UK and Wisconsin geared for rematch


Kentucky Wildcats guard Aaron Harrison (2) celebrates during the NCAA Final Four vs. Wisconsin at the AT&T in Arlington, Tx., on Saturday, April 5, 2014. Photo by Emily Wuetcher

By Joshua Huff

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Not many teams are afforded the opportunity to play in the Final Four two years in a row, yet here are Wisconsin and UK, back in a familiar setting but on unfamiliar turf.

The tables have turned for both teams this season. An overexposed UK team will take to the court on Saturday against a Wisconsin team that has flown under the radar all season, despite losing just three games.

It was around a year ago when both teams squared off in the Final Four in Arlington, Texas, with UK winning 74-73 in a thriller. Much has changed since that day. UK lost in the National Championship and no longer has players who contributed majorly in the April 5 win; however, UK has rebounded with a season that is two games away from being one of the best in history.

Wisconsin, on the other hand, has remained in relative obscurity even though it has potential Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky and NCAA Tournament wunderkind Sam Dekker.

The big factor for UK heading into Saturday will be finding players to replace the 41 points that are missing from the lineup. Julius Randle and James Young took off for the NBA, and Alex Poythress suffered a season-ending injury. All three were major contributors to last year’s Final Four win. Only two current UK starters played more than 25 minutes in last season’s win: Aaron and Andrew Harrison, who combined for just 17 points.

Dakari Johnson did have 10 points in just 18 minutes during the game.

For UK, however, the added benefit of having a deep roster means that even if the Harrisons struggle again, players like Devin Booker and Karl-Anthony Towns can take up the slack. Also key is the return of Marcus Lee and Johnson, who both held Kaminsky last year at just eight points.

The Cats have an added advantage in the form of 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein. He missed last year’s NCAA Tournament and should make an immediate impact against a team that loves to work in the post.