(1) Kentucky vs. (4) Louisville
Kentucky 36-2, 16-0 SEC
Louisville 30-9, 10-8 Big East
Time: 6:09 p.m. Saturday
Location: Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans
Winner will face: (2) Ohio State or (2) Kansas, Monday in National Championship
Kentucky def. Western Kentucky, 81-66; def. Iowa State, 87-71; def. Indiana 102-90; def. Baylor, 82-70
Louisville def. Davidson, 69-62; def. New Mexico 59-56; def. Michigan State, 57-44; def. Florida, 72-68
Dec. 31 – At Kentucky 69, Louisville 62
Kentucky No. 1 AP; No. 1 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Louisville No. 17 AP; No. 18 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Line: Kentucky -9 (O/U 137)
Players to Watch
Kentucky: F Anthony Davis, 6-10 Fr. (14.3 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 4.6 bpg); F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, 6-7 Fr. (12 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 48.6% FG); F Terrence Jones, 6-9 So. (12.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.8 bpg). Kidd-Gilchrist saved his best for the most important time of the year. In two regional games in Atlanta, MKG had 43 points and 15 rebounds in a pair of wins over Indiana and Baylor.
Louisville: G Peyton Siva, 6-0 Jr. (9.1 ppg, 5.6 apg, 1.7 apg); C Gorgui Dieng, 6-11 So. (9.2 ppg, 9 rpg, 3.2 bpg); F Chane Behanan, 6-6 Fr. (9.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 51.3% FG). Behanan has been a beast on the boards in the tournament. In four games, he has 31 rebounds to go along with 56 points, four steals, three assists and three blocks.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Kentucky: In their regular-season win over Louisville, the Wildcats out-rebounded the Cardinals 49-28, including 14 offensive rebounds. Kentucky will have a significant advantage inside with Davis, Jones and Kidd-Gilchrist, who had 24 points and 19 rebounds last time out against the Cardinals. For the season, UK out-rebounds opponents by 7.1 per game. The Cats also lead the country with 8.6 blocks per game. Few teams – if any – are as good in transition and Kentucky’s half-court offense has improved as the season has progressed. Defensively, UK allows opponents to shoot just 37.5 percent from the floor and 31.5 percent from the 3-point line.
Louisville: The Cardinals win with defense. Opponents have shot just 80-of-214 (37.4 percent) overall and 22-of-83 (26.5 percent) from behind the 3-point arc against Louisville in the tournament and it has forced 52 turnovers, including 21 steals. The Cards held Kentucky to 17-of-57 the first time around and forced 20 turnovers and got 12 steals. U of L’s offense is balanced with six players averaging at least 9.1 points. It shot 45 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from 3 in Saturday’s win over Florida.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Kentucky: In the win over Louisville, the Cats shot just 29.8 percent from the floor and made just 3-of-16 3s. They’ll have to be better than that this time. Kentucky got to the foul line 43 times in that game. However, opponents shot more free throws than the Wildcats did this season. At times, Kentucky has been prone to turnovers and Louisville forces a ton. Depth could be an issue, particularly if they get into foul trouble.
Louisville: The Cardinals sometimes struggle to score. Even in tournament wins over New Mexico and Michigan State, Louisville managed just 116 combined points and shot 43-of-103 combined. The Cardinals are just plus-1.6 in the rebounding category for the season. That could be deadly against Kentucky. Louisville also turns the ball over 14.1 times per game.
The Bottom Line: Pitino has seen Kentucky once and he has had a week to prepare for the Wildcats. He’ll find a way to slow them down. Enough for his Cardinals to pull off the upset? Probably not. But his gameplan should be enough to keep them close.
The Pick: Kentucky 73, Louisville 66
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 207-161-6