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Final Four Basketball Picks — Wisconsin Hopes Experience Works For Them Against Kentucky

As we come into the Final Four, one of the big stories has been what the Kentucky Wildcats have been able to do with the starting lineup comprised entirely of freshmen. There is no question that to run the gauntlet they have, it takes a lot of nerve and a lot of talent. But people should not forget about what the Wisconsin Badgers are capable of, and they will try to get squarely in the way of the “Wildcat Express” as Final Four basketball betting action gets underway at 8:45 PM ET at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX.

Wisconsin, which comes out of the Big Ten, is a team that has compiled a 30-7 straight up and up record, and they got here with a thrilling 64-63 victory over Arizona in overtime. They have always been known as a team with very solid fundamentals under coach Bo Ryan, and now Ryan makes his first appearance ever in the Final Four. Kentucky won the national championship two years ago, but was not invited to the NCAA Tournament last season, and then they lost their first-round NIT match against Robert Morris. Coach John Calipari recruited what many think was one of the great freshman classes ever in the off-season, prompting many people to make Kentucky one of the favorites, if not THE favorite to win the national title. Expectations lowered throughout the season, but lo and behold, here are the Wildcats, with an opportunity to show they indeed ARE an all-time great freshman class.

In the Final Four basketball betting odds that have been placed on this game at WagerWeb, Kentucky is the very slight favorite:

Kentucky Wildcats -1
Wisconsin Badgers +1

Over 138.5 points -110
Under 138.5 points -110

As we mentioned, Kentucky starts five freshman, and the most outstanding among that group is Julius Randle, who stands 6-9 and weighs 250 pounds, and plays like it, leading the nation in double-doubles with 24 this season. He presents a very difficult matchup for anyone on the Wisconsin side. Basketball bettors have to keep in mind that Kentucky led the nation in total rebounds this season, was just a shade below +10 in rebound margin, and retrieves 42% of its missed shots. They have an abundance of size, able to bring people like Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress off the bench, and Willie Cawley-Stein, a master shot-blocker who has been dealing with an ankle injury, has told people not to count him out of this one.

By now, Kentucky’s lack of experience shouldn’t even be an issue for WagerWeb patrons, considering all of the pressure situations this team has had to negotiate in getting to the Final Four. Wisconsin, by contrast, has no freshmen in its lineup. But the Badgers do have some balance to brag about. Ben Brust is the senior in the lineup, and he averages 12.1 points per game. Wisconsin likes to go with three guards, so you will often see Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser out there. The man Kentucky has to watch, however, is seven-foot Frank Kaminsky, who averaged 14 points in the regular season but has exploded in this NCAA Tournament, scoring 19 points in each of the first two games and then putting an exclamation point on it with 28 against Arizona in the Elite Eight. He will try to draw the Kentucky big men outside, although Wisconsin may not have enough size underneath to deal with rebounding situations.

Ultimately, if Wisconsin does indeed stick with his best lineup, which includes three guards, Kentucky can throw some very tall perimeter defenders – namely, the Harrison twins, who both stand 6-5 – to hinder them when they shoot from the outside. The best thing Wisconsin has going for it is that it is a team that does not be itself a lot with mistakes, committing only 8.1 turnovers per game, which is best in the nation. But will that be enough? We have our doubts.
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