clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Frank Kaminsky is the Best Player in the Final Four. How Did This Happen?

A look into what makes the 7-footer from Wisconsin so dominant.

Thank You Based Frank Kaminsky
Thank You Based Frank Kaminsky
Jeff Gross

Frank Kaminksy, so hot right now, Frank Kaminsky.

Imagine that Derek Zoolander in this clip is Isaiah Austin and Kaleb Tarczewski. Both players were 5-star recruits and are just chock-full of talent. Then, Frank Kaminksy as Hansel rolls up with his posse all calm and collected and steals the show. No one bothers to care about Zoolander as the crowd mumbles about the hotness of Frank Kaminsky.

Did that analogy make sense? Nope? Ok. Whatever.

The spirit of what I was trying to say is that Frank Kaminsky has burst into the national spotlight with his performance in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, and there's no one on either Florida, UConn, or Kentucky that has matched his recent offensive dominance.

Against Baylor, he was matched up with Isaiah Austin. Austin stands 7'1" and averages 3.1 blocks per game. That's not an easy matchup for anyone, but Frank Kaminsky made him look silly. Baylor played a 1-3-1 zone in the beginning against the Badgers, the same defense that allowed them to blow out Creighton in the previous game. But with the help of Kaminsky, their zone was horribly ineffective. Kaminsky always found the soft spot in the zone, and made excellent offensive decisions. He either used his strength to back down Austin on the post to lay it up with a soft touch or passed it to his friends on the perimeter for easy, wide-open threes. Wisconsin blew out Baylor that game because of their patience offensively, and Kaminsky was the focal point of their offensive success. Oh, and he blocked 6 shots that game and was a rock defensively. Not too shabby.

His best game was on the biggest stage of his career, Wisconsin's matchup with Arizona for a chance at the Final Four. Without a doubt, this was his magnum opus as a player, and one of the best individual efforts of a player in the tournament so far. He dropped 28 points on 11-20 shooting, with 3-5 shooting from three, and added 11 rebounds to boot. Like I said earlier, he did that all while being draped by Kaleb Tarczewski, one of the sturdiest defenders in the Pac-12. Before this game, I was worried as to how he would fare against Tarczewski. With his performance against Austin, it was clear that Kaminsky can use his beef to push around taller, skinnier, and more athletic centers. But Tarczewski is equally as thick as Kaminsky, so I was worried about how he'd fare. But he sure proved me wrong.

Tarczewski was on skates for the entire game and Kaminsky couldn't stop beating him off the dribble. At a certain point, everyone knew what Wisconsin would be doing on offense: they'd swing the ball around and isolate Kaminsky with a defender on the elbow, and let him go to work. It was a transcendent offensive performance, and (hyperbole alert) it felt like what I would imagine Spurs/Mavericks fans feel when the game is on the line and they give the ball to Tim Duncan/Dirk Nowitzki. Everyone knew he would get the ball, but he scored regardless. There are few players who have the skills to do that. And in this year's NCAA Tournament, Frank Kaminsky is one of them.

(Let the record state that I did not in fact compare Frank Kaminsky to Tim Duncan or Dirk Nowitzki.)

What makes him dangerous is his ability to play both inside and out. That flexibility makes him a matchup nightmare, and on most offensive possessions, you can't tell where he'll score from. When he sets a high screen, he can either roll behind the three-point line and bury a three, or he can receive a pass at the top of the key and drive down to the hoop to draw contact on an easy layup. He's multi-faceted offensive, and masks his multi-facetedness very well.

As of today, Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein is unlikely to play in the Final Four matchup between Wisconsin and Kentucky. That's a major coup for Frank Kaminsky and company, because he's an NBA-caliber post defender that could give Kaminsky some trouble. That means Kentucky's front court will consist of Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee. Johnson stands 7'0" and 265 pounds, so he's a big boy. He's been decent in place of Cauley-Stein, but Kaminsky probably can't wait to face off against him. So far, Frank Kaminsky can't be stopped by anyone, no matter their physical talents. That means Johnson better avoid any and all freshman mistakes or lapses in judgement, or Kaminsky will hang another 28-point outing on him.

Not to get ahead of ourselves here, but it's important to remember Wisconsin's victory over Florida in November, and how Kaminsky fared in that game. Sadly, that was one of his worst games of the season. He only had 8 points on 3-8 shooting, and seemed outmatched by Patric Young. Although Kaminsky is leaps-and-bounds better in March than in November, Patric Young still looks like this. That's going to be a tough physical mismatch for Kaminsky if the Badgers are victorious over Kentucky. I'm confident he won't look as lost as he did in November, but he still could struggle.

So there you have it. It's Frank Kaminsky's world, and we're all just living in it. I can't wait to see what he does next.