NCAAB Championship Game: What bettors need to know

Apr 1, 2012 |

Kansas Jayhawks vs. Kentucky Wildcats (-6, 137)

THE STORY: Kentucky is the favorite, loaded with next-level talent throughout the lineup -- and even on the bench. Kansas is the surprise contender, the team that won its eighth consecutive regular-season conference title in what was supposed to be a "down" year. They both made it to New Orleans and survived hard-fought national semifinals to meet for the championship in a rematch for Kansas coach Bill Self and Kentucky coach John Calipari, whose Memphis team lost to Self's Jayhawks in the 2008 title game. The title tilt features two of the nation's best big men in Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis and Kansas junior Thomas Robinson, as well as two of the best defensive teams in the country.

TV: 9:23 p.m. ET, CBS

The Jayhawks are in the national championship game for the eighth time - and first since 2008 - and this appearance might be their most unlikely since the group nicknamed "Danny and the Miracles" won it all as a No. 6 seed in 1988. Senior guard Tyshawn Taylor (16.5 ppg, 4.8 apg) was the only full-time starter returning for Self at the start of the season, and though it was apparent Robinson (17.7 ppg, 11.7 rpg) had the skills to develop into a dominant post presence, the rest of Kansas' lineup was in flux. But 7-foot center Jeff Withey (9.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg) emerged as an excellent defender. With seven blocks against Ohio State on Saturday, he has a school-record 136 this season. Juniors Elijah Johnson (10.1 ppg, 3.6 apg) and Travis Releford (8.6 ppg) have teamed with Taylor to become a dynamic backcourt group.

College basketball's all-time leader with 2,089 wins is in the national championship game for the 11th time, but amazingly the first since winning the title in 1998. The Wildcats showed they were beatable by losing the SEC tournament title game to Vanderbilt, but they've looked anything but through five games in the NCAA tournament. Saturday's 69-61 win over Louisville was Kentucky's closest test yet, but it was never really in doubt despite swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist playing only 23 minutes because of foul trouble and the Cardinals owning a surprising 40-33 rebounding edge. The freshman phenom Davis led the way with 18 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks. Davis needs two blocks to match the national freshman record of 182 set by Marshall's Hassan Whiteside in 2010.


* Kentucky is 3-12-1 ATS in its last 16 non-conference games.
* Kansas is 7-2 ATS in its last nine games against SEC foes.
* Under is 18-4 in Kansas' last 22 NCAA tournament games.
* Over is 4-1 in Kentucky's 2012 NCAA tournament games.


1. With 26 double-doubles, Robinson leads the nation and has surpassed Drew Gooden for Kansas' single-season record. With 20 double-doubles, Davis has matched DeMarcus Cousins for the Kentucky freshman record.

Johnson had 13 points and 10 rebounds against Ohio State for his first career double-double. He scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half, helping Kansas rally from an early 13-point deficit.

3. Kansas has led at halftime in only one of its five NCAA tournament games. The Jayhawks rallied from halftime deficits against Ohio State, N.C. State and Purdue and was tied at half against North Carolina. Kentucky is 31-0 when leading at halftime.

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