Breaking down the Kentucky-Kansas title game

Breaking down the Kentucky-Kansas title game

Credit: Getty Images

Darius Miller #1 of the Kentucky Wildcats goes up for a shot against the Louisville Cardinals during the National Semifinal game of the 2012 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship.

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by JIM O'CONNELL / AP Basketball Writer

NWCN.com

Posted on April 1, 2012 at 11:51 AM

Updated Monday, Apr 2 at 7:53 AM

It will be a face-off between John Calipari and Bill Self as Kentucky and Kansas are set to go up against each other in the men's NCAA championship game Monday night.

Thirteen was a lucky number for both the Wildcats and the Jayhawks as each won Saturday night. Kentucky managed to win after blowing a 13-point lead, and Kansas advanced despite a 13-point deficit.

AP Player of the Year Anthony Davis shot 7-for-8 and finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks as the Wildcats beat in-state rival Louisville 69-61 in the NCAA semifinals at New Orleans.  Darius Miller added 13 points for Kentucky, which blew a 46-33 lead before going on an 11-2 run to go ahead 60-51 with about 4 1/2 minutes to play. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hit consecutive baskets to ignite the run.

Kentucky is seeking its eighth NCAA title and first national championship since 1998. The Jayhawks will go for their fourth NCAA crown, and first since Bill Self's Kansas team beat Calipari's Memphis squad four years ago.

A look at Monday night's national championship game

KENTUCKY

ROAD TO THE TITLE GAME
No. 1 Kentucky beat No. 16 Western Kentucky 81-65; No. 8 Iowa State 87-71; No. 4 Indiana 102-90; No. 3 Baylor 82-70; No. 4 Louisville 69-61.

STAR
Freshman Anthony Davis lived up to his billing as national player of the year with 18 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks in the win over Louisville. He was 7 of 8 from the field and added to his personal highlight reel with a one-handed dunk off an alley-oop pass and a flying leap off the court and over a row of media. One real positive was the way he called for the ball in the post in the

COACH
This will be John Calipari's second championship game. His first was with Memphis four years ago -- an overtime loss to Kansas and coach Bill Self. Calipari's strategy of not fouling with the lead before a 3-point shot could be attempted was questioned as Mario Chalmers buried a late 3 to tie the game and force overtime. Calipari did win the last meeting against Self, 75-65, at Madison Square Garden in the second game of the season.

KEY POINT
Kentucky's roster is still loaded with NBA-level talent, but the Wildcats didn't look like the offensive juggernaut it had been throughout the NCAA tournament, failing to reach the 80-point mark for the first time. But the defense was just as good, if not better, holding Louisville to 34.8 percent shooting from the field, a stat the Wildcats led the nation in this season. One player who will be looking to make amends will be freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who was limited to 23 minutes because of foul trouble but still managed a couple of big dunks as the Wildcats took control in the final minutes.

KANSAS

ROAD TO THE TITLE GAME
No. 2 Kansas beat No. 15 Detroit 65-50; beat No. 10 Purdue 63-60; No. 11 North Carolina State 60-57; No. 1 North Carolina 80-67; beat No. 2 Ohio State 64-62.

STAR
Thomas Robinson took over the semifinal in the second half, finishing with 19 points and eight rebounds. It was his presence inside that allowed the Jayhawks to finish with a 42-30 rebound advantage and stymied Ohio State's frontcourt of Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas, who were a combined 8 for 33 from the field. This matchup pits him against Davis, his competition for national player of the year.

COACH
Bill Self has a chance to join the select group of multiple championship coaches. He is 3-0 in his two Final Four appearances, and the latest win looked a lot like the Jayhawks' others in this tournament -- they found a way to win. Not much of a spotlight grabber, Self is considered one of the best in-game coaches, and his teams are known for the ability to shake off a poor first half, usually with a better defensive performance.

KEY POINT
Robinson did what is expected of him in the win over Ohio State; 7-foot center Jeff Withey had eight rebounds and seven assists; and Elijah Johnson added 13 points and 10 rebounds -- a big effort from the guard who doesn't get most of the attention. Tyshawn Taylor, the guard who's considered Robinson's co-star, had 10 points and nine assists. He also had five turnovers -- including a potential devastating one with 3.8 seconds left -- and was 0 for 3 from 3-point range, leaving him 0 for 20 from beyond the arc in the tournament.

THE SKINNY
These are the two winningest programs in college basketball history. Each has an all-America big man and guards capable of taking over a game. The coaches are on most short lists of the best in the sport. This game has all the angles covered. Come on, what more do you want?

THE PICK
Most of the bracket sheets that haven't been shredded still have Kentucky, the overall No. 1 seed, winning it all. The dream scenario would be for Kentucky to have a slim lead with the clock ticking down. The flashbacks to San Antonio in 2008 would be popping into everyone's mind. Why not the same result? Kansas 73-71.
 

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