2015 NFL Season is Here! Steelers at Patriots Picks (Thurs. Sept. 10, 2015)

September 11, 2015 on 12:28 am | In NFL | No Comments

The 2015 NFL season is finally here!  No more talk about deflated fumbles, court cases or Commissioner Roger Goodell.  It’s time to get down to business – the real games.

Yours truly and my father, Mike Hatfield, will be doing our predictions each week… so let’s begin with the game kicking off this evening on NBC at 8:30 PM EST between the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots and visiting Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.

Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots . . . B ill Belichick’s squad has won four of the last six meetings with a 55-31 romp back in 2013 when tight end Rob Gronkowski finished with 143 yards receiving and a touchdown.  Quarterback Tom Brady has no shortage of motivation and Gronk will likely be his go-to target against a Pittsburgh defense that has some talented parts, but is inexperienced in spots.  Mike Tomlin’s group begins life without safety Troy Polamalu, such an indispensable piece of their success in recent years.

Pittsburgh should have one of the most potent offenses this year before everything is said and done with QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown (the NFL’s leader in receptions and receiving yards last season).  However, Bell will miss the first two games due to suspension.  They’re also missing starting center Maurkice Pouncey, out with an injury.

Big Ben is making his 159th start in a Steelers uniform and that passes Terry Bradshaw for most in team history.  They’re going to have to pull the road upset on his arm, which can be done against a Patriots defense that was dealt some significant losses in the off-season, primarily in the form of CB Darrelle Revis (Jets) and DT Vince Wilfork (Texans).

At home, the Pats are tough to beat and appear better equipped to win a shoot-out than the Steelers.

Matt Hatfield’s Pick:  New England 27-24 (Pittsburgh +6.5)
Mike Hatfield’s Pick:  Pittsburgh 24-21

Former CIAA Commissioner Moorman Passes – Tues. Sept. 9, 2014

September 10, 2014 on 1:38 am | In College Football, NFL | No Comments

Clinton R. “Bob” Moorman, Jr., Major (ret) US Army, passed peacefully at home with his family after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s. Bob was a 43 year resident of Hampton, VA. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1924. Shortly after his birth, the Moorman family moved to the Far East where they lived in Manila, Philippines and Shanghai, China. Upon his father’s death in Shanghai, Bob and his mother returned to Columbus, Ohio, his parent’s home.

Bob left Hampton Institute during World War II and entered the US Army, segregated at that time, as an enlisted man. He was assigned to a transportation (trucking unit) which later was part of the all Black “Red Ball Express”, which delivered ammunition, fuel, food, and medical supplies to the Patton’s Third Army during and after the Normandy invasion. The unit battled the German Army on the route in their attempts to cut off supplies to Allied troops. The unit returned to their base with the dead and wounded. After the war, he returned to Hampton to finish his studies.

In 1948 after completing the Officer Training Course, Bob was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and assigned to the famed 24th Infantry Regiment, the Buffalo Soldiers. Stationed in Japan, the 24th was one of the first units sent to Korea at the outbreak of the war. His unit was in the Battle of the Chosen Reservoir when the 250,000 Chinese troops entered the Korean War. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart during the conflict.

After the war, he returned to the States continuing his military career and being involved in the Armed Services Football League where different branches of the military had post teams which travelled between military bases. In early 1960s he was assigned to the 7th Special Forces “Green Berets” and stationed in Bad Toelz, Germany. He retired from the Army in 1966.

His new career was athletics, both collegiate and professional sports. After a short stint as head coach at Wiley College, he was hired by the San Diego Chargers as the East Coast Scout. As he continued his career, he became the first full time Commissioner for the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) in the 1970s. During his tenure with the CIAA, Bob served on a number of national committees: President of the NCAA College Division Commissioners’ Association, NCAA Athletic Steering Committee, NCAA Council, Division II Football and Basketball Committees, NCAA Professional Liaison Committee, and the National Association of College Directors of Athletics. He represented the NCAA and United States at the first Goodwill Games in the Soviet Union. He was past president of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and the Peninsula Sports Club. He was a life member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Bob’s last position was a college official scout for the National Football League.

Bob is survived by his wife of 63 years, Tamiko of Hampton, VA; Son, Clinton (Bob) R. III (Elizabeth) of Bahama, NC; Daughter, Kathy Epps (Keith) of Hampton, GA; five grandchildren; and three great grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held 1:00 PM, Saturday, September 13, 2014 at the Hampton University Memorial Church.

Memorial contributions may be made in lieu of flowers to the Alzheimer’s Association
Southeastern Virginia Chapter; 6350 Center Drive, Suite 102; Norfolk, Virginia 23502
Friends are encouraged to visit www.parklawn-woodfh.com to share memories and words of condolence with the family.

Arrangements are under the care of Parklawn-Wood Funeral Home, 2551 N. Armistead Ave., Hampton, VA 23666.

NFL Week 4 Picks for Sunday, September 29, 2013

September 29, 2013 on 9:12 am | In NFL | No Comments

The final Sunday in September offers plenty of intriguing
matchups.  Call it ‘Separation Sunday,’
for Week 4 in the NFL as several teams try to go into October with strong
momentum.  Seven teams – Chicago, Denver,
Kansas City, Miami, New England, New Orleans and Seattle – enter the weekend undefeated.  Meanwhile, there are six winless squads – NY
Giants, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington – with two
of them squaring off in London.

Let’s go through the games and give some predictions (sure
to go wrong)

My Record:  30-18 (7-9 in Week 3)

Week 4 Picks . . .

San Francisco 49ers
(1-2) at St. Louis Rams (1-2) –
It’s the Thursday Night Football matchup on
NFL Network with San Francisco reeling, coming off back-to-back losses to the
Seahawks and Colts, the ladder most puzzling because they were favored by
double-digits at home and lost by 20 in their building.  QB Colin Kaepernick
is starting to draw criticism, but look for a strong bounce back against a St.
Louis team that struggled to stop Dallas’ running game in a 31-7 Week 2
loss.  Expect RB Frank Gore the deep,
talented San Fran backfield to be involved heavily in this one.  Pick –
San Fran 24-10, Niners -3.5

Baltimore Ravens
(2-1) at Buffalo Bills (1-2) –
Believe it or not, Bills rookie signal
caller E.J. Manuel has thrown more touchdown passes with four than reigning
Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco of the Ravens.  Flacco has thrown
three so far.  The key to this game will
likely be pass protection as you’ll see two of the best sack artists in the
league on display with Buffalo’s Mario Williams, who has 4.5 sacks, and
Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs, the team leader in sacks for the Ravens with
three.  Right now, Baltimore has more
ways of scoring as evidenced by getting a defensive touchdown and special teams
touchdown in their 30-9 trouncing of the Texans a week ago, giving them the
slight edge on the road.  Pick – Ravens 23-17 (OT), Baltimore -3

Cincinnati Bengals
(2-1) at Cleveland Browns (1-2) –
The Bengals won a wild, roller-coaster
game with the Packers last week by a count of 34-30 in which they scored 14,
gave up 30 unanswered and then scored the final 20 points.  Cleveland made an interesting move before
Week 3 when they traded star tailback Trent Richardson for a future first round
draft choice.  Meanwhile, they inserted
Brian Hoyer into the starting lineup and the new QB tossed three touchdowns,
including the game-winner in a 31-27 win over Minnesota.  Does he make it two in a row?  Although they’re at home, it’s doubtful
against a much stingier Bengals defense.
Pick – Cincy
27-17, Bengals -3.5

Chicago Bears (3-0)
at Detroit Lions (2-1) –
First place in the NFC North is on the line as the
Bears take on the Lions in Detroit.
Chicago has dominated the series of late, winning nine of the last ten
meetings.  The Bears got defensive
touchdowns from Major Wright and Julius Peppers in last week’s 40-23 victory at
Pittsburgh.  Detroit’s passing combo of
QB Matthew Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson was on point in last week’s win over Washington,
their first road win over the Redskins since 1935.  Stafford threw for 285 yards and two scores
with Megatron snagging seven balls for 115 yards and
a touchdown.  If Detroit’s d-line gets
Bears QB Jay Cutler off his timing and rhythm with his receivers, the Lions
should take care of business in their building.
Pick – Lions 34-21, Detroit -3

Seattle Seahawks
(3-0) at Houston Texans (2-1) –
The top two ranked defenses in the league
go head-to-head as Seattle visits Houston.
Seattle’s super-sized secondary with Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond is bar
none most intimidating going in the NFL.
Houston QB Matt Schaub will have to find
success against them without turning it over, which means relying on the
running game and make sure he checks down to the backs and tight ends instead
of taking too many shots against a defensive backfield that’ll make you
pay.  At home not wanting to fall to 2-2,
I expect the Texans to play desperate, start out fast and hold on late.  Pick –
Texans 14-13, HOU +1.5

NY Giants (0-3) at
Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) –
If ever there was a ‘must-win’ this early in the
season, this would be it for Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants.  Big Blue got spanked last week in Carolina,
thus they’ve heard strong critics all week about not only their poor play, but
their overall effort.  Giants QB Eli
Manning has only 5TD’s passing compared to 8INT’s.  Kansas City is one of the early season
surprises with Andy Reid the front-runner for Coach of the Year less than one
month into the 2013 campaign.  Justin
Houston has made an NFL-best 7.5 sacks right now as
the KC outside linebacker is extremely disruptive and someone the Giants will
have to block in order to give Manning time to throw against that bump-and-run
coverage of the Chiefs DB’s.  Generally,
the Giants rise to the occasion when their backs are against the wall, and this
one of those times.  Pick – Giants 21-7, NYG +3.5

Arizona Cardinals
(1-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3) –
There has been a lot of turmoil in
Tampa Bay revolving the benching of starting quarterback Josh Freeman, who last
year threw for a team record in yardage and TD’s, but been plagued by inconsistency,
most notably completing under 50% of his throws on the campaign.  Coach Greg Schiano
has decided to go with rookie Mike Glennon, the third
QB taken in this past NFL Draft out of NC State.  Against an Arizona defense that has a couple
of playmakers up front in DT Darnell Dockett and LB
John Abraham as well as INT threats on the back end in CB Patrick Peterson and
rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu, it might not be a good
debut for Glennon.
Pick – Cards 20-16, AZ +2.5

Pittsburg Steelers
(0-3) vs. Minnesota Vikings (0-3) in London –
Stadium will play host to this matchup between two winless teams that had
playoff aspirations before the season.
After all, Adrian Peterson rushed for 2097 yards last season en route to
winning the MVP and guiding the Vikings into the postseason, while Ben
Roethlisberger has won two Super Bowls as the starting quarterback of the
Steelers.  Despite not having much of a
running game, the Steelers can hit for more big passing plays than the Vikings,
and the Pittsburgh defense may be built better to stuff the running of Peterson
than Minnesota is to get after Big Ben.  Pick – Steelers 23-14, Pitt -3

New York Jets (2-1)
at Tennessee Titans (2-1) –
If not for a late hit out of bounds by the
Buccaneers late in Week 1, the Jets would be 1-2 instead of 2-1.  And in the case of Tennessee, the Titans
rallied in the final moments to stun the Chargers and get above the .500 mark
instead of being 1-2.  The loser in this
game could be headed for a slide, whereas the winner has a shot to be a sneaky
team that cracks the postseason party.  The
Jets have won five of the last seven in this series, but can their defense come
up with takeaways in this one?  To me,
the difference is ball security, and Titans QB Jake Locker has yet to be picked
off, whereas Jets rookie Geno Smith has thrown six
interceptions thus far.  Pick – Titans 17-10, TN -3.5

Washington Redskins
(0-3) at Oakland Raiders (1-2) –
There has been an awful lot of scrutiny
over Redskins second-year QB Robert Griffin III, who electrified Washington a
season ago as they went from 3-6 to a surprise playoff participant.  Griffin hasn’t looked 100% and not been as significant
of a threat on the run as he was during his rookie year.  Even worse for the Redskins is the fact their
defense has given up more yards through three games than any in league history
to start out a season in the modern era.
Oakland comes in with a dynamic dual-threat QB themselves in Terrelle Pryor (822 total yards), but he doesn’t have a ton
of weapons around him the Oakland defense could find it tough to stop the
Redskins from moving the ball down the field.
Pick – Redskins 30-24, WSH -3.5

Philadelphia Eagles
(1-2) at Denver Broncos (3-0) –
It has been a record-setting start for
Peyton Manning at quarterback as Denver is unbeaten and dominating its foes to
this point.  Manning has thrown for 1143
yards, 12 touchdowns and not been intercepted yet on 122 pass attempts.  His receiving core is playing with supreme
confidence as well, and the Broncos enter with the longest regular season
winning streak at 14 in a row.
Philadelphia’s fast-paced offense under new Head Coach Chip Kelly was a
huge hit in a Week 1 road win at Washington with RB LeSean
McCoy atop the league stats in rushing and WR DeSean
Jackson #2 in receiving, but their defense is a far cry from the offense.  It’s a nightmarish matchup in Denver against
Manning and a hot Broncos offense.  Pick – Broncos 42-24, Denver -10.5

Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
at San Diego Chargers (1-2) –
San Diego is a bounce or two away from being
3-0 instead of a game under .500 going into the final Sunday of September.  Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has thrown
eight touchdowns with only one interception, performing much better than he did
during a disappointing 2012 campaign.  Dallas’
defense has been terrific at coming up with takeaways and they currently stand
at +3 in the turnover margin category, which also means that QB Tony Romo is protecting the ball reasonably well.  What may determine the outcome is how well
the Cowboys incorporate DeMarco Murray and the
running game into their offense against a San Diego defense that is leaky at
times.  In the end, I’ll go with Rivers
at home in a mini shoot-out.  Pick – San Diego 31-23, Chargers +1.5

New England Patriots
(3-0) at Atlanta Falcons (1-2) –
The NBC Sunday Night Game of the Week is a
good one as it features the two quarterbacks with the best active starting
records in the league in the Pats’ Tom Brady (139-39 for a .781 mark) and the
Falcons’ Matt Ryan, who is 57-24 (.704).
Both teams lost in the Conference Championship game, and the Pats are 3-0
with two narrow wins over division rivals Buffalo and the NY Jets, whereas
Atlanta lost twice in the final minutes to the Dolphins and Saints.  At home, the Falcons are tough, having won 12
of their last 13 in the regular season.  Pick – ATL 31-20, Falcons -2.5

Miami Dolphins (3-0)
at New Orleans Saints (3-0) –
The Dolphins are one of the biggest surprises
in the league, rallying to beat the Falcons 27-23 in Week 3, and a couple of
the free agent additions for Joe Philbin’s squad like
WR Mike Wallace from the Steelers and MLB Dannell
Ellerbe from the Ravens are paying dividends so far.  Several years back, Miami had a chance to get
its franchise quarterback to be the guy that finally admirably fills the shoes
of Dan Marino, but couldn’t bring in Drew Brees and
instead the Saints got him and went on to win Super Bowl XLIV (44).  Brees has thrown for
over 300 yards in eight consecutive games, one off the league record that he
owns.  Tight end Jimmy Graham is a major
matchup problem that figures to be the difference in this one.  Pick –
Saints 35-21, NO -7

Locks:  ATL -2.5, Over 49.5 in ATL/NE, Denver -10.5,
Over 58 in DEN/PHI, Detroit -3, Jacksonville +9 and Houston +2

Upset Specials:  NY Giants +3.5 and Arizona +2.5

Interview with Bills QB EJ Manuel

July 22, 2013 on 6:56 am | In NFL, NFL Draft | No Comments
One of the biggest surprises of the 2013 NFL Draft came when the Buffalo Bills selected quarterback EJ Manuel 16th overall in the first round.  Many draft analysts and experts projected Manuel to be the second or third QB chosen, expected to go in the second round.
Manuel, a product of Virginia Beach’s Bayside High School, won four bowl games at Florida State University, where he set several ACC and school passing records, including highest completion percentage. 
During the July 20th edition of High School Sports Talk Presented by VirginiaPreps.com on ESPN Radio 94.1, Coach Ed Young and Matthew Hatfield caught up with Manuel.  You can listen to that interview at the link below:

Fifth Annual VirginiaPreps.com Basketball Classic Presented by Cox 11 Sports – Sat. Jan. 5, 2013

November 26, 2012 on 3:36 am | In High School Basketball | No Comments
The Fifth Annual VirginiaPreps.com Basketball Classic Presented by Cox 11 Sports is set for Saturday, Janaury 5, 2013 at Virginia Wesleyan College.  Several of the top teams and players from the Tidewater area and entire Commonwealth will be on display.  See the link below for the matchups and info on ticket prices.
You can saev $2 by pre-reserving tickets now via e-mail at tickets@matthewhatfield.com
ALSO – a portion of the proceeds will go towards Cancer Research in honor of my friend, the late great Terry R. Sisisky, former broadcaster at VCU and Petersburg High School.  Come out and support a good cause and enjoy some of the finest basketball at the prep level in the state of Virginia!!!

Week 1 NFL Picks for 2012 Season

September 9, 2012 on 1:58 am | In NFL | No Comments
Time now for Week 1 NFL Picks.  In case you missed it earlier, see my Season Predictions for 2012 division-by-division and throughout the playoff:  http://matthewhatfield.com/Football/Hatfield_2012_NFLSeason_Picks.pdf
A quick review of Thursday night and last year.
Thursday:  0-1 (pick was NYG 27-20, Dallas won 24-17)
Last season:  72% SU, 59%ATS
Week 1 Predictions:
Indianapolis Colts at Chicago Bears
Pick – Chicago 31-14 (CHI -9.5)
Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns
Pick – Philly 17-10 (CLE +9)
St. Louis Rams at Detroit Lions
Pick – Detroit 28-20 (STL +8.5)
New England Patriots at Tennessee Titans
Pick – New England 27-13 (NE -5.5)
Atlanta Falcons at Kansas City Chiefs
Pick – Atlanta 35-17 (ATL -2)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Minnesota Vikings
Pick – Minnesota 19-13 (MN -3.5)
Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints
Pick – New Orleans 35-20 (NO -8.5)
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets
Pick – NY Jets 20-10 (NYJ -3)
Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans
Pick – Houston 31-10 (HOU -13)
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
Pick – Green Bay 28-19 (GB -5)
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
Pick – Arizona 27-24 in OT (AZ +2.5)
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pick – Tampa Bay 21-16 (TB +2.5)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
Pick – Denver 23-20 (DEN -1.5)
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
Pick – Baltimore 24-12 (BLT -7)
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders
Pick – San Diego 20-14 (SD PK)
LOCKS:  Chicago -9.5, Atlanta -2, Over 43 in ATL/KC, New Orleans -8.5, Houston -13 and New England -5.5

Hatfield Sports 2012 NFL Picks

September 8, 2012 on 3:50 am | In NFL | No Comments
The 2012 NFL season is here!  At the link below, check out my picks for each division in the AFC and NFC, how the playoffs will turn out and who I’ve got in Super Bowl XLVII (47).

2012 NFL Mock Draft

April 26, 2012 on 5:53 am | In NFL, NFL Draft | No Comments

The 2012 NFL Draft is tonight with Round 1 starting at 7 PM EST on NFL Network and ESPN.

Below is our Final 2012 NFL Mock Draft for Round 1:


2012 MLB Season Picks

April 5, 2012 on 8:38 pm | In Baseball | No Comments

2012 MLB Season is just underway. There are plenty of storylines to watch as
the St. Louis Cardinals try to defend their World Series crown after Albert
Pujols departed to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Also on the move was Prince
Fielder, leaving Milwaukee for Detroit. Several teams are expected to contend,
such as the Yankees, Phillies and two-time reigning AL Champion Texas Rangers.

get right to it now with our division-by-division picks through the playoffs

AL East:

#1 NY

#2 Tampa Bay Rays (Wild Card)

#3 Boston Red Sox

#4 Toronto Blue Jays

#5 Baltimore Orioles

AL Central:

Detroit Tigers

#2 Cleveland Indians

#3 Chicago White Sox

#4 Kansas City Royals

#5 Minnesota Twins

AL West:

#1 Los
Angeles Angels of Anaheim

#2 Texas Rangers (Wild Card)

#3 Oakland Athletics

#4 Seattle Mariners

AL Playoffs:

Card Round – Rays over Rangers

ALDS – Tigers over Rays, Angels over Yankees

ALCS – Tigers over Yankees

ALCS MVP – Tigers SP Justin Verlander

NL East:

Philadelphia Phillies

#2 Miami Marlins (Wild Card)

#3 Washington Nationals

#4 Atlanta Braves

#5 New York Mets

NL Central:

#1 St.
Louis Cardinals

#2 Cincinnati Reds

#3 Chicago Cubs

#4 Milwaukee Brewers

#5 Pittsburgh Pirates

#6 Houston Astros

NL West:

#1 Los
Angeles Dodgers

#2 San Francisco Giants (Wild Card)

#3 Arizona Diamondbacks

#4 Colorado Rockies

#5 San Diego Padres

NL Playoffs:

Card Round – Marlins over Giants

NLDS – Marlins over Cardinals, Dodgers over Phillies

NLCS – Marlins over Dodgers

NLCS MVP – Marlins 3B Hanley Ramirez

World Series Pick – Tigers over Marlins in 6

World Series MVP – Tigers 1B Prince Fielder

Season Picks:

AL MVP – Rangers OF Josh Hamilton

Cy Young –
Yankees SP C.C.

Manager of the Year –
Bay’s Joe Maddon

NL MVP – Dodgers OF Matt Kemp

Cy Young –
Giants SP Matt

Manager of the Year –
Davey Johnson

2012 National Championship – Kentucky vs. Kansas

April 2, 2012 on 5:08 am | In College Basketball | No Comments

Kentucky (37-2) vs. #2 Kansas (32-6): 
Monday night and time for the 2012 National Championship.  We’ve gotten through March Madness, all the
crazy upsets, unpredictable drama and excitement with two teams on the brink of
reaching the pinnacle of College Basketball. 

For Kentucky Coach John
, he is seeking that elusive title, the one that got away in 2008
when he was the Head Coach at Memphis and his Tigers blew what appeared to be a
safe lead in the closing moments against Bill
’s Kansas Jayhawks.  Calipari’s
Cats are the prohibited favorite, taking on a Kansas team that rallied from 13
down in the Final Four on Saturday night to stun Ohio State.  Kentucky got past in-state rival Louisville
in Saturday’s National Semifinal to set the stage for a fascinating clash
between the two winningest programs in College Basketball history.

There will be several future pros on the floor with all
five starters for Kentucky expected to go in the first round of the next NBA
Draft, headlined by the likely #1 and #2 picks in Anthony Davis (15.2PPG, 11.6RPG, 4.6BPG in NCAA Tournament) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist respectively.  Kansas has their share as well with at least
three projected to be picked, highlighted by All-American forward Thomas Robinson (16.4PPG, 11.6RPG in
NCAA Tourney).  These two teams met
earlier in the season at Madison Square Garden in a matchup where the scored
was tied at half-time, then Kentucky pulled away in the second half for a
double-digit win.

Before we get to the analysis, Keys to Victory and pick,
let’s review the records of how my predictions have gone to this point in the
2012 NCAA Tournament.


Total:  49-13 (.790)
Round of 64:  22-10 with 13-3 on Day 1
and 9-7 on Day 2
Round of 32:  14-2
12 of 16 Sweet 16 Participants Predicted before start of NCAA Tournament
Sweet 16 Picks:  8-0
Elite Eight:  4-0
Final Four:  1-1

Keys to Victory:  Kentucky

Defensive Rebounding: 
is imperative Kentucky limits Kansas to one shot and done.  In Saturday’s win over Louisville, the
Cardinals got 16 offensive boards.  The
Wildcats can’t let Kansas get that many second chance opportunities. 

Maximize Transition Opportunities: 
had 17 turnovers versus Ohio State and still won.  Turn it over that many times versus Kentucky
and they’ll make you pay with terrific athletes and finishes like Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist,
Terrence Jones, point guard Marquis Teague and even shooting threats
in Doron Lamb, Darius Miller and Kyle
that will make you pay from the outside.  Kentucky wants to push the pace, get the
score up and have those type of hustle and energy plays off dunks and 3’s that
ignite them.

Contain Robinson
:  He’s
Kansas’ best player and most dangerous in terms of scoring and rebounding.  His strength in the low block gives him a
chance to maybe get Davis, arguably the nation’s best shot blocker, in foul
trouble.  With him rebounding and junior
center Jeff Withey controlling the
paint as a shot blocker, Kansas’ defense on the front-line is mighty tough.  But if Robinson finds it hard to score in the
paint, Kansas may be unable to keep up offensively.

Keys to Victory:  Kansas

Survive that Early Punch: 
has gotten down double-digits in this NCAA Tournament to the likes of Purdue
and Ohio State.  They can’t afford to do
that in facing a giant like Kentucky, which overwhelms opponents with their
speed, size and athleticism.  If they do
that and the longer they stick around, then their confidence will go up against
a Kentucky team made up mostly of freshmen and sophomores.

Control the Tempo: 
is huge because if this becomes a track meet, then Kansas’ chances of winning
are slim to none.  Kentucky wants to get
out and run, push the pedal to the metal, and score as many easy baskets as
possible.  For Kansas to be successful,
they have to milk the shot clock down, try to get someone in foul trouble for Kentucky
(preferably the interior force Davis), and slow the pace down to where it gets
the Wildcats out of their comfort zone. 
This is where point guard Tyshawn
really becomes vital, being able to distribute and score.

Win the 3-Point Battle: 
College Basketball, the three-point shot is the great equalizer.  It’s something that is overstated at times,
but also true.  Kansas may not be able to
win the points in the paint battle. 
However, if they can finish +9 or better in three-pointers, then it
enhances their odds of winning.  Knowing
the shot blocking Kentucky has inside and length on the front-line that allows
them to rebound, their best source for points could come on perimeter jumpers
from Taylor, Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford.  It’ll just be a matter of taking them in
rhythm and knocking them down, enough so to keep Kentucky from building a substantial
lead and running away.


Pick:  Kentucky 72, Kansas 61.  It’s Kentucky’s time and Calipari’s time in
my opinion.  His Wildcats bowed out to
UCONN in the Final Four a season ago on a night where foul shooting plagued
them, much like it did his ’08 Memphis squad. 
This team has shot free-throws well for the most part, save their
Saturday night performance against Louisville. 
I don’t see this game being all that close because Kentucky’s talent is
superior, and barring a lack of focus or really poor shooting stretch, they
have the ability with their lethal transition game to blow people away, even
the strongest of competition.  On the
grand stage, expect their best effort. 
Their versatility on the offensive end, unselfishness, shot blocking and
athleticism around the basket and commitment to defending should give even a
resilient, tough-minded Jayhawks bunch trouble. 
At the end of the night, expect UK to claim its first title since 1998.

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