Round Of 16 Matchup: #8 Kentucky Vs. #4 Louisville
- CoachingWildcats coach John Calipari boasts an enviable resume in his time at Kentucky. Since 2009, Calipari has taken his team to the Final Four twice. He’s also been named National Coach of the Year three times in his career. Calipari is a players-first coach and his teams, especially when young, rally around him like no one else.Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino is coming straight off of a 2013 NCAA National Championship and wants nothing more than to do it again in 2014. Pitino is the only coach in NCAA history to lead three different schools in Providence, Kentucky and Louisville to a Final Four (though so did Wildcats coach Calipari, but two of his appearances were vacated).
- OffenseThe Wildcats offense stunned the only unbeaten team in college basketball in Wichita State and knocked the No. 1 seed right out of the tourney. The Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, combined for 39 points and Julius Randle, a phenom in the regular season, scored a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Wildcats. There’s a rare thrill of beating a long-unbeaten team, and Kentucky is feeling that now. The 78 points the Wildcats scored against Wichita State was the most the Shockers allowed all season.The Cardinals offense didn’t have much trouble making short work of Saint Louis in the last round and the proven offense of Louisville got another boost from Luke Hancock with 21 points and three steals. Louisville scored 25 points off 18 Saint Louis turnovers, and were 23-1 this season when they scored 20 or more points on turnovers, so look for that to be their motivating factor against rival Kentucky.
- DefenseKentucky is one of the best rebounding teams in the country with 41.3 boards per game (fifth in the nation). They also rank ninth with 6.2 blocks per game and their big men are capable of some stellar moves. The Wildcats have also been good at minimizing turnovers, which should give them a certain edge over rival Louisville, who thrive on points from turnovers.The Cardinals defense has been great against the teams they’ve played so far in the tournament, but Kentucky’s offense presents a whole new challenge. Louisville already lost once in the regular season to the Wildcats due to their inability to slow their rival down. If the Cardinals hope to win, they better score points off of turnovers, which has been their bread and butter this season.
- Bench DepthKentucky has a lot of freshman to boast on their starting squad, and they came through in the win against Wichita State, with four of the Wildcats five freshman starters combining for 65 of Kentucky’s 78 points. But when it comes to the bench, Kentucky’s pretty thin, with backups Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress only combining for 10 total points against the Shockers.Louisville’s starters are so good that the Cardinals bench usually stays pretty full, with no backup playing more than 18 minutes against Saint Louis. But when needed, guard Wayne Blackshear has proven he can step up and be a gamer on a consistent basis.
These two teams have met almost more than any other two opponents in NCAA Tournament history (only two other team matchups are more common). This time around, both teams are so evenly-matched and just as eager for an ultimate victory, with Louisville fresh off last year’s National Championship and Kentucky anxious to knock their rival off the pedestal. This could get ugly. Michael Ferro is freelance writer and a graduate of Michigan State University where he majored in creative writing and received the Jim Cash Creative Writing Award. Born and bred in Detroit, he currently resides in near Ann Arbor, MI. Additional writing can be found at Examiner.com.