Coach Cal used dribble-drive extensively in his first year at Kentucky, and here and there in almost every season. But he has adapted each year. Sometimes, as in 2010-11, he has gone all the way back toward the old-school sets of his youth. In 2013-14, Kentucky uses the dribble-drive motion principles as a base setup, with add-ins for post plays and little side screen sets. Basic stuff.
Vastly more important than the purity of the dribble-drive motion is that Kentucky's players have a set of incredibly simple goals for each offensive possession. They keep the floor spaced. They let James Young handle the vast majority of 3-point shooting. They put their heads down and drive to the rim. And they rebound everything.
Kentucky is the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the country. This has been the case for most of the season, even when UK, which limped through most of the SEC season, wasn't doing much else well. The Wildcats have always averaged a rebound on at least 40 percent of their misses. The connection between this trait and the quasi-dribble-drive isn't hard to pick out: UK's penetration forces rotations, gets defenses out of position, and opens up all the space Julius Randle & Co. need to clean things up.
Now that Kentucky is playing well -- now that the ball movement is crisp and Aaron and Andrew Harrison are hitting 3s and Dakari Johnson is chipping in on both ends and Kentucky isn't looking quite so rough in defensive transition -- the Wildcats have been good enough to dispatch three of the nation's best 10 teams en route to the Final Four.
Calipari's annual recruit-and-replace dance draws much of the attention, and his guru-level recruiting acumen is mind-boggling. But what he does during the season, and how he implements the straightforward but often unstoppable principles he first learned from a junior college coach wielding sugar packets, is every bit as brilliant. No one is more adaptable.
Wisconsin will sink in on defense and do its absolute best to (a) cut off penetration, (b) avoid fouls, and (c) rebound the defensive glass. This is the Badgers' perennial defensive bread and butter, but they haven't always pulled it off this season -- and against far less daunting challenges than Kentucky. The Wildcats, meanwhile, will look to exploit all of the above, and they'll try to force Wisconsin's guards into quick shots and sloppy play on the offensive end. Long rebounds and turnovers have to equal transition buckets. If it's a half-court game, Bo Ryan will take his chances.
Everything -- from styles of play to their paths to the Final Four to this wondrous edition of the tournament in general -- suggests a tight, thrilling game decided by one possession in the waning seconds.
That's when the players play and the shooters take shots and the officials make their calls. And it's when the coaches, whole lives spent preparing for this moment, jobs done, can do no more than the rest of us: gaze up at the ball, and hope.