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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, April 4, 2014 at 9:11 AM

OUR NCAA TOURNAMENT FINAL FOUR REPORT —WE DELVE INTO THE KENTUCKY VS. WISCONSIN MATCHUP ON SATURDAY NITE

A RE-CAP OF MINNESOTA’S WIN IN THE NIT CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

By Jim Hurley

Here is today’s little hoops history lesson when it comes to this juicy Final Four game between #8 Kentucky —the Midwest Regional champs —and the #2 seed Wisconsin that copped this year’s NCAA Tournament’s West Regional title:

Kentucky has eight —count ‘em, eight —national championship trophies in its collection at Rupp Arena as the Wildcats won it all in 1948, ’49, 1951 and ’58 under coach Adolph Rupp and later won four more crowns under four different head coaches as Joe B. Hall (1978), Rick Pitino (1996), Tubby Smith (1998) and current coach John Calipari (2012) all have cut down the nets and there were plenty of folks prior to the start of this 2013-14 season that believed the UK ‘Cats were primed to win it all again, but very few folks that thought Kentucky would be champs after losing 10 games overall.

Now, here’s the major blueblood team in all of college basketball sitting here two games away from hauling away a ninth national championship —but we want to know whether the nearly full week between last Sunday’s epic Elite 8 win against Michigan is gonna help or hurt the cause … did these freshmen-laden ‘Cats need the extra time to calm down or did the nearly week-long break stall their momentum/mojo?

On the flip side, there’s a Wisconsin team that has copped just one single/solitary national championship in its men’s basketball history … and you have to go back to 1941 (for crying out loud!) to find the only time the Badgers won it all in hoops!

The good news for Wisconsin here is past performance and tradition are not exactly indicators of what’s gonna happen on this first Saturday night in April but the general feeling is it’s probably nicer to have a championship history on your side than not to, okay?

Interestingly enough, at last look the Badgers were merely a one-point underdog for this titanic tilt in North Texas —we’ll have the Final Four preview in just a moment but first this key reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers steamrolled their way through the month of March with loads of College Basketball winners and there’s more on the way now that we’re into April!

Get in now on the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four and Saturday’s CBI Championship Game between Fresno State versus Siena —just go online here at www.vegassportsmasters.com or call our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-888-777-4155 and we’ll send you straight into the winner’s circle.

Hey, we’re also banging out lots of NBA Winners too these days and so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the hardwood action this month.

NCAA TOURNAMENT —FINAL FOUR GAME PREVIEW
AT&T Stadium —Arlington, TX

#8 KENTUCKY (28-10) vs. #2 WISCONSIN (30-7) —approximately 8:49 p.m. ET, TBS

The late, great Al McGuire claimed that in order to win a national championship you had to win at least one “white knuckler” along the way in NCAA Tournament play … well, the Kentucky Wildcats have won three of ‘em already in this year’s “Big Dance” as Calipari’s crew beat Wichita State by 2 points, Louisville by 5 points and Michigan by 3 points and just consider the amazing shooting we’ve seen from this young SEC team.

In last weekend’s aforementioned 75-72 victory against Michigan, there was freshman G Aaron Harrison stepping back and nailing a three-pointer with 2.3 seconds left to snap a tie with the maize-and-blue, and hope you didn’t forget that the ‘Cats shot it at 53.4 percent from the floor (that’s 31-of-58 field-goal makes) with Harrison’s four triples powering up a 7-of-11 team showing from beyond the arc.

There can be no denying the fact that Kentucky must be effective and efficient here in its three-point shooting attempts because odds are Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan will put more emphasis on packing his defense down into the painted area —heck, the veteran Big 10 boss has no choice or else Kentucky’s active/lengthy front court will dominate the offensive glass as it’s been prone to do in this year’s NCAA Tourney.

No doubt it’s a gamble but expect the Badgers to double-down on Kentucky F Julius Randle, who registered a 16-point, 11-rebound effort in that win against Michigan and who’s ever gonna soon forget the off-the-bench play of F Marcus Lee, who contributed 10 points and 8 rebounds in just 15 minutes of play while subbing for a still-injured Willie Cauley-Stein. If Lee puts up those sort of numbers here, the Badgers are in a heap of trouble and so they are as well should Kentucky lefty G James Young (5-of-7 FG shooting for 13 points against Wisconsin) get heated up from the wings.

The best game plan for Wisconsin here is as follows:

Have seven-footer Frank Kaminsky —who was dazzling with 28 points and 11 boards in last Saturday’s 64-63 OT win against Arizona —continue to be the central offensive character with his down-low hoops along with his old-school 18-to-20-foot jumpers but don’t be afraid to turn up the dial at times here and allow the cutting/slashing likes of G Traevon Jackson, G Ben Brust and active F Sam Dekker to put heat on Kentucky’s front line as foul problems to a thinning ‘Cat club could be the real key to victory for Ryan’s guys here.

And one more thing …

The Badgers —a veteran group that hit on just six treys in last weekend’s win against ‘Zona —must hold itself together when those 10-2 and 14-4-type Kentucky runs happen ‘cause at some point in time they’re surely gonna happen. Wisconsin is wise enough to know it can weather any storm but we believe it’s ultra-important for the Badgers to play from ahead as much as possible here and not place the onus on a Wisconsin defense that sometimes becomes too reliant on Kaminsky.

Finally, an X-factor here:

The Badgers need bench help and so keep a keen eye on F Nigel Hayes, who managed just 2-of-8 FG shooting against Arizona. Hayes must bang the boards, slash his way from some hoops and be a sound defender on Randle and Company … or else these Wildcats will have about 46 hours to dream about maybe getting the school a ninth national title banner.

SWEEP SATURDAY'S FINAL FOUR
AND MONDAY'S CHAMPIONSHIP GAME!

Connecticut vs. Florida (-6.5, 126.5)
Wisconsin vs. Kentucky (-2, 139)

3-1 Last Year - Split the sides, swept the totals

It's Final Four time and the Jim Hurley Network has dominated this level of play over its 28 years. From our first year in 1985 when Villanova upset Georgetown in the final game, through last year's 3-1with the sides and totalsin the National Semi-Finals, a winning performance by Jim Hurley is as much a Final Four tradition as the playing of "One Shining Moment."

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Now, here’s the Kentucky Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament path to the Final Four …

KENTUCKY —

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER  SCORE
3-21  Kentucky - 6½  Kansas State 56-49
3-23 Kentucky +4½ Wichita St. 78-76
3-28 Kentucky +4 Louisville 74-69
3-30 Kentucky -2½ Michigan 75-72

 

Now, here’s the Wisconsin Badgers’ NCAA Tournament path to the Final Four …

WISCONSIN —

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER  SCORE
3-20  Wisconsin -14 American 75-35
3-22 Wisconsin -6 Oregon 85-77
3-27 Wisconsin -4½ Baylor 69-52
3-29 Wisconsin +3½ Arizona 64-63 (ot)

 

NIT CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

MINNESOTA 65, SMU 63 —Guess all the jokesters were out last night having a good laugh about how a “Pitino” won a major tournament this year, but it wasn’t the Pitino you thought it would be and wasn’t the tourney you thought either!

Okay, but the realistic part of Minnesota’s two-point win against 3 ½-point favorite SMU in Thursday’s NIT Championship Game was Louisville head coach Rick Pitino was indeed offering up coaching pointers from behind the Golden Gophers’ bench late in that game, and it was Larry Brown’s Mustangs who botched up the closing minute by not fouling sooner and thus not allowing for the game to be extended late.

Minnesota’s penchant for hurling up all-too-quick three-pointers really was getting up the ire of ESPN analyst Bob Knight —boy, was it tough listening to his “ball fake” nonsense commentary for this NIT Final Four! —but, ironically enough, it was a triple by Minny G Austin Hollins with 46 seconds left that really won it for the Big 10 team that shot a crummy 7-of-24 from beyond the three-point arc.

SMU —which made it a habit of coming from behind to win recent NIT games against California and Clemson —frittered away a seven-point lead with under six minutes remaining and no doubt that’ll haunt Brown for the next couple of weeks.

NOTE: More NCAA Tournament Final Four updates in tomorrow’s edition of Jim Sez.

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