by Steve Geller, Steve@wwl.com,posted Apr 2 2012 6:47AM
The Kentucky Wildcats battle the Kansas Jayhawks for the national championship of college basketball tonight, in a matchup that is sure to produce a game for the ages.
There are many interesting story lines to this game. Kentucky head coach John Calipari is looking to win his first national title. To do that he will need to beat the coach whose team defeated him in the 2008 title game, Kansas' Bill Self.
There's also a ton of top NBA prospects in this game, such as Wildcats big man Anthony Davis, who will look to impress on the game's biggest stage. In fact, Kentucky's Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - along with Kansas' Thomas Robinson - could be the number 1, 2 and 3 picks respectively. I'm sure the Hornets front office will be paying lots of attention.
Here's a closer look at these players:
Anthony Davis, F, Kentucky
The AP Player of the Year looks unstoppable right now with his amazing athleticism and great shot-blocking ability. He was too much for Louisville to handle in the Final Four because the Cardinals had no one who could combat Davis' unique combo of tremendous size and guardlike athleticism.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, F, Kentucky
MKG spent a lot of time on the bench against Louisville because of foul trouble, so you can bet he will be looking to get involved right from the start against Kansas. He is a fantastic all-around talent who can score from the outside, in transition and any other way you can think of. He's a complete basketball player and a high-character kid.
Thomas Robinson, F, Kansas
Robinson is a really strong player who uses his size and high motor to out-battle more athletic players on the glass and inside the paint. His ability to take contact and still finish strong is extraordinary. He has a lot to gain in this matchup because a strong performance could solidify a top-three selection in the draft for him.
Now, Anthony Davis hasn't faced a defensively dominant big man that can stop him throughout the NCAA tournament, but that's about to change when he matches up against Kansas' 7-foot shot blocking machine, Jeff Withey.
Withey is a beast inside and grabbed eight rebounds against Ohio State in the Final Four. He also had seven blocks. He won't allow the Kentucky players to throw easy alley-oops to Davis because he is too tall and has too much length to allow lobs to get over him close to the basket.
Withey is also stronger than Davis, and won't be pushed around by the Kentucky star. The Jayhawks' big man did a great job containing Buckeye Jared Sullinger on Saturday night, and his matchup against Davis will be equally important to Kansas' chances of cutting down the nets as national champs.
Key for Kentucky: Stay out of foul trouble
The Wildcats cannot afford to have Kidd-Gilchrist or Davis get in early foul trouble again because they are too important in this game. Kentucky won't be able to have one of their stars in foul trouble and still build a lead like they did against Louisville. Calipari's team needs to be aggressive but play smart at the same time.
Key for Kansas: Tyshawn Taylor needs to shoot well
Taylor is shooting 24-of-64 from the field in the NCAA tournament and has only had one impressive shooting performance, which came in the Elite Eight against North Carolina, when he was 10-of-19. He's also missed all 20 of his shot attempts from beyond the three-point line. If Kansas wants to keep up with Kentucky's high-scoring offense, then Tyshawn Taylor must shoot well from the outside and stretch the floor by consistently knocking down shots.
This Kentucky squad is one of the best college basketball teams I have ever seen. They have very few weaknesses and have more talent than many of the past NCAA champions.
The impressive part is that even though their team is so dependent on freshman, they play like a veteran squad that has known each other for years. They rarely make freshman mistakes, and there's no 'me first' attitude at all - just a commitment to winning.
Kansas is a quality team, but they are going up against one of the greatest squads college basketball has ever seen. The Jayhawks are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
They will not be able to stop Kentucky's march to the title. The Wildcats will win by eight points and capture the school's first national title since 1998, and their eighth overall.