141506974 Rising Star: Kentuckys Marquis Teague

(credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

By: Mark Chalifoux

There’s not much that hasn’t been said about Kentucky. The Wildcats clearly established themselves as the best team in the nation and have the chance to prove it as the favorite in the National Championship game. The roster is full of future NBA players and includes Player of the Year Anthony Davis and forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who will also be a lottery pick when he decides to play in the NBA.

The hype for the National Championship game will be on the battle down low between the two All-Americans in Davis and Thomas Robinson, but perhaps the most decisive matchup will come in the backcourt. Kentucky has so much talent, it can afford an off-night from one or two players. The one player the Wildcats can’t afford a poor effort from is point guard Marquis Teague.

The heralded freshman has had an up-and-down season at Kentucky but seems to be finding his stride in the tournament. He played well against Louisville, dishing out five assists and scoring eight points but had his best games of the tournament against Iowa State (24 points, 7 assists) and Indiana (14 points, 7 assists). Teague has also done a tremendous job running the offense and limiting his turnovers.

Simply put, Kansas will have to force Teague into poor decisions and more than a few turnovers to have a shot against Kentucky. If Teague plays as well as he has lately, the Wildcats will win the National Championship.

Teague is a tough guard who has an amazing ability to slash and get to the rim and when he does, he’s a great finisher. He’s also become the floor general Calipari expected and is not the same guard that turned the ball over five times when Kentucky faced Kansas early in the season.

He’s shown much more poise in the tournament and when teams have dared him to score (like Iowa State), he’s done just that. There was a point in this season when Teague was considered the lone weak spot (and weak is relevant when talking about this team) in the Kentucky starting lineup.

That talk has faded with Teague’s play lately, but keep an eye on him in the National Championship game. If he plays as strong as he has lately, then the Jayhawks will be helpless to stop the Wildcats from cutting down the nets.

Mark Chalifoux is a contributing writer to CBS Local Digital Media and can be reached at mark.chalifoux@gmail.com and @markchalifoux on Twitter.

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