LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 07: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist #14 of the Kentucky Wildcats shoots the ball during the exhibition game against the Morehouse Maroon Tigers at Rupp Arena on November 7, 2011 in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 125-40. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Tonight, Kansas takes on Kentucky in the national championship game as the Jayhawks pursue their second title in five years.
Key 1 - Attack Marquis Teague
Teague has improved over the course of the season, but if there is a weakspot on Kentucky, it is him. He uses a lot of possessions (21.1%) and takes a lot of shots (19%), but he has just a 45% eFG on the year. He doesn't get to the rim a lot, and is shooting just 26% on two point jumpers, via hoop-math.com. Teague also is subpar at shooting threes, shooting just 31% on the season. As for the other skills a point guard should have, Teague has a fairly paltry assist rate (especially when considering who his teammates are) of 25.7%, and a turnover rate of 24%, which for the record is higher than Tyshawn Taylor, whom is supposedly the most turnover player in the history of college basketball.
Key 2 - Avoid the foul trouble trap
One key that is often cited as a way to beat Kentucky is to get Anthony Davis in foul trouble. This is a bad idea. Davis commits just 2.4 fouls per 40, which is historically low for someone with as high of a block percentage as he has. Whether that is due to him being that good at avoiding fouling or whether it is because he is getting the benefit of the doubt on some calls due to being Anthony Davis (I'd say a mix of both) is up for question, but it is also irrelevant. If Kansas goes right at Davis they will shoot as poorly as they have all tournament, without the added benefit of getting Davis in foul trouble.
Key 3 - Win the three point battle
It kind of goes without saying that Kansas is going to have to shoot well to win, but with them getting basically nothing from beyond the arc in their first five tournament games, a hot night could make the difference tonight. Kansas is shooting just 24.1% from three in the tournament, and Tyshawn Taylor (who shot 38% from three in the Big 12 season) still has not made a three in the tournament. Kentucky, meanwhile, is 312th in terms of taking threes, but have the 43rd best three point percentage this season. Most of their production from three comes from three players: Doron Lamb (46.5%), Kyle Wiltjer (44%), and Darius Miller (37.4%).
Key 4 - Offensive rebounding
Kansas did a great job against Ohio State, and they'll need to do a great job again tonight. While Ohio State got it done defensively by their defensive rebounding, Kentucky plain forces teams to miss shots, allowing teams to shoot just 39.8% from two. But the Wildcats allow opponents to rebound 31% of their misses, 121st in the country, so the Jayhawks can grab some misses and hopefully have some easy baskets. They'll need all the easy ones they can get.
Key 5 - Make Michael Kidd-Gilchrist beat you with 2 point jumpers
MKG is a fantastic basketball player, and is the probable #2 pick in next summer's NBA draft. But one thing he doesn't do well at all is shoot jumpers. He does a great job getting to the rim, taking about half their field goals there, but he shoots just 36% on two point jumpers. MKG also struggles from three, making just 13 of his 50 (26%) threes he's taken on the year. I don't think he will get terribly jumper happy, but if Kansas can keep him away from the rim they will greatly increase their chances of winning.