The premiere matchup this weekend is clearly Kentucky facing Louisville. Pitino vs. Calipari, vying for bragging rights and in-state basketball dominance. It is Michigan/Ohio St., Yankees/Red Sox, and Duke/UNC all rolled into one. And Pitino has done a masterful job putting all of the pressure on Kentucky. Of course, he's right, all of the pressure is on Kentucky. They are far and away the best team in college basketball, with what will likely be the top 2 picks in the draft next year.
Kentucky has steamrolled everyone.
There may have been a few moments during the tournament where a game appeared close, but that was short-lived. The Wildcats scored 102 points against Indiana in the Sweet 16, one of only two teams to knock them off this year.
This wasn't the first round against the Savannah State Tigers or a team that went on a nice run to win their conference tournament even though they had a 12-28 record for the season. This was a top-15 Indiana basketball team in the Sweet 16. Credit Indiana, they actually played a great game. But Kentucky is just too good. For anyone that saw the first half of the Baylor game, there really isn't a lot of room for debate as to who the best team, and heavy favorite to win it all, is.
Louisville has also been fairly impressive. New Mexico posed a pretty tough challenge, but Louisville outlasted them in the Round of 32. Michigan State was the favorite to come out of the bracket, but the Cardinals smothered them defensively. The Spartans struggled against the press, but ultimately, it was their inability to score that kept them from making it a game. They scored a measly 44 points in a game that the Spartans just couldn't make any kind of run at winning. As great of a defensive game as Louisville played against the one seed, perhaps their most impressive win was over a hot Florida team. Louisville was able to stifle the Gator offense enough, and even though they were largely outplayed and trailing for most of the game, they were able to control the game down the stretch and come out with the victory. Pretty impressive that Pitino moved to 10-0 in Sweet 16 games and 7-0 against his former protege, Billy Donovan.
I'd love to go out on a limb and take Louisville to win this game. I am certainly hoping for an entertaining game, and I do believe that Louisville's defense will be able to slow Kentucky a bit. It will also be interesting to see what Pitino comes up with, knowing he is clearly overmatched from a talent perspective. The problem with taking Louisville is that even if Louisville can contain the Wildcat offense, Kentucky's defense is even better than their offense is. In a one-game situation, anything can happen although Louisville needs to be pretty close to perfect to come out on top. But I believe Kentucky is ready for the pressure, and on a mission to win the title.
Prediction: Kentucky 74, Louisville 58
[Editor's note: John Trifone (@JohnnyT0122) is the author of this post. For his prediction for the other Final Four matchup, click here.]