Crowning a champ before it starts

Wisconsin's greatest challenge will be employing a man-to-man attack that emphasizes the obliteration of passing lanes and the crowding of the post, possibly at the expense of giving Kentucky open looks from the arc. Bo Ryan's team will deploy the cavalry to keep Randle, Johnson, Lee and Alex Poythress at bay. But that task has been difficult for a fleet of reputable regimes (Wichita State, Kansas State, Michigan and Louisville) because the Harrisons are a more versatile duo now. Aaron Harrison has made nearly 50 percent of his 3-pointers during the Big Dance. Wisconsin has to account for that, while rumbling with the toughest frontcourt in the country. Expect Kentucky to force the action inside by way of Randle and Johnson. The Wildcats will chase loose balls, rebound (Kentucky leads the nation in offensive rebounding rate, per Ken Pomeroy data) and get to the free throw line as the Badgers try to keep up early. Transition defense will be critical for Wisconsin, too. A running Kentucky is an unstoppable Kentucky. The Wildcats faced early deficits against Michigan and Louisville. Once that engine gets warm, however, they'll be tough for the Badgers to stop simply because they're just relentless in that mode. But Kentucky will have a difficult time building its mojo against Wisconsin.

Still, Wisconsin already has silenced an Arizona team that enjoyed similar on-paper advantages. The Wildcats had a bunch of young athletes, dynamic guards and the top-rated team in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted defensive efficiency ratings. And, like Kentucky, Arizona had similar limitations. Gabe York, Arizona's most reliable 3-pointer shooter, didn't take one shot from the beyond the arc in his team's 64-63 Elite Eight overtime loss to Wisconsin. Ryan is a master at forcing opponents to go to their second and third options. The Badgers will pressure Aaron Harrison. And if he has a bad night and Kentucky goes back to being the mediocre 3-point shooting team that it had been before the tourney, things will change.

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