By Brandon Pemberton
Follow me on Twitter @BrandonOnSports
Tonight is the NCAA Championship game and I’m really looking forward to watching overall 1 seed Kentucky Wildcats face off against the 2 seed Kansas Jayhawks tonight at 9:23pm on CBS. The Wildcats, led by Naismith Player of the Year Anthony Davis, have been the favorite all season to win it all and tonight they have a chance to prove everyone right. Kansas on the other hand, started out slow during out of conference play due to the fact they lost the Morris twins, Josh Selby and Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed. Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor have led the team, but Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, and Travis Releford have stepped into major roles for the 11-12 team.
Kansas: Senior Tyshawn Taylor is a talented, battle tested lead guard. He been a steady force at point guard this year for the Jayhawks. Elijah Johnson was finally able to get major minutes and has shown flashes of brilliance The two of them together and individually are great defensive players who can make things hard on Marquis Teague while he’s trying to initiate the offense. Connor Teahan came off the bench last game and hit an three point shot and if he’s called upon this game, his shooting could be big.
Kentucky: The Wildcats really need a good game from freshman point guard Marquis Teague tonight. He can’t afford to turn the ball over against a great defensive unit like Kansas. Best believe Taylor and Johnson will be in his grill all game putting as much pressure on the ball as possible. Teague is explosive enough to beat them off the dribble, but he needs to make the right decisions with the pill once he gets penetration.
Doron Lamb even though he is a sophomore, one of the teams leaders and brings a calm to the team in stressful moments. His ability to play both guard positions a key for Kentucky, Teague may be overwhelmed by the moment and Lamb is able to run to point and keep things running smoothly. Senior Darius Miller brings versatility, toughness, timely shooting and defense game to game.
Kansas: Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey dominated the paint against the Buckeyes on Saturday night, shutting down Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas. Tonight test will be much tougher as they will face a frontcourt of Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist and Jones. I’m wondering who will draw the assignment of checking Davis first defensively, but I also wonder if John Calipari will put Jones on Robinson, allowing Davis to roam the middle of the paint and help from the weakside. If Kansas can get Davis in foul trouble early, it could be the key to an upset victory. Travis Releford had a big game against OSU Saturday night and any extra points they can get from him, along with good defense on Kidd-Gilchrist would be a plus.
Kentucky: Anthony Davis was a dominant force Saturday night, scoring 18 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking 5 shots against Louisville. If he plays this well tonight, it will be hard for Kansas to win. He must stay out of foul trouble, his team is obviously at it’s best when he’s on the floor. Kentucky could benefit from Terrence Jones showing up and playing for a full forty minutes. His play his been bipolar for the majority of the season, let alone the tourney. Kidd-Gilchrist got in early foul trouble Saturday night and it allowed the Cardinal to stick around longer then they should have. He has a clear advantage going against Travis Releford offensively and his ability to hit the offensive glass can be a big difference maker tonight. Kyle Wiltjer hit a key three point shot, made a steal and another layup during Kentucky’s game finishing run.
My Prediction: This game will be actually a lot closer then most think. Yes Kentucky is good, but Kansas isn’t chopped liver themselves. I don’t know if Withey and Robinson will be able to stop Davis, but they have the ability to slow him down and cause other Kentucky players beat them. Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb could be the stars of the game, with their ability to get in the lane and finish.
Kansas needs to get the ball in the paint and go right at Davis, try to get him in foul trouble if possible. Hit the offensive glass, but not get caught at a disadvantage in transition. Kentucky is at it’s best in the open court, then have medley of finishers on their team. Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson have to play efficiently, take quality shots, and make the right decisions with the ball.
If i were betting straight up, I would take Kentucky in a fairly close game: Kentucky 68 Kansas 62