Posted earlier this morning at lacrosseradiogroup.net/sports
Today should be fun, right?
I mean, I’d love to be in either Milwaukee or Indianapolis right now, but them’s the breaks, right? My Facebook feed is rapidly filling up with posts by my friends getting ready to tailgate at Miller Park, or ones that were able to score tickets to the NCAA championship game tonight at Lucas Oil Stadium. I have obligations here in La Crosse (which I am excited about, trust me), but really, I’m just jealous. Plain and simple.
First things first: How about the Badgers? I’m not totally sure how to properly characterize the upset. In Vegas terms, it wasn’t that big. Wisconsin was a five-point underdog, against a team that they lost to by one the year before in this exact same game. Badgers haters were quick to point that out over the weekend. But in other, unquantifiable terms, it was huge. Kentucky was THE team in college basketball this season, and THE favorite heading into the tournament. They showed all year that they were beatable, but for 38 times in a row, they hadn’t been.
What was encouraging as a Badgers fan was that they won without playing perfect. They played well, don’t get me wrong, but Kentucky shot better from the field, from three and from the FT line. Granted, Wisconsin made more threes and more free throws, but the point stands. The Badgers also had 10 turnovers, which is a lot for Wisconsin. What was most impressive was they way that they controlled the boards. So much was made of Kentucky’s length and athleticism, but it was the Badgers that had a 34-22 advantage on the glass, led by 11 from Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky and Sam Dekker combined for 14 rebounds, as did Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns, but the rest of the Wisconsin starting lineup (Nigel Hayes, Josh Gasser and Bronson Koenig) out-rebounded the rest of the Wildcats’ starting line-up.
So what’s going to be the secret tonight? Limiting Duke’s trips to the FT line (they shot 27 of 37 against Michigan State!!), exploiting mismatches (we’ll get to that in a second), and continuing to control the glass (duh).
I think that Kaminsky, Dekker and Koenig match up extremely well with Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones. Call them a wash, just for argument’s sake. That leaves my X-factors as Nigel Hayes and Josh Gasser. Both will need to knock down at least a couple of 3-pointers, and basically win the battle vs. their Duke counterparts. I’d be ok if Duje Dukan stepped up and hit a 3-pointer or two, as well.
Is this a team of destiny? It sure feels like it.
I know it’s a loooooong season, but 1-0 would certainly feel great, because, you know, hope springs eternal. Let’s go Brew Crew.