By Mike Huguenin, Rivals.com –
A look at Monday’s national final:
KANSAS vs. KENTUCKY
Where: Superdome, New Orleans
Time: 9 p.m. EDT.
Announcers: Jim Nantz play-by-play, Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr analysts
Records: Kansas 32-6; Kentucky 37-2
How they got here: Kansas won the Midwest Regional as the No. 2 seed, beating No. 15 Detroit, 65-50, No. 10 Purdue, 63-60, No. 11 North Carolina State, 60-57, and No. 1 North Carolina, 80-67. In a national semifinal, Kansas beat East Regional champion Ohio State, 64-62. Kentucky won the South Regional as the No. 1 seed, beating No. 16 Western Kentucky, 81-66, No. 8 Iowa State, 87-71, No. 4 Indiana, 102-90, and No. 3 Baylor, 82-70. In a national semifinal, Kentucky beat West Regional champion Louisville, 69-61.
The spread: Kentucky by 6
Title-game appearances: This is Kansas’ ninth final; it has won three of them. This is Kentucky’s 11th final; it has won seven of them.
Fast fact: A Kentucky win would mean the SEC would simultaneously hold football and basketball titles in the same academic year. The last time that happened was in 2006-07, when the SEC held both thanks to national titles in both sports by Florida. This would be the first time since the 1990-91 academic year that a conference would have simultaneous national titles held by different schools (Georgia Tech in football for the 1990 season, Duke in basketball for the 1990-91 season in the ACC).
Key stat: Watch Kansas on the boards, specifically on the offensive end. The Jayhawks punished both North Carolina and Ohio State in the rebounding battle, finishing with a plus-6 margin over UNC and plus-12 against Ohio State. For the season, Kansas outrebounds foes by almost six per game and Kentucky outrebounds its opponents by almost seven per game. But Kentucky surprisingly gives up as many offensive rebounds per game (12.2) as it grabs itself. When these teams met in November, Kansas won the battle of the boards 39-34 and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds to Kentucky’s eight. That same ratio needs to happen Monday night; this time, though, Kansas must win decisively the battle of second-chance points.
The buzz: Kentucky beat Kansas, 75-65, on Nov. 15 in Madison Square Garden; all five Kentucky starters scored in double figures, while only Tyshawn Taylor (22 points, including 15 free throws) and Thomas Robinson (11) reached double figures for Kansas. Robinson has to be much more of a presence in this contest. Indeed, he and 7-foot C Jeff Withey must be productive in the low post on both ends if Kansas is to pull the upset. Taylor’s quickness bothered Kentucky in the previous meeting, and if he can get into the lane Monday night, he can cause problems. Kansas needs someone to be hot from the perimeter, or Kentucky will absolutely swarm Robinson and this will get ugly. Kansas will try to follow the same strategy: Collapse on the big guys and make one of Kentucky’s perimeter players hit shots. One issue for Kansas: The Wildcats’ perimeter shooters are better than Kansas’.