Last week, Bucky's 5th Quarter had the great opportunity to speak with ESPN's Rece Davis about the Sweet Sixteen. Thursday morning, we had the delight to speak with CBS Sports' Clark Kellogg about Wisconsin's chances in the Final Four, as well as the Capital One Cup. What does Wisconsin need to do against Kentucky to advance to Monday's championship game?
B5Q: You have Wisconsin, UConn, Florida, and of course Wisconsin's opponent, Kentucky. What have you seen out of these four teams to get them to this point?
Clark Kellogg (CK): Well, I tell you what, we've got a terrific group of teams here in the Final Four. All have earned their right here, and have done so in fine fashion.
With UConn, I think what impressed me most outside of Shabazz Napier and his brilliance throughout the tournament is how this team has defended of late, particularly in that game against Michigan State in the second half. I thought the defense really won it for UConn and then Shabazz Napier and (Ryan) Boatright were able to kind of salt it away from the free throw line.
Kentucky's been as impressive as anybody in terms of the transformation that team has made over the last three weeks or so. Everyone knew there was tremendous talent there, although young, and a lot of times during the regulars season, they played young. They played in an immature fashion: got down on themselves, were inattentive to details, would have defensive lapses, would have periods where they were selfish and not making smart decisions, and all of that has changed in the matter of three weeks. They have been championship caliber, they've been composed, they've been poised, they've been clutch, they've been cohesive, so that's been extremely fun to watch.
Wisconsin is a team I thought would get to this point. I picked both Florida and Wisconsin to get to the Final Four, and Wisconsin has done it the way it did it when it started the season 16-0: contributions from everybody, the emergence of Frank Kaminsky has been fun to watch, the steadiness of Traevon Jackson has been really enjoyable, and Nigel Hayes coming off the bench has been excellent. Gasser and Brust, I mean they've got, Koenig, those guys have all made solid contributions to a championship-caliber team.
Florida has not lost for very long team, I think it's 30-straight they've won now, and they've done it with a balanced, focused approach with a group of upperclassmen for the most part.
Each team has a unique story. Wherever you look, you can find a story attached to each of these teams, and I think we're in for a really terrific three games here in North Texas.
B5Q: What do you think the match-ups are for Wisconsin that they can use to exploit Kentucky, and then vice-versa, how can the Wildcats exploit the Badgers' weaknesses?
CK: To get to this point, you really have to try to do what you do well, and then minimize what the other team does well. For Wisconsin, it's playing through Kaminsky, taking care of the ball, getting quality shots, and being stingy defensively. They've been terrific in the tournament. Teams are shooting sub-40 percent against them. One of the keys for me is if they can keep Kentucky off the offensive glass. Kentucky is great at chasing down its own misses. If you can do that, you give yourself a good chance to beat Kentucky.
For Kentucky, it's just playing with poise, I think. They're going to be able to transition some. They can get it inside with Julius Randle. He's a handful, and the Harrison guys, particularly Aaron Harrison in the tournament, have been shooting it really well from the outside.
But I think one of the big factors for me is going to be the backboards. Can Wisconsin control this defensive backboard? That'll be one of the significant factors in the game in my estimation.
B5Q: With the Final Four and the Capital One Cup, I checked the standings last week when I talked with Rece Davis, and we were just talking about how Wisconsin - the men's side - they were in the top 10. With the 60 points going to the victor for the NCAA men's championship for men's basketball, Wisconsin can put themselves up there with Florida State and North Dakota State up there for the Capital One Cup.
CK: Not only will the winning team get the national championship trophy, but also 60 points are at stake for the national champion in terms of the Capital One Cup race. All four of these teams are going to earn some points in the Capital One Cup race for their respective program, but again as you mentioned, the 60 points would go to the national champion. Florida is ranked the highest out of the four teams here in North Texas in 19th place in the Capital One Cup standings and would catapult them to No. 1 if they were to win the national championship and position them for perhaps their third Capital One Cup trophy in four years. The men won the first two in 2011 and 2012, and Florida would be well good positioned to maybe win its third if they come out on top on Monday night.
B5Q: Can you talk to us a little bit more about the Capital One Cup, in terms of the scholarships and all the good stuff that the people at Capital One do?
CK: Well to me, it's the ultimate bragging rights trophy in all of Division 1 college sports because Capital One is not only honor excellence on the field or court but celebrating the student-athlete that's making that happen. $400,000 in combined student scholarships go to the winning men's and women's program each year for the Capital One Cup, so the Capital One Cup trophy and the $400,000 combined student scholarships go to the winning men's and women's programs. Schools have an opportunity, Jake, to earn points throughout the fall, winter, and spring sports season over a combined 39 sports -- 19 on the men's side, and 20 sports on the women's side -- and you earn points based on top 10 finishes in those 39 sports. So to me, it's the most comprehensive way to recognize excellence across athletic programs at the Division 1 level, and I'm honored to serve as an advisory board member for the Capital One Cup and have done so since its inception which was back in 2011.
B5Q: Give us your predictions: Badgers/Wildcats, UConn/Florida - who do you think goes to the championship game on Monday night?
CK: Well you know what, it's really interesting. These teams are so evenly matched. Florida is the team that I have the most conviction about at this point. I really think Wisconsin can surprise the world if they rebound the ball. If they rebound the basketball and limit second shot chances for Kentucky, I think we could very well see a Florida-Wisconsin national championship game. So that's how I'm going to hang my hat. I'm going to look at Florida and Wisconsin prevailing, and ultimately, I pick Florida as the team that gets it done and wins the national championship and those 60 Capital One Cup points.