Well here it is ... the 68 teams who were originally selected for the NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball Tournament have finally been narrowed down to the final two. Tonight, the overall No. 1 seed Kentucky Wildcats will take on the Midwest Region's No. 2 seed Kansas Jayhawks live from New Orleans at 6 p.m. PST to decide who will cut down the nets, take home the Wooden trophy and win the championship.
The Kentucky Wildcats are the favorites to win tonight, as they have been all season long due to their overwhelmingly talented team of players, anchored by none other than PF/C Anthony Davis -- the best big man prospect in a decade and sure-fire No. 1 pick in this summer's NBA Draft. But Kentucky is not a one-man show, as the Wildcats also feature other top prospects such as forwards Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Terrence Jones, along with guards Marquis Teague (brother of the Atlanta Hawks PG Jeff Teague) and Doron Lamb ... all of whom are also potential first round picks in the coming draft.
On the other end of the court, the Kansas Jayhawks are a team built on toughness and a never-quit attitude which is personified by their star player Thomas Robinson -- the most athletic, powerful, exciting power forward in college basketball, and a lock for a top 5 pick in the coming NBA draft. Robinson is joined by PG Tyshawn Taylor and C Jeff Withey as the core of the fast and furious Jayhawk team who are looking to shock the world by upsetting the uber-talented Wildcats.
Here's a look at the Kentucky Wildcats:
As you can see by the minutes played, the Wildcats are not a particularly deep team, but with their youthful group of four freshmen (Davis, Lamb, Kidd-Gilchrist, Teague) and one sophomore (Jones) starters, they are conditioned to handle playing heavy minutes even at the most frantic pace. Senior guard Darius Miller is the only major contributor off the bench.
What is missing from these stats is Kentucky's defense. Due in large part to Kentucky's front line of Davis and Jones, along with the very versatile Kidd-Gilchrist, the Wildcats are the best defensive team in college basketball. Anthony Davis averages nearly five blocks per game, and with arms like light poles and great instincts he is a bonafide paint presence who constantly challenges and erases the opponent's interior game. Terrence Jones also compliments Davis in and near the paint, while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist roams the perimeter challenging the other teams' best shooters with guard-like quickness to go along with his 6-foot-8 frame.
Here are the Kansas Jayhawks:
Like the Wildcats, the Jayhawks are not a particularly deep team, and their core group of players only includes two bench players, Connor Teahan and Kevin Young. Inside the paint, Thomas Robinson is the go-to scorer for the Jayhawks along with with center Jeff Withey. Outside, Tyshawn Taylor is a fast, athletic point guard who can not only score around the perimeter but also drive the lane, along with Elijah Johnson who has really come on strong in the tournament with his explosive play and clutch three-point shooting.
Besides Kentucky, the Jayhawks may have the next best all-around front line in college with Robinson and Withey. Robinson is a physical specimen with a rare combination of size and athleticism to go along with his explosive and aggressive style of play, and he has showed much improved footwork in the post and shooting ability as well. Jeff Withey is a legit 7-footer with quick jumping ability and a polished post game.
Aside from their scoring, Robinson was the Big 12's leading rebounder averaging 11.7 per game ... and although Davis is considered the best shot blocker in the game, and for good reason after breaking Shaquille O'Neal's freshman block record at LSU, Jeff Withey actually blocked the highest percentage of opponents shots this season at 15.4 percent compared to Davis's 13.8 percent. On the perimeter, Tyshawn Taylor is also a very active defender who can make a difference with his ball-pressure and play-making ability as well.
Tonight's game is sure to be an exciting match-up between two great college teams who have various advantages over one another. Both of these teams are legitimate contenders, and they have both fought hard throughout the tournament to earn the right to be in this position.
Although many people believe the smart money is on Kentucky with their ultra-talented starting five (latest Las Vegas odds have Kentucky favored by 6 points), the Kansas Jayhawks may just have the right mix of talent, experience and a balanced attack to pull off an upset.
We already know who the ex-Kansas Jayhawk and current Phoenix Suns' PF Markieff Morris will be rooting for tonight ... What about you?
P.S. Last month I made a series of videos detailing some of my favorite college players who I believe may help the Suns in the coming draft, and you can see highlights of Tyshawn Taylor in the point guard video here, and highlights of Thomas Robinson and Terrence Jones in the big men video here.