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By Tom Fink
1) A Rematch & Redemption – These teams played each other at Madison Square Garden back in November, when Kentucky defeated Kansas 75-65. Will the Jayhawks make the proper adjustments and come out on top, or will Kentucky take Kansas down for the second time this season?
2) A Barrage of Blocks – Kentucky leads the nation in blocks per game and Kansas is no slouch in that department with Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson playing down low. Defense in the paint and blocked shots should be a major factor in determining the outcome of this one.
3) Irreplaceable Players – Tyshawn Taylor does something for Kansas that no other player on the bench can come close to replicating. He has to play well and stay on the court as much as possible if they are to have a chance of winning. The same can be said for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for Kentucky. They seem to go as he goes and if he struggles again like he did against Louisville, the Wildcats will have a tougher time than expected.
4) Lamb Chopped – When the teams met on November 15th, Doron Lamb hung 17 points on Kansas. If the Jayhawks can figure out a way to stunt the game of Kentucky’s sharp shooter then they may be able to keep up from a scoring standpoint.
5) 67 – Calipari’s Wildcats are 77-1 when holding opponents under 67 points. When you’re watching, keep an eye on the scoreboard and see if Kentucky keeps Kansas under the magic number.
6) Withering Withey – Jeff Withey had a lot asked of him in the Jayhawks Final Four matchup against Ohio State when he had to defend Jared Sullinger. Will he be able to handle back to back games against another one of the best big men in the country? Because Anthony Davis awaits him in the title game.
7) Perennial Programs – Kentucky and Kansas are the Top 2 programs in College Basketball as far as all-time wins go. So even though there isn’t a Cinderella in the championship, it’s a must watch for fans of the history of the game.
8) Split Series – Despite Kentucky’s dominant record in the regular season series (20-6), the teams are 1-1 against each other in March Madness. This game will give one team the edge in the series and another title.
9) Clean Up Duty – Kansas has won in spite of poor shooting from distance this postseason, and the primary reason has been the play of Elijah Johnson. When he has the ball in his hands the team has been scoring more efficiently and he has been Bill Self’s only real threat from beyond the arc (43.4%).
10) Achilles Heel – If Kentucky has one weakness it has been giving up a decent amount of Offensive Boards to opponents, if Kansas can take anything of note from Louisville it’ll be how to get some second chance looks against Calipari’s team.
11) Terrence Jones – Everyone forgets this guy because of Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist and Teague. Pay attention to the lefty tonight because he could dictate the style of play down low.
12) One Man Army – Kansas clearly has a solid team full of contributing players, but Thomas Robinson has been the key for the Jayhawks all year. If Kentucky can slow down the All-American then they shouldn’t have a problem stealing this game.
13) On The Run – Both teams have pretty tremendous transition games and can score with the best teams in the country when on the run. If Kansas can keep UK from getting as many transition looks, they may stand a chance.
14) Just Play Your Game – Kentucky is the best team in the nation. Point blank. If they play to their capabilities they’ll win. But the team is young and Kansas will be trying to alter the style and tempo in order to affect how the Wildcats play. UK just has to play it’s game, but that is easier said than done.
15) Good vs. Evil – There are a lot of fans rooting against John Calipari tonight, so they will be pulling for Bill Self by default. Whether it’s because of Coach Cal’s use of one and done players, his history of leaving schools in shambles with heavy recruiting sanctions or because his has a perfect head of really slick hair, don’t expect the nation to be cheering Kentucky’s coach on.
16) Foul Trouble – Kansas has to have Robinson and Withey on the floor as much as possible. If either of them gets in early foul trouble this game will be as good as over.
17) Anthony’s Trophy Case – Anthony Davis has won every conceivable award this year and hoisting the trophy after winning the National Championship would cap off one of the more spectacular individual seasons that we have seen in quite a while, especially considering that he is just a freshman.
18) Teahan and Young – They sound like a law firm and they may be as important to the Jayhawks’ championship hopes as anyone on the team. Due to a lack of front court depth on the Kansas roster, these two guys off the bench could determine whether or not the team can hang with Kentucky as far as scoring goes.
19) Kyle Wiltjer – The lanky three-point specialist could come up huge tonight with a few well timed buckets and tilt things in the favor of his Kentucky Wildcats. He’s a big man who shoots 43% from beyond the arc, so Coach Cal will pick some spots to get him on the court.
20) Double Figures – Kentucky has 6 players who score in double figures, if all of them score around their average the Wildcats should have no problem winning this one.
1) Travis Releford (Guard/Junior) – He will likely be guarding Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the big game as he is the best defender Kansas has for a player like MKG. You have to watch the game to see the type of impact he has on each and every trip down the floor.
2) Anthony Davis (Center/Freshman) – How could it be any other player for Kentucky? This is clearly the guy to watch and seeing as how it could be his last game in college hoops, just do yourself a favor and don’t take your eyes off the shot blocker with the eyebrow.