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NCAA tournament championship predictions: Kansas vs. Kentucky


CBSSports.com writers take their best shot at predicting which team will win the national championship (Kansas vs. Kentucky -- Monday, 9:23 p.m. ET, CBS).

· Parrish: National championship game look ahead
· Dodd: If Kentucky doesn't watch out, call Jayhawks champs
· Parrish: Kidd-Gilchrist ready to be a source of inspiration on many levels
· Scouting reports: Kansas | Kentucky
· Bracket Breakdown: Championship game matchup
Gary Parrish, College Basketball Insider
I was at Madison Square Garden back in November when Kentucky ran through Kansas, and on that night I figured there was a good chance I'd see the Wildcats in this spot. But the Jayhawks? No, I did not expect to watch the Jayhawks play on the first Monday in April. But here they are anyway, against all odds. And though Bill Self has done a tremendous job to date, I'm not sure he's got the players to upset this Kentucky team that's been mostly dominant from November to now. Anthony Davis is too good. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Darius Miller are too good. The Wildcats have five guys who could be taken in the first round of June's NBA Draft; Kansas might have two. So KU's only hope is that it plays really, really well while UK shoots a lot of 3-pointers and misses a lot of 3-pointers. And while I freely acknowledge that such a scenario is possible, my belief is that it's improbable. So I'm picking the Wildcats to get their eighth national title and John Calipari to get his first.
Jeff Goodman, College Basketball Insider
John Calipari will finally get his national title and the script will be perfect as he'll do it against the guy, Kansas' Bill Self, who stole it from him four years ago. Kentucky's group -- which is led primarily by freshmen -- will cut down the nets in New Orleans on Monday night and they'll do it because of an abundance of talent and unselfishness. UK took care of Kansas back in November at Madison Square Garden and will do it again at the Superdome. Just too many weapons will overwhelm a Jayhawks club that is fortunate to be here. Look for Thomas Robinson to once again become frustrated by Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Terrence Jones.
Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com Senior Writer
I checked the calendar. The Miami Heat are off on Monday night. If you don’t know how that weaves into the national championship game, you don’t believe in destiny, darling. I believe in Kansas because I believe in Mario Chalmers and whatever four-year old mojo he may have left behind. They called it Mario’s Miracle, the 3-pointer that tied John Calipari and Memphis with a couple of ticks left in regulation of the 2008 title game. It came from Chalmers now with the Heat who have an off day Monday after playing Sunday at Boston. Does that mean he will be here? I have no idea. I do believe that something somewhere will happen to keep Cal from winning his first national championship. Rick Pitino said it would take Kentucky’s B game and an A-plus effort from an opponent to knock off the Cats at this point. Let’s just say that Kentucky peaked emotionally against Louisville. Let’s just say these Jayhawks continue to embrace their new label: Kardiac Kansas. The Rock Chalkers have become grinders in this tournament. It’s the only way they’re going to beat Kentucky. There’s a new Mario waiting to be born and another banner waiting to be hung in Lawrence.
Gregg Doyel, CBSSports.com National Columnist
Kansas has that thing that wonderful teams have. Kansas has that thing that says, despite its limitations, it will beat your team because Kansas knows how to win. It's unquantifiable but undeniable, and Kansas has it. But Kentucky has another thing that wonderful teams have. Kentucky has that thing that says, "We're going to beat you by 30." And given a choice between one team that overachieves and finds a way to win by a few points, and another team that overwhelms and picks the margin of victory, I'll go with the latter. So I'm going with Kentucky and its overwhelming edge on natural ability -- even if Kansas' Thomas Robinson has off-the-chart physical attributes, and Jeff Withey is 7 legitimate feet, and Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor are no sloths -- not to mention Kentucky's edge in basketball ability. Kentucky will have the best shooter (Doron Lamb), driver (Marquis Teague), shot-blocker (Anthony Davis) and gritty glue guy (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) in this game. Kansas is a great college basketball team, but Kentucky is greater. There can only be one winner, which means there has to be one loser. No shame in losing to this Kentucky team. Not even by 12.
Jeff Borzello, CBSSports.com Eye on College Basketball Blogger
It’s tough for a national championship game to be anticlimactic, but that’s the vibe one can gather from New Orleans since Saturday night. Kentucky vs. Louisville is in our rearview mirror, and Ohio State, North Carolina and Syracuse have all been eliminated. Some have called Monday night a coronation or victory lap for Kentucky. Throughout this season, though, Kansas has gotten used to the underdog role. The Jayhawks weren’t supposed to win the Big 12 title, and they certainly weren’t supposed to make the Final Four. One more win, and everyone will be forced to take them seriously. Will Kansas get that victory, though? On paper, it’s tough to picture. Kentucky won the first meeting, back in November, by 10. Neither team is the same, but the Wildcats are still better. Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones have the ability to get Thomas Robinson and/or Jeff Withey into foul trouble, and Kansas has no answer for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. If Kansas is to win, it needs to keep all its key players on the floor -– and get a monster effort from Tyshawn Taylor. It’s not impossible, but Kentucky is just too good to lose at this stage. The Wildcats will be crowned national champions.
Matt Norlander, CBSSports.com Eye on College Basketball Blogger
These kind of culminations aren't common. Kentucky was regarded as one of the two best teams in college basketball at the start of the season -- and now it's done what we expected. Isn't that refreshing? Yes. Because we've had plenty of teams sneak up, reach a Final Four and take down the nets. Syracuse in 2003 wasn't a preseason Top 25 team. Florida in 2006 came out of nowhere. Duke? In 2010? That team still has doubters even after it defeated Butler. And then of course we had UConn last year, the ninth-place Big East team slaying the field. What I'm saying is, it's a bit nice to have this, to have a team live up to the hype and expectations and roll to the title game. I had UK back then, had them at Christmas, loved them on Valentine's Day and stayed true before this tournament began. Now is no time for a heel turn. The Wildcats will win and Calipari's legacy will grow as he gets his first title. When it happens, this team will be seen as one of the 20 best in the sport's history.
Doug Bean, CBSSports.com Ohio State correspondent
Is there anyone outside the great state of Kansas or a KU alum who thinks the Jayhawks can knock off Kentucky on Monday night in the national championship game? An impossible dream? No. Improbable? Very. And here’s why. The Wildcats are simply too talented, too quick and too deep for the Jayhawks. Kansas has one great player in All-American F Thomas Robinson. Kentucky has five, starting with freshman sensations Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Whereas Kansas 7-0 center Jeff Withey frustrated Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger on Saturday night, Kentucky won’t have that problem because its bigs are quicker, jump higher and run the floor better. Davis and Robinson should be an entertaining matchup between two first-team All-Americans. On Sunday, Robinson said of Davis: “He’s a great player, but he’s not Superman.” Even if Kansas could somehow neutralize Davis, there’s Kidd-Gilchrist, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones and Marquis Teague to contend with. Against Kentucky, it’s pick your poison. And Kansas doesn’t have enough antidote.
C.J. Moore, CBSSports.com Kansas correspondent
The impact Anthony Davis’ reach would have on college basketball was on display the second game of the season. On Nov. 15 at Madison Square Garden, Davis blocked seven shots in a win over Kansas and held the Jayhawks to 33.3 percent shooting (14 of 42) inside the paint. Even more remarkable is the fact that Kentucky, with Davis, is not the best two-point FG percentage defense in the country. That would be Kansas. Jeff Withey, not Davis, leads the country in block percentage and has had the most blocks in the NCAA tournament (27 to Davis’ 23). So neither team is going to have an easy time scoring inside the 3-point line on Monday night in the Superdome. A reason to pick the Wildcats is they have better 3-point shooting -- 42.9 percent in the NCAA tournament compared to 24.1 percent for the Jayhawks. It’s tough to pick against the win-by-any-means-necessary Jayhawks, but the Wildcats have just been too dominant in this tournament to doubt them.
Aaron Smith, CBSSports.com Kentucky correspondent
A national championship trophy is waiting for the winner of Monday’s game, and all Kentucky’s players say they’re thinking about is -- well, not the trophy. Anything but the trophy, actually, because they’re close, but close is not what this team wants. So they’re thinking about the basketball game, and what a basketball game it should be. Anthony Davis and Thomas Robinson get to settle the national player of the year debate on a court instead of on a ballot, and their performances will be crucial in deciding which team emerges as the year’s best. But it may simply come down to who can hit outside shots, as the teams rank 1-2 in the nation in field-goal percentage defense. The Wildcats have enough talent to find a way. By game’s end, Kentucky won’t just be thinking about the trophy. They’ll be holding it.


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