FORT WAYNE – Bill Self is on the lookout.
I haven’t seen anybody pick us, the Kansas coach told reporters Sunday.
Most view tonight’s national title game between Kentucky and Kansas as coronation for the Wildcats. Count me among that group.
Kentucky has been the best team in the country throughout the season. The Wildcats have just two losses. Indiana beat them on a last-second three-pointer by Christian Watford on Dec. 10 in Assembly Hall. Vanderbilt knocked off Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference title game.
Kentucky’s loaded roster includes national player of the year Anthony Davis. He can score. He can rebound. And he’s a game-changer with his shot-blocking abilities.
Guard/forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has carved up the competition during the NCAA tournament.
Both are just freshman.
A third freshman, Marquis Teague, has been a steady point guard. Sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb round out the starting lineup. Both average double figures in scoring.
Darius Miller, the first player off the bench, played a major role with 13 points in the national semifinal victory Saturday against Louisville.
With all that talent, Kentucky looks unstoppable.
If we stick to our script, do what we do best, we’ll be fine, Kansas forward Thomas Robinson said. Can’t listen to what people’s predictions are. We have to guard them and play our game, so it’s always going to come back to us.
Kansas does have more than a puncher’s chance. After all, we’re talking about a team that finished No. 6 in the final Associated Press rankings. A team that had a shot at a No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament before falling in the Big 12 tournament semifinal. And a team that features one of the best players in the country in Robinson.
A double-double machine, Robinson can take the game over in the post. Just ask Ohio State. The 6-foot-10 forward finished with 19 points in the national semifinal win against the Buckeyes on Saturday.
He is as good as they get, Kentucky coach John Calipari said. He’s a vicious competitor, great around a rim, expanded his game. He can make the top of the three key. Loves driving that thing hard left and getting to the rim. He has become a better handler and passer, rebounds. So we know how good he is.
There’s a buzz surrounding a possible Davis-Robinson matchup. But center Jeff Withey will be called on to defend Davis for most of the night. Kansas used a similar strategy against Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger. Withey’s length caused problems for the Buckeyes’ All-American forward. Sullinger had 13 points on 5-of-19 shooting. Withey finished with seven blocks.
But it’s not all about the big men.
Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor will have to be careful with the ball. He had nine assists Saturday but turned the ball over five times. Kansas had 17 turnovers against Ohio State. A similar total would lead to doom against the Wildcats.
Taylor scored 22 points when Kansas played Kentucky on Nov. 15 in New York. The Wildcats won the game, 75-65.
It was the second game of the season for both teams. Obviously a lot has changed since. But it would be surprising to see anything but the same result.