Monday, April 2, 2012

Take Six-Point Underdog Kansas Over Kentucky?

In the NCAA title game today, Kansas does have a chance against overwhelming favorite Kentucky--but just a slim chance.

So many things would have to go wrong for Kansas, a 6-point underdog, to eke out a victory. It's not impossible, just unlikely. The Kentucky collapse that so many have anticipated, quite possible with a starting five featuring three freshmen and two sophomores, hasn't happened. In fact, it hasn't even come close to  happening. The Wildcats have had some down moments, looking shaky at times, for instance, when facing wrath of Hurricane Louisville.  But Kentucky coach John Calipari's savvy adjustments and calming influence, as usual, saved the day.

For Kansas to win, their interior giants, Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey, would have to overpower and negate Kentucky center Anthony Davis, the best player in college. Kansas whipped Ohio State because this terrific pair defanged the Buckeyes' mighty center Jared Sullinger. They intimidated him into missing 14 of his 19 shot attempts. If Sullinger were hitting in the 50% range Ohio State would be in New Orleans now, not back in Columbus watching the championship game on TV. Kansas' dynamic duo would have to tame Davis and rule the paint for Kansas to have a chance. Also Kansas needs its mercurial, up-and-down point guard Tyshawn Taylor, who's great one moment and a bungler the next, to have a consistently excellent game and break out of the three-point shooting slump that has dogged him throughout this tournament.

Kansas is facing a nearly impossible task, trying to beat the best college basketball team since the Florida colossus of last decade. Kentucky simply has no weaknesses and is top-notch on both offense and defense. Win or lose, this is the best team. Kansas can only come with its A+ game and hope Kentucky has an off night.

If you're betting, take Kansas and the 6 points. You're gambling that young Kentucky will underachieve, that more experienced Kansas will overachieve and its coach, Bill Self, will find clever ways to chip away at Kentucky's armor. Typically men's basketball championship games, because the overwhelming pressure and tension numb the shooters, are close. Big, bad Kentucky could win in a blowout but long-shot Kansas is worth a shot.