Monday, April 2, 2012

National Championship Game Preview: Kentucky vs. Kansas

Well, it's been a couple of days, since Ohio State's 2nd-half letdown vs. the Kansas Jayhawks, and I still got that feeling of, "what the heck happened?". But, it is what it is...which leads me to tonight's matchup between Kentucky and Kansas for the 2012 National Championship in Men's Division 1 Basketball. Let's take a minute and breakdown this matchup, which is another rematch (all three games this year in the Final Four, were rematches from the regular season) from an earlier regular season meeting back in December (UK won 75 to 65, @ MSG in New York) the second game of the season for both teams. This also marks the second time Coach Calipari and Coach Self will face each other in the National Championship Game (2008 NC, when Coach Self's Jayhawks beat Coach Cal's Memphis Tigers).

Let's see how each team got to the National Championship:

UK                                                               KU
2nd Round: Defeated WKU, 81 to 66         2nd Round: Defeated Detroit, 65 to 50
3rd Round: Defeated ISU, 87 to 71             3rd Round:  Defeated Purdue, 63 to 60
Sweet 16: Defeated Indiana, 102-90            Sweet 16: Defeated NC State, 60 to 57
Elite 8: Defeated Baylor, 82-70                   Elite 8: Defeated UNC, 80 to 67
Final Four: Defeated Louisville, 69 to 61    Final Four: Defeated Ohio State, 64 to 62

Kentucky's starting five is one of the best in recent years, it includes the two-potential top picks in June's NBA Draft (Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) some veteran players (Terrance Jones and Doron Lamb) and a talented freshmen Point Guard in Marquis Teague. They are a very unselfish unit and like to push the ball up and down the court and score frequently. In each of their previous 5 tournament games the Wildcats have score at least 69 points or more, so they will look for a high scoring game and try to outrun the Jayhawks. The Jayhawks will counter with a grind-it out unit that features one of the best all-around players in CBB this season, Thomas Robinson (17 ppg and 11 rpg). Robinson has some solid pieces around him in PG Tyshawn Taylor (16 ppg) and SG Elijah Johnson (10 ppg) to help provide the scoring for the Jayhawks's offensive attack. KU will also have a 7 footer to counter UK's big-man Davis, in Jeff Withey. It will be interesting to see the matchup between Withey and Davis down-low. UK has plenty of firepower in their starters, and it will be a challenge for the Jayhawks to limit their 2nd-chance points and limiting the Wildcats scoring run's (i.e 7-0, 9-0 runs).

Kentucky will have the advantage in this matchup off the bench with Senior guard Darius Miller (9.6 ppg) coming in to provide the Wildcats offense with a "6th starter".  The Jayhawks bench will need to have someone have a career game tonight, to provide some scoring and relief for the Jayhawk starters, as the Jayhawks do not rely much on their bench for scoring.

You got to think in the back of his mind, Coach Calipari still thinks about that 2008 NC Game, in which his Memphis Tiger's just chocked away the game and title to Self's Jayhawks, he will be out for payback in tonights game. Since coming to UK, Coach Calipari has done a fantastic job in recruiting the best players in the country to come play for him (tho its been just for one year, for the most part), however, his squads have failed to win the ultimate prize. Coach Self has done a great job in doing a lot with less this season. If Self wants to win his 2nd National Title and 2nd against Coach Calipari he will have to outsmart him and come up with a quality gameplan (easier said then done).

Well, ever since the brackets came out WAY back on March 11th, the Kentucky Wildcats have been the favorite to cut down the nets in New Orleans and bring back the 8th National Championship to Lexington and the University of Kentucky. Tonights game will come down to two things: 1) KU knocking down outside shoots against UK's athletic/big defense 2) the Jayhawks limiting the Wildcats 2nd chance points. I've come to the conclusion that if UK and Coach Calipari win tonight (giving Coach Cal his 1st National Championship), that it will be like seeing the Patriots, Steelers, and/or Yankees winning a Championship, you just have to come to terms with it and accept it. With all that said, I'll be pulling for Kansas and Coach Self to pull off the upset once more tonight, for the soul reasoning and I'll be honest, my hatred/disliking of that Italian-cheater and get away with it, COACH JOHN CALIPARI. I guess the bright side in this all is, if Kentucky wins, this will mark the end of an era, as Gainer will officially retire as a UK Wildcats fan, and I will like him just a little more.

I think we can all agreed that regardless the outcome in this one, each teams starting five will look A LOT different come fall practice in October. Which is fine, its just the way it is now in the game of CBB, and as a Head Coach, the objective you should have is to try and build the best team you can for one year and "shoot" for a National Championship.

(Side note: With the potential of Kentucky Men and Baylor Women winning the a National Championship in the next two nights, could we not have two of the best looking starting centers, EVER...take a look you let me know...haha)