Despite losing Brevin Knight to the NBA, Stanford's guard line has remained solid with juniors Arthur Lee (6-0) and Kris Weems (6-3), who have led a balanced Cardinal attack with 14.1 and 12.5 averages, respectively. Both have made 57 3-pointers and are excellent from the line (Lee 88.1 percent, Weems 83.1). Jeff Sheppard (6-3) and Wayne Turner (6-2) have a slight size advantage over their counterparts. The sharp-shooting Sheppard leads the team with a 13.3 average, while Turner chips in 9.4 points and 4.5 assists.
Kentucky's Scott Padgett (6-9, 230) might be the best long-range shooting player of his size in college basketball. He sank the long three that beat Duke on Sunday and sank 39 of 99 during the season. He's joined by the quick 6-5 Allen Edwards, who led the team in steals and is known for his defensive ability. Stanford has a budding star in LDS returned missionary Mark Madsen, who battled injuries all year but still averaged 11.7 points and 7.8 rebounds. Peter Sauer scored 9.3 points a game, but had a poor shooting percentage (40.9) and only averaged 4.5 boards per game.
Junior Tim Young was overshadowed a bit by the emergence of Madsen this year, but he still had a fine season, making 52 percent of his shots, leading the team in rebounding at 8.1 boards per game and scoring 11.4 points per game.
The Wildcats' Nazr Mohammed got the chance to start this year and surprised a lot of folks by being second on the team in scoring (11.9 ppg) and leading in rebounding (7.4 rpg). Jamaal Magliore started 12 games and averaged 5.1 points in 15 minutes per game this year.
Stanford has a ton of depth upfront, led by freshman Jarron Collins, sophomore Ryan Mendez, junior Pete Van Elswyk and senior Mark Seaton, who all played most games. David Moseley, a 6-4 sophomore, has come on strong in postseason play where he has been the team's fourth-leading scorer. Kentucky has Magliore, junior forward Heshimu Evans (8.9 ppg) and guards Cameron Mills and Saul Smith, who have all started at least one game this year and all average double-figure minutes.
Both Stanford's Mike Montgomery and Kentucky's Tubby Smith are coaching in their first Final Four. Both have paid their dues - Montgomery toiling for Montana in the Big Sky for eight years, while Smith was at Tulsa for four years and Georgia for two years as well as an assistant for 13 years before that. Neither coach is flashy or the type that calls attention to himself, but after this week, they'll be getting a lot more attention.
After a mid-season slump, the Wildcats have come on strong and could be the hottest of the Final Four teams with 11 straight wins. Stanford has an edge in size, but the Kentucky's quickness may spell the difference and put the Wildcats in the finals for the third straight year.
PREDICTION: KENTUCKY 75, STANFORD 68