 ppg, 2.2 apg, 37.8% 3s); F Kyle Wiltjer, 6-9 Fr. (5.1 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 43% 3s).
Kansas: F Thomas Robinson, 6-10 Jr. (17.7 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 51.2% FG); G Tyshawn Taylor, 6-3 Sr. (16.7 ppg, 4.7 apg, 1.4 spg); C Jeff Withey, 7-0 Jr. (9.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.5 bpg); G Elijah Johnson, 6-4 Jr. (10 ppg, 3.6 apg, 1.5 spg); G Travis Releford, 6-6 Jr. (8.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 50% FG); G Conner Teahan, 6-6 Sr. (5.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 34% 3s); F Kevin Young, 6-8 Jr. (3.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 49% FG).
Why Each Team Dangerous
Kentucky: The Wildcats are extraordinarily balanced with six players averaging double figures. Even when Kidd-Gilchrist and Jones struggled in Saturday’s win over Louisville, others stepped up. Miller scored 13 off the bench, Wiltjer hit two big buckets and Teague had eight points and five assists. Kentucky shot 57 percent in the victory. For the season, UK shoots 47 percent from the floor. Kentucky plays very good defense in the paint, averaging 8.5 blocks per game, which leads the country. Their transition offense is as good as anyone’s in the nation.
Kansas: Robinson is as good and plays as hard as any player in the country. He’s capable of controlling the paint, even against a frontcourt as good as Kentucky’s. Taylor is a good floor leader and is strong scoring threat. Along with Robinson, Withey provides great interior defense and if Johnson is hot, the Jayhawks are really tough to handle. Kansas held Ohio State to 20-of-59 from the field and 8-of-22 from the 3-point line in Saturday’s win and out-rebounded the Buckeyes 41-30, including 12 offensive boards. KU has trailed in every game of the tournament and has shown great resilience. It’s probably time to just crown Bill Self the best coach in college basketball. The job he’s done this season has been remarkable and he’ll have the Jayhawks ready to play on Monday.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Kentucky: There isn’t much the Wildcats do poorly. They are slightly above average in their half-court offense and their transition defense. They were out-rebounded by Louisville, 37-32, and gave up 16 offensive boards and that has been a sore spot at times. Robinson could give them fits in the offensive glass. Kentucky doesn’t force a lot of turnovers typically and gets a steal on only 9.2 percent of opponents’ possessions. UK would likely have the youngest starting lineup ever to win a national title, but immaturity hasn’t been a problem to this point.
Kansas: This is the least talented Kansas team in a decade, making its run truly remarkable. Robinson and Taylor score about 46.4 percent of the team’s points, so there’s not a lot of balance and almost no depth. Talent- and skill-wise, Kansas will be outmatched by the Wildcats. The Jayhawks are not a great shooting team, making just 34.5 percent of their 3-point attempts and they score just 23.2 percent of their points from behind the arc. They shoot just 69.2 percent from the foul line, although they hit some clutch ones against OSU. At times, KU is turnover prone, but that’s gotten better.
The Bottom Line: It’s been a great college basketball season. Unfortunately, it’s not likely to end with a bang. Kentucky will stretch its lead throughout the game and win by double-figures.
The Pick: Kentucky 71, Kansas 60
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 208-162-6