How Kentucky and Wisconsin were built into Final Four teams

Tom Pennington

Comparing John Calipari to Bo Ryan is like comparing apples and oranges. There is one common denominator, though: they both win.

SB Nation 2014 Final Four Preview

There is no one way to build a champion. For coaches John Calipari and Bo Ryan, there is a clear formula for each one that gets them to where they want to be.

Calipari is king of the recruiting trail, pulling in five-star talent regardless of the situation and location. Ryan has been known to pull in a top-50 player or two, but for the most part, it's all about finding the right fits for his system. With more than 1,250 career victories between the two, they both know what they're doing, even if they get results in completely different ways. Let's take a look at how these two Final Four teams were constructed.


Here is Kentucky's primary rotation, as rated nationally by 24/7Sports' composite rankings:

Julius Randle - No. 2 (2013)
Andrew Harrison - No. 5 (2013)
Aaron Harrison - No. 6 (2013)
James Young - No. 9 (2013)
Dakari Johnson - No. 10 (2013)
Alex Poythress - No. 7 (2012)
Willie Cauley-Stein - No. 43 (2012)

That is unreal, and it doesn't even account for some of the guys who can still come off the bench for a couple of minutes and contribute. This team was always talented -- it just took some time to come together.

At this point, there isn't too much that can be said that hasn't already been said. Randle, Young and Cauley-Stein (ankle permitting) anchor the paint, and Young and the Harrison brothers attack from the wings. Calipari gets the most talent of anyone in college hoops; the players often spend a year on campus, and then they bolt for the NBA. The cycle repeats itself the following season. Why mess with a winning formula?


The best thing about this year's Badgers team may just be the team knowing exactly what it is. Even in the press conference leading up to the Elite 8 showdown with Arizona -- a much more athletic team loaded with four- and five-star talents -- the Wisconsin players joked about being less-heralded white guys who were likely overlooked on the recruiting trail. It's a testament to Bo Ryan and this year's group of players that they've been able to gel so well and make this run.

Wisconsin basketball

Frank Kaminsky is the team's leading scorer after being a fringe three-star recruit out of Lisle, Illinois. Yeah, Lisle, Illinois, the home of about 25,000 people. The hero of the Elite 8 had a couple of scholarship offers to regional colleges, but power conference schools seldom came calling. Now, he's the hero of Madison after dropping 28 points on the Wildcats.

Starting guards Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson were in the same boat as Kaminsky. Both players were three-star recruits coming out of high school, and there weren't exactly crowds forming at AAU Tournaments to see them play. That isn't to say these guys didn't have talent -- they do, and they've worked incredibly hard in college to become very good players -- but they were always overlooked on the recruiting trail.

Sam Dekker is really the only top-100 kid on the roster. Now a sophomore, Dekker was rated by most scouting services as a five-star player and one of the top 25 talents in the 2012 class. He's translated that natural talent well since becoming a Badger, but Dekker's ability to buy into the team concept may be his strongest trait.

While the Badgers may not have the talent Kentucky does, make no mistake about it: this team is dangerous and has been playing together since most of these Wildcats were sophomores or juniors in high school.

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