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We’re down to just eight teams that are left standing on the road to the Final Four, and on Sunday afternoon, we are set to make our Final Four picks in the clash between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals.
Final Four Matchup: #4 Louisville Cardinals vs. #1 Kentucky Wildcats
Date: Sunday, March 31st, 6:00 ET
Final Four Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Final Four Odds: Kentucky -9
NCAA Tournament TV Schedule: CBS
In the great history of the NCAA Tournament, we may have never seen a game quite like this one. The Cardinals and the Wildcats absolutely hate each other, and we are going to inevitably see that bad blood on display on Saturday night in the Bayou. Kentucky was able to score the victory when these two teams engaged in their annual clash on New Year’s Eve, though the seven point margin of victory wasn’t nearly as impressive as the game really was for the most part. The Wildcats were ranked No. 3 in the nation at the time, which wasn’t all that surprising, though you might be a bit shocked to know that Louisville, a No. 4 seed in this tournament, was ranked No. 4 in the land at the time as well.
It is clear that Kentucky has the more talented of these two teams. Men like Terrence Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Anthony Davis all have the ability to dominate in the post on both sides of the court, and none of the three future lottery picks have disappointed. That being said, the real onus in this one is going to fall on the guards. Doron Lamb has had a great season, and he has almost quietly posted nothing but games with at least 14 points here in the dance. Marquis Teague is doing a great job holding onto the basketball as well, and he is going to be the one that has to withstand the most pressure for the Wildcats to survive.
Head Coach Rick Pitino knows exactly what he has here with his team. The Cards didn’t have the most talented team in the West Region this year, and the truth of the matter is that they were possibly outmanned in three of the four games that they have played so far in the tourney, and they were certainly not the more talented side against either the Michigan State Spartans or the Florida Gators. What we saw against both teams last weekend though, was tremendous levels of passion. The defense just swarmed all over the court against an MSU team that was full of great leaders and veterans, while over the weekend against the Gators, a big time run at the end of the game showed the will that this team had to get the job done, even against the highest level of adversity. Don’t kid yourself about the talent on this team, though. It definitely does exist. Gorgui Dieng, if he stays out of foul trouble, is one of the best defensive stoppers in the middle of any defense in the land, while Peyton Siva can both knock down the big time shot and make the crucial pass when he has to in order to find the open man. Russ Smith is a great sharpshooter, and he is one of the many that can kill the will of the opponent when given the opportunity.
Think of this as a traditional rivalry game in college football. It is awfully hard to win these games by a ton of points. What we are going to see is a heck of a lot of punishment on both sides of the ball, and the more physical this Louisville team can make this game, the better the chance that it can win this game. We don’t think that the Cardinals are going to ultimately get the job done in the end, but we do think that they are at least going to cover this point spread, the largest that we have seen in the Final Four in a decade.
Final Four Free Pick: Louisville +9
Wisconsin vs. Syracuse Projected Final Score: Kentucky 66 – Louisville 59