Arlington, TX (WQOW) -- It took over five thousand days for Wisconsin to return to a Final Four, but that tally will reset on Saturday when the Badgers battle Kentucky.
If you were to go by the eye test, the Wildcats would figure to have a clear advantage over Wisconsin. But Kentucky coach John Calipari says the Badgers are more talented than they look and Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky says looks can be deceiving.
"Sometimes you kind of fail that eye test," adds Kaminsky. "It doesn't matter when the game starts. It doesn't matter what we look like, it matters how we play and I think we've been playing our best basketball of the year. So people can say we look like this and we look like that, it doesn't matter at the end of the day."
Looks can also be deceiving when you put a basketball court in a football stadium. Badgers assistant coach Gary Close is known as the team's shooting guru and is working with the team to adjust to the unique sight lines.
"I think if I had to say anything, it would be to concentrate on your target. Focus in on that because the backdrop and the atmosphere is a little bit different. But fortunately we got to practice yesterday, we had the chance to practice today and we'll have a little shoot around tomorrow. So it gives us a chance to get a little more comfortable with the setting, which is definitely different. But it's different for all four teams so you just have to make the best of it," says Close.
Of course, high percentage shots will help neutralize any problems the background might bring. Wisconsin will look to generate some offense off of its defense.
"Honestly I think it's a big testament to our defense because you can't get into the opportunities that you want to do offensively if you're not handling the defensive side. We're a versatile team. I get on guys when they pass on open shots and they get on me the same way. We're just versatile and it's good to play with guys like that," says junior guard Traevon Jackson.
Basketball is a team game, but key individuals will have an impact on Saturday's game. Kentucky has Julius Randle, a 6-9, 250 pound freshman from Dallas. He leads the Wildcats in scoring and rebounding this season.
"Obviously Julius is a very good player, you have to respect everything he's been doing on the floor this year. He's going to be a test. But just like I said last week with some of the guys we faced, as competitors you want to play against some of the best players in the nation and I think Julius Randle is one of them," says sophomore forward Sam Dekker.
Coach Bo Ryan adds: "For a combination of strength and size and the way he hits the glass, I think in that category he's as good as anybody I've seen. So I'll just keep him in his own category."
Wisconsin's key player is someone who was more of a bit player last season. Frank Kaminsky has been the Badgers leading scorer in each of their last three NCAA games.
"When you look at Frank you may chuckle and say 'This is really the guy that scored 28 points?' But when he gets out there he silences all the critics and doubters," says freshman forward Nigel Hayes. "On the basketball court, I'll just say he's a methodical killer. I say that in the sense that he doesn't do anything extraordinarily fast but he'll do it and like the Arizona game, end up with 28 points."
Of course, Wisconsin will need every player who steps on the court tomorrow to contribute. Josh Gasser hit almost 50 percent of his threes during Big Ten play, but he's struggled with his shot in the tournament.
"I've definitely just missed a couple that I'm confident in making. My teammates are probably confident in me as well in making them. You take a couple shots a game, you're not going to make them all," says junior guard Josh Gasser. "But the worst thing you can do is to lose your confidence and lose the other stuff that can help your team out. So I'm just trying to focus on helping my team out in any way I can, defensive side of the ball, rebounding, being unselfish and that's what I'm going to try to do."
Sports Director Bob Bradovich will have one final preview from Arlington Saturday on the 6:00 p.m. newscast. The Badgers and Wildcats meet at 7:49 p.m. Saturday night. .
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