Against the defending NCAA champion (Louisville) and runner-up (Michigan) last weekend in Indianapolis, Kentucky's Andrew Harrison had 13 assists vs. six turnovers and did a solid job distributing. What the 6-foot-6, 215-pound freshman from Richland, Texas, did not do especially well was shoot. He made only seven of 23 shots in the two games and is 14 for 38 so far in the NCAA Tournament.
Wisconsin junior Traevon Jackson (10.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.0 assists) hit a game-winning jumper in a regular-season victory over Michigan State and the game-clinching shot in the Badgers' regular-season victory over now No. 1 Florida. The son of former Ohio State star Jimmy Jackson made the All-West Region Team. In four NCAA tourney games, Jackson has 18 assists vs. nine turnovers and has hit 17 of 19 free throws. However, he has gone 9 for 26 from the floor in Wisconsin's three most recent games.
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Aaron Harrison's cold-blooded NCAA Tournament clutch shooting landed him on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week. The 6-6 freshman made a three-pointer with 2.3 seconds left to put UK into the Final Four with a 75-72 victory over Michigan in the Midwest Region finals. The game before, an Aaron Harrison trey with 39 seconds left gave Kentucky the lead for good against Louisville. In four NCAA tourney contests, Harrison has made 13 of 24 three-point tries but only six of 20 two-point attempts.
Senior Ben Brust has made a Wisconsin-record 232 career three-point shots. Brust (12.8 ppg) has made 12 of 23 treys in the NCAA Tournament. A clutch shooter, Brust hit the three-pointer that put Wisconsin ahead for good in a rallying victory over Oregon in the round of 32. His three-pointer also put the Badgers ahead in overtime against Arizona. Over the past two seasons, Brust has 56 games with at least two made three-pointers. At 4.5 rebounds a game, Brust is surprisingly effective on the glass for a 6-1 guard.
After Willie Cauley-Stein's ankle injury sidelined him in Indianapolis, Kentucky's Dakari Johnson came up strong for the Cats. The 7-foot freshman had 15 points and six rebounds in the victory over Louisville, then came back with eight points on 4-for-5 shooting against Michigan.
Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky has been one of the breakout stars of the 2013-14 college basketball season. A spare part in his first two seasons in Madison, the 7-foot junior had a 43-point game in the regular season against North Dakota. He was named West Region most outstanding player after scoring 28 points (20 after halftime) and grabbing 11 rebounds in the overtime victory over Arizona. Kaminsky (14.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 37.8-percent three-point shooting) can score inside or out and figures to be a difficult defensive matchup for UK, especially if Cauley-Stein doesn't make a miraculous return to health.
Julius Randle has helped UK earn a trip back (nearly) to his hometown, Dallas, by putting up a double-double in all four of Kentucky's NCAA Tournament games. For the season, the 6-9, 250-pound freshman has a nation's best 24 double-doubles. He has shot less than 50 percent from the field in three of UK's four NCAA tourney games, but Randle has been terrific from the foul line: 17 of 22 in the Big Dance.
Wisconsin's Sam Dekker (12.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg) leads the Badgers with 28 double-figure scoring games, but the 6-7 sophomore has struggled in the NCAA tourney, making just 14 of 34 shots and failing to score in double digits against either Baylor or Arizona last weekend.
James Young bounced back from a difficult game against Louisville with a strong effort against his home-state school, Michigan. The 6-6 UK freshman hit five of seven shots overall and three of four three-point attempts against the Wolverines, and he grabbed four rebounds. In four NCAA games, Young has made 16 of 37 shots and is averaging 10.5 points a game, nearly four points below his overall season scoring average of 14.1.
The third guard in Wisconsin's starting lineup, 6-3 redshirt junior Josh Gasser (8.9 ppg, 4 rpg) is the Badgers' defensive stopper, normally drawing the opponent's top offensive threat. It was Gasser who drew the offensive foul from Arizona star Nick Johnson with three seconds left in overtime in the West Region finals. It will be interesting to see whether Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan puts Gasser on Young or Aaron Harrison. If the game is close, you don't want to foul Gasser. He is shooting 86.8 percent (118 for 136) from the foul line.
With Willie Cauley-Stein unavailable against Michigan, little-used UK freshman Marcus Lee seized an opportunity and became a tournament hero with 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots in only 15 minutes of play. Kentucky sophomore Alex Poythress has made eight of nine shots in UK's last three games and has played with a bounce in his step. True freshman guard Dominique Hawkins has not scored a field goal since Jan. 8, but his energetic defense on Michigan star Nick Stauskus helped UK get to the Final Four.
Wisconsin freshman forward Nigel Hayes (7.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg) was named Big Ten's sixth man of the year and was named to the league's all-freshman team. Freshman guard Bronson Koenig is shooting 54.5 percent in the NCAA tourney. Redshirt junior Duje Dukan, a 6-9 forward, has had some good moments this season, including a 15-point game against St. John's and a seven-rebound performance vs. Iowa.
Kentucky played eight players in the Midwest Region finals, and all but Alex Poythress were true freshmen. Wisconsin is a veteran team but from a program that has not made a Final Four trip since 2000. So neither team has Final Four experience among its key players. With concern about how sight lines in cavernous AT&T Stadium will affect shooters, is it a big edge for Kentucky that the Cats played Baylor in the stadium this season? The Badgers beat three of the four NCAA Tournament No. 1 seeds (Florida, Virginia, Arizona) this season. With 21 wins over RPI Top 100 foes, Wisconsin has the most in the country.