The last two Regional Final games are being played today, which will complete the 2012 Final Four. Ohio State and Louisville won yesterday. Who will join them in New Orleans?
Unsurprisingly, the Kentucky Wildcats will be one of the Final Four participants, thanks to their victory over Baylor today in Atlanta. Kentucky will take on arch rival Louisville in what will undoubtedly be one of the most hyped and anticipated Final Four matchups of all-time.
- Seeds & Region: #1 Kentucky (South) v #4 Louisville (West)
- Kentucky-Louisville Final 4 Date: Saturday, March 31st
- Kentucky-Louisville Final 4 Tip Time: 6:09 ET
- Kentucky-Louisville Final 4 Location: The Superdome in New Orleans
- Kentucky-Louisville Final 4 TV: CBS
- Kentucky-Louisville Final 4 Announcers: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg, and Steve Kerr
- Kentucky-Louisville Final 4 Point Spread: Kentucky -9
- Vivid Seats: Final Four Tickets
Kentucky-Louisville Final 4 Analysis and Prediction
The Commonwealth of Kentucky will take center stage this week with Kentucky and Louisville set to square off against one another in the Final Four on Saturday.
The Wildcats jumped on Baylor early and won by 12 points to punch their ticket to New Orleans, although the game wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate. Michael Kid-Gilchrist led the way with 19 points, while Anthony Davis added 18 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks and scared the bejesus out of Big Blue Nation when he went down clutching his left knee in the second half.
The Cardinals erased a double-digit second half deficit again Florida behind 19 points from Russ Smith and 17 points and seven boards from Chane Behanan.
Kentucky-Louisville By The Numbers
These two teams met on New Year’s Eve with Kentucky winning 69-62. Russ Smith poured in 30 for Louisville but was the only player in double figures for a Cardinals team that shot just 32.3 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from three-point range.
Kentucky’s shooting percentages were even worse, and the Wildcats turned the ball over 20 times. However, they got to the free throw line 43 times and grabbed 20 more rebounds than the Cardinals. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist led the way with 24 points and 19 rebounds in the victory. In all, 51 fouls were whistled in the game, which had no flow based on the incessant foul calls.
When Kentucky has the ball, it will be strength on strength, as the Wildcats are one of the top teams in adjusted offensive efficiency while the Cardinals are ranked first on the defensive end.
In terms of shooting, Kentucky is in the Top 50 in both two- and three-point shooting, while Louisville’s defense ranks in the Top 20 against both. Look for a great battle inside between Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones for Kentucky and Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan for the Cardinals. Dieng’s shot-blocking has been critical during Louisville’s late-season success, and he’s helped to propel the Cardinals to stellar two-point defense. If Davis, Jones, and Kidd-Gilchrist can go right at him and draw early fouls, Louisville doesn’t really have a capable replacement.
Louisville’s defensive turnover rate is amongst the best in the country, but the Wildcats have taken great care of the basketball for most of the season. The Cardinals need to force freshman Marquis Teague into some bad decisions and at least come close to forcing 20 turnovers again to have a chance to spring the upset.
The Wildcats have a substantial advantage on the offensive glass, as they have rebounded over 38 percent of their misses this year. Meanwhile, Louisville ranks outside of the Top 200 in defensive rebounding percentage. The Cardinals have done a much better job in that area in the last few games, but Kentucky grabbed 14 offensive boards in the first meeting, including six by Kidd-Gilchrist. Second chance points will be a factor in this game.
Kentucky has also posted a strong free throw rate this season, and if the Wildcats shoot their free throws anywhere near as well as they did against Indiana, that will provide a huge lift.
On the other end of the floor, Kentucky has a strong defense of its own. The Wildcats rank first in effective field goal percentage defense and have also been outstanding against two-point shots, thanks in large part to a ridiculous block percentage. The Cardinals have improved their shooting over the course of the season, but I think they’ll need to shoot it particularly well from long range and use the three-point shot as an equalizer.
Look for offensive rebounding to be a factor for Louisville as well. Behind Dieng and Behanan, the Cardinals rank just outside the Top 50 in offensive rebounding percentage. Kentucky is just inside the Top 100 in defensive rebounding percentage, and it will be critical for the Cardinals to rack up some second chance points of their own.
While Louisville, has struggled with turnovers this season, Kentucky doesn’t force them at a high rate, so don’t look for much there. Similarly, the Wildcats seldom send their opponents to the line, so don’t expect many freebies for the Cardinals either.
As I mentioned a couple times already, the inside matchups should be terrific. Both frontlines are playing at a high level, but foul trouble to any of the key players could shift the edge significantly. Peyton Siva versus Marquis Teague at the point should be entertaining as well, and limiting turnovers will be important for both guys there.
The question for Louisville (and really anyone left in the tournament) is how to stop Kidd-Gilchrist. He had a fantastic game in the first meeting and is playing as well as anyone in the tournament right now. I’m just not sure how Kyle Kuric or anyone on the Cardinals can keep him out of the lane and off the glass.
On paper, this looks like a tall order for Louisville, and for the Cardinals to spring the upset, they’ll need to force plenty of turnovers, get hot from the outside, and play the Wildcats to a stalemate inside. However, I think the Wildcats just have too much firepower on offense and have an edge on the offensive boards.
In the end, I don’t see how Louisville stops MKG and would expect another big game from him.
Predicted winner: Kentucky
Kentucky Wildcats Team Capsule
- Conference: SEC
- Record: 32-2 (16-0 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 9-1
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 11-2
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Alabama, Florida (3), Kansas, Lamar, Louisville, Loyola (MD), North Carolina, Vanderbilt (2)
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Indiana, Vanderbilt
- Player to Watch: Anthony Davis (6’11″ F, Fr.) – 14.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 4.6 bpg, 1.4 spg, 64.3 FG%
Kentucky Bottoms Line:
The Wildcats earned the overall top seed and will be picked by most pundits to win it all – and rightfully so. Kentucky finished in the Top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency and steamrolled all comers in the SEC. On offense, the Wildcats are in the Top 25 in two-point shooting, turnover rate, and offensive rebounding percentage and have a number of offensive weapons.
In all, six players score at least 9.4 points per game, led by freshman phenom Anthony Davis who is a strong candidate for National Player of the Year. He averaged a double-double and shoots a high percentage, but his shot-blocking ability is a game-changer on the defensive end. Fellow frosh Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a fiery, do-it-all competitor who will do whatever it takes to win. Sophomore Terrence Jones gives the Wildcats yet another talented frontcourt player, and if he brings his A-game, look out. The backcourt features freshman Marquis Teague, who has really improved at the point over the course of the season, and lights out shooter Doron Lamb, who hits over 45 percent from beyond the arc.
For all the discussion about Kentucky’s weapons on offense, they are just as impressive on defense. They boast the top-ranked block percentage, two-point defense, and effective field goal percentage defense to go with a Top 10 opponents’ free throw rate.
Louisville Cardinals Team Capsule
- Conference: Big East
- Record: 26-9 (10-8 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 6-4
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 10-7
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Lamar, Long Beach State, Marquette, Memphis, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, Western Kentucky
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Cincinnati, Georgetown, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Marquette, Syracuse (2)
- Player to Watch: Peyton Siva (5’11” G, Jr.) – 9.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 5.5 apg, 1.8 spg
Louisville Bottoms Line:
The Cardinals battled injuries and shooting woes for most of the season but pulled it together for an impressive four-game run in the Big East Tournament. They rank in the Top 5 in defensive efficiency, thanks largely to a strong effective field goal percentage defense and their ability to force turnovers. The offense numbers for the season are pretty ugly for the most part, with the exception of their high offensive rebounding percentage. For the year, the Cardinals shot just 31.1 percent from beyond the arc to go with a high turnover rate.
Six players score at least 9.0 points per game, led by Kyle Kuric with 13.1. Guard Russ Smith can get hot and score in bunches, but he is the definition of a volume shooter. Peyton Siva struggled for much of the season but played some of his best basketball in the Big East Tournament, while Chris Smith is the team’s best long-range shooter. Inside, Gorgui Dieng has really improved as a sophomore and shoots 54.9 percent from the field and grabs over nine rebounds per game. He’s joined up front by freshman Chane Behanan, who also boasts solid rebounding percentages on both ends.