2012 Championship Game Breakdown
Two of the college basketball bluebloods have defeated all comers to set up a meeting on Monday night. The Kentucky Wildcats, the overall No. 1 seed, took down a scrappy Louisville team, 69-61. The Kansas Jayhawks overcame a steep deficit to edge Ohio State, 64-62. Now two schools with multiple championships among them come together at the apex of the college basketball season to try and capture additional hardware for their institutions.
Kentucky came out of the box firing against their bitter rivals. They started the game shooting seven for eight and it looked like they were going to go on a tear. The Cardinals did whatever they could to stem the tide. It became apparent that they were not going to be successful trying to slow the game down. Instead, they kept Kentucky off the foul line where the Wildcats tend to make a living. When they were on the line, the Wildcats shot poorly (11-20), which allowed Louisville to stay close. Rebounding was a key for Louisville. The tough-minded play of the Cardinals led to 19 offensive rebounds to just six for Kentucky. It was a far cry from the first meeting between these two teams when Kentucky dominated the glass. Gorgui Dieng collected 12 rebounds and really held his own in the middle.
Unfortunately for Dieng’s team, Kentucky had Anthony Davis. The Wooden Award winner had 18 points (7-8 from the field) and 14 rebounds. The best shot blocker in the country had another five blocks. He hit his foul shots and kept the Cardinals from being able to shoot consistently from the lane. His fellow freshman teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist stepped up at the end of the game. After being held to the sideline with foul trouble for much of the first half, Gilchrist had some key close-range shots at the end of the game to put a victory out of reach for Louisville.
It was a game of thunderous dunks on both ends and strong pushes by a Cardinals team that has overachieved this season. Kentucky never wilted, and in the end they hit some key shots when it mattered most. It was a great game with the added touch of a heated rivalry. Kentucky’s talent was just too much for Louisville to overcome.
They meet a Kansas team that once again started super slow at the beginning of the game. The Jayhawks didn’t take their first lead until 2:48 left in the game. Junior All-American Thomas Robinson was huge for Kansas with 19 points and eight rebounds. Guard Travis Releford had one of his best games this season. He played 38 minutes and contributed 15 points and two steals. He was the spark plug the Jayhawks needed when they found themselves in hole, sometimes by as many as 13 points. William Buford had 19 points and Jared Sullinger had a double-double for the Buckeyes, but overall Kansas shot better from the field later in the game than Ohio State did. Perhaps the key play of the game was a steal by Tyshawn Taylor of Kansas on a late inbound by Ohio State. Though the play resulted in a Kansas turnover, Taylor’s steal took valuable seconds off the clock and Ohio State never really got a good opportunity to try and tie or win. Kansas has played like this all tournament and most of the season. They rally when their backs are against the wall. They find ways to win. Bill Self may have done his best coaching job this season.
The championship game should be a high quality contest. There will be a lot of NBA talent on the floor. Kansas cannot start slow again. It is imperative that they get off to a good start if they want to run with the Wildcats. The Wildcats will most certainly keep it fast-paced. Kansas has speed to match in an up-and-down game, but the half-court game will decide this one. Both operate well in half-court, but in the tournament Kentucky has executed better overall. Kansas has been barely escaping with wins against lesser competition. Thomas Robinson and Anthony Davis will have quite the battle in the paint. Robinson gives up a little size to Davis, but Robinson is a tough kid. He will be firing on all cylinders on Monday night. A dominant SEC team goes against a steady Big 12 opponent. The 2012 season comes down to this clash of basketball titans.