Men’s basketball: Breaking down Kentucky’s frontcourt

first_imgIn preparing for their national semifinal matchup with Kentucky, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan was faced with a dilemma with what he had to work with in his scout team.How was he going to simulate the size of the Kentucky frontcourt?Ryan considered having his players hold tennis racquets as a way to make them longer, but ultimately, he figured that even that would not do.“We can’t simulate what they have in practice,” Ryan said. “That is difficult.”For the Wisconsin men’s basketball team, there aren’t many teams in the country, let alone on their schedule, that are able to match up with the skill and length they possess in their starting frontcourt.Frank Kaminsky has been the best player in the country all year, while Sam Dekker has been on a career-best scoring stretch as of late and Nigel Hayes has shown flashes of his enhanced game all season.Kentucky, however, is fortunate enough to have the same kind of luxury.“Obviously their length and size is something we have to scout for, be on the lookout for because they can alter a lot of shots, just get up and make uncontested shots,” Dekker said. “Obviously that’s something we’re going to have to work around.”The Wildcats’ frontcourt is lead by freshman forward Karl-Anthony Towns, junior forward Willie Cauley-Stein and freshman forward Trey Lyles. Each player is at least 6-foot-10 and each brings a unique skill set to this dangerous Kentucky team.Karl-Anthony Towns (6-foot-11 freshman forward)Towns is tied for second on the team in scoring, averaging 10.1 points per game and is the team’s leading rebounder at 6.6 per game. He is also coming off his best performance of the season, where he scored 25 points – 17 of which came in the first half – on 10 of 13 shooting and grabbed four rebounds in Kentucky’s victory over Notre Dame.Towns was really able to showcase his talent on the block and really show just how dominant he can be. The freshman relies on his big body to create space down low and his size and touch around the rim allow him to be effective when near the basket on offense.Men’s basketball: Wisconsin to face a ‘completely different’ Kentucky team in Final Four rematchINDIANAPOLIS – Wisconsin doesn’t need to be reminded of last season’s heartbreaking loss to Kentucky in the Final Four or Read…Defensively, however, if Towns is matched up with Kaminsky, he may struggle to keep up with Kaminsky’s quick first step as well as his ability to step away and knock down jump shots. This will take the big man away from the rim, which is where he is most comfortable and has made a habit of blocking shots.Willie Cauley-Stein (7-foot junior forward)Cauley-Stein is averaging 9.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game this season. Offensively, Cauley-Stein is most effective on fast breaks, as he has outstanding speed and athleticism but does not have the array of post moves Towns has with his back to the basket. He is similar to Towns in that he loves to be around the rim defensively to block shots. However, Cauley-Stein does things that a normal seven-footer cannot do, as he has enough athletic ability and quickness to guard anybody on the floor.With that said, despite being the tallest player on the roster, it is very possible that Cauley-Stein is guarding Dekker to start the game. Cauley-Stein has the size to make getting shots up for Dekker difficult and the speed to keep pace when the West Region’s Most Valuable Player attacks the paint. But regardless of who Cauley-Stein is guarding, it is guaranteed that he will not be making anything easier for the Badgers’ efficient offense.Trey Lyles (6-foot-10 freshman forward)Lyles is arguably Kentucky’s most talented player, but because the team is so deep, he does not have to do much in the box score in order to make a significant contribution on the game, as he averages just 8.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Lyles can do it all; score inside and outside, rebound and with his height, wreak havoc on the wing defensively.While he may not be the flashiest or most explosive on a Kentucky squad that is filled with freak athletes, Lyles leaves his mark by remaining the most fundamentally sound player on the team. He has really been able to come on to the scene since junior forward Alex Poythress went down with an ACL injury earlier this season, and he has been able to make the most of his minutes as regular member of the starting lineup for the Wildcats.While Towns, Cauley-Stein and Lyles are the stars of the Kentucky frontcourt, the height and athleticism goes beyond those three.Off the bench, the Wildcats boast 7-foot sophomore forward Dakari Johnson and 6-foot-9 sophomore forward Marcus Lee. Both players were key performers in taming Kaminsky in last season’s Final Four and holding him to just eight points and five rebounds.This year, no matter who is on the floor for Kentucky, it likely won’t get any easier for the National Player of the Year.“It’s very difficult when you have so much depth and height, especially coming off the bench,” Kaminsky said. “It makes for a good team.”But he and the rest of the Badger frontcourt will be ready for the challenge.“It’s kind of a two-headed monster with their bench and their starters,” Kaminsky said. “But I think we have a team that’s willing to do whatever we can to make sure we win.”last_img