The 2012 National Championship Game odds are out for the NCAA Tournament, and here at Bankroll Sports, we are taking the time to list our Kansas Jayhawks vs. Kentucky Wildcats predictions and keys to the game for the biggest and final game of the campaign.
2012 Final Four Matchup: #2 Kansas Jayhawks vs. #1 Kentucky Wildcats
Final Four Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Final Four Date/Time: Monday, April 2nd, 9:20 p.m.
Kansas vs. Kentucky Television Coverage: CBS
Key #1: Kansas has to make Kentucky react to a close game
If you go back and look at what the Wildcats have done this year, you have to be awfully impressed. They have 37 wins, including a 10-point victory against these Jayhawks. They only have been beaten twice this year, and in the five games in the NCAA Tournament, they haven’t been challenged at all. The closest game was the eight-point win in the Final Four against the hated Louisville Cardinals, and it was amazing that the Cards weren’t able to at least keep that one closer, knowing that they dominated possession thanks to just a slew of offensive rebounds. Sure, there have been some games this year that Kentucky has been able to win down the stretch; however, we have definitely seen some chinks in the armor. The door stayed open against the Vanderbilt Commodores, and they went on to pull the upset in the SEC Championship Game. That door might stay open yet again versus these Jayhawks.
Key #2: Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson have to prove to be forces on the inside defensively
Withey and Robinson knew that they were going to be up against it when they took on Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas for the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Final Four. They passed the test and passed it with flying colors. The real hero was Withey on the defensive end of the court. He blocked seven shots in the game and had eight boards, and two of those blocks came in the last 90 seconds or so. Is Withey overmatched from a physical standpoint? Sure. Whether it is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Anthony Davis that goes against him, Withey is going to be in some trouble. That being said, he and his teammates have improved dramatically in terms of interior defense of late. In the first go around, shots were falling from inside the paint for the whole game. Withey only had four blocks. We think that he could be a big, big factor come Monday night for the Jayhawks.
Key #3: The Wildcats cannot give up second chances
If there is one aspect to Wildcats that we continue to see in the NCAA Tournament that is bothersome, it is the way that they hit the defensive glass. The Cardinals, as we mentioned before, had 16 offensive rebounds, and that was the only reason that they were able to stay in the game. However, all of the last four opponents were able to bring down at least nine offensive rebounds against Kentucky, and three of the four foes were able to get more offensive rebounds for the game than the Cats did. It simply isn’t good enough at this level, and athleticism can only take them so far. They’ll be in a heck of a lot of trouble if they get sloppy clearing after possessions in which they play great defense.
Key #4: Experience cannot be a factor if Head Coach John Calipari wants to get his first title
Coach Cal is one of the most talented coaches in the entire country, but he is still missing that elusive National Championship in his career resume. Since coming to Kentucky, he has used the logic that he is going to bring in the most talented players that he can find, regardless of whether they commit for one year or not to his program. That being said, when you look at the starting five for the Jayhawks, you see nothing but veterans – juniors and seniors that have been through the wars together, and that all understand what it takes to get the job done in these big time games. Meanwhile, when you look at Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, and Darius Miller, you don’t think of them as “veterans.” However, in relation to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, and Anthony Davis, these are vets. If it comes down to that proverbial close game in which experience makes the difference, once again, we could see problems for the Wildcats. They have to win this game on their talent level alone.
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