I introduced my five reasons why the Cardinals would declaw the Wildcats yesterday and it would be remiss of me not to put my “Blue-Blocker” sunglasses on and give Big Blue Nation reason for optimism today. So, without further delay, (by the way, is it just me or is it taking way too long for Friday to get here) here are my five reasons the Cats retain season bragging rights and continue their quest for number nine.
1.) Rebounding is often key in coming out victorious especially in March Madness and nobody does it better than the Cats, who rank second nationally with a +9.8 margin. Well, technically, Quinnipiac does rank ahead of them at +11.8 but they aren’t even in the tournament so who cares. The Cards have struggled at times rebounding but have improved greatly, ranking 71st at +3.3. Still, though, big advantage to UK.
2.) While I did use the fact that Rick Pitino is undefeated in Sweet 16 play as a coach for one of my five reasons the Cards will win, you have to also give UK’s John Calipari the nod due to him owning Rick in head-to-head results. Cal is 5-1 when coaching against Pitino and that holds a lot of weight.
3.) Kentucky’s size and length resembles that of an NBA team and few teams in the Sweet 16 can match up to it very well. Russ Smith said after the Cards loss at Rupp Arena in December, “They (UK) are just a tough team to play and a very bad matchup for us with their size“. UofL has steadily Improved their inside presence on both offense and defense but the Cats still should have a decisive edge there. If the Cards are forced into playing perimeter ball, the Cats bigger guards even pose problems on the smaller shooters.
4.) The Cats looked very discombobulated just a few weeks ago but after Calipari tweaked the offense, they have passed the ball much better and become a drastically improved unit. Playing more as a team and communicating better helps any team but when you have the type of talent the Cats do, it usually means the opponent doesn’t stand much chance. I’ve noticed that some players have since improved their body language as well as knowing their roles and have become more productive because of it. In a nutshell, TEAMWORK has UK looking like the team everybody thought they were in the preseason.
5.) With elite size and length, comes elite shot blocking and the Cats are one of the country’s best. UK ranks eighth nationally averaging 6.2 blocks per game but first in the remaining 16 teams. Louisville is somewhat undersized at nearly every position and you’d expect the Cats to block a handful of shots and alter even more on Friday. UK has six games with at least 10 blocks this season but only once have they done that in the last 14 games so they are due for another big block party. Blocked shots not only keep points off the board but they usually lead to fast breaks, which Kentucky is very good at and also swings the ever so critical momentum. You know BBN will have a very large contingent in Indianapolis so it will behoove the Cards to not give up any momentum.
After sharing my thoughts on why both teams have legitimate arguments that they will win, I am going with my official prediction of a Cards win by the slimmest of margins. A back and forth contest with about 10 lead changes and neither team with a larger lead than six points.
Louisville’s Russ Smith and Chris Jones don’t shoot near as many ill advised threes this time around and Luke Hancock forces the defense to guard the perimeter with sharp shooting. Montrezl Harrell and Stephan Van Treese steal the show and are the talk of the Bluegrass after they limit the Cats inside scoring and rebounding to a respectable number and score some huge buckets of their own in route to a 71-69 win.
Comment and share your thoughts, agreements and dis pleasures below.