I apologize to all you A Sea of Blue readers for the lack of content today. Glenn is in route to New Orleans, and I've been away from the computer for most of the day. So, in an effort to keep the conversation going, I'm going to list my five reasons Kentucky will win Saturday against UofL, and the five reasons the Cards could come out victors.
Of course, the two arch-rivals met back on December 31, with the 'Cats coming out on top, in a game with 70 fouls called, 69-62. Throw that game out the window. It never happened, at least as far it being a foreshadowing event for the Final Four match-up between the 'Cats and Cards. Both teams have improved in most all areas since that meeting in Rupp Arena, and with so much on the line, with a week to prepare for one another, what occurred in their last meeting seems irrelevant to me.
Quick hits: Why Kentucky Will Win
1) Overall talent -- Looking at the individual positional match-ups, the Cats would seem to have anywhere from a glaring advantage to a slight advantage at every spot on the floor:
Under the category of slight Wildcat advantage I place the Marquis Teague (21 assists-11 turnovers in tourney) vs. Peyton Siva (17 assists-8 turnovers) point guard battle ... The 'Cats have a moderate advantage in the Terrence Jones/Chane Behanan match-up ... UK possesses a significant advantage in the Michael Kidd-Gilchrist/Kyle Kuric showdown ... Kentucky's Doron Lamb and Darius Miller vs. Russ and Chris Smith, well, in my view, that's a huge advantage for the 'Cats ... Anthony Davis vs. Gorgui Dieng seems to favor the 'Cats in a big way (although Dieng has improved dramatically over the course of his almost 2-year career), simply because of Davis' ability to completely own the lane ... Kyle Wiltjer, who does nothing but come in the game for three minutes and knock down a 3-pointer, just before he takes his seat on the bench, against Jared Swopshire looks like a push in my mind.
2) UK's interior D -- UofL simply must make a passel of outside shots, because scoring in the lane with regularity is going to be a real challenge for the Cardinals. Davis and Jones have combined to block 25 shots though four tourney games.
3) Lamb and Miller, with an assist from Wiltjer --These three hot-shooting 'Cats are going to knock the bottom out of the sack from distance, beating back the talk all of week of how some teams struggle shooting in a dome setting, on a raised floor. The three perimeter-plus 'Cats have combined to make 17-of-30 long-range bombs in the NCAA's (56.7 percent). And talk about a super sub, Cameron Mills would be jealous of Kyle Wiltjer's numbers from beyond the arc, as he, in 24 minutes of action in four games, has made 3-of-5 from distance (60.0 percent)
4) MKG and his Dentyne defense -- Kidd-Gilchrist, and his total commitment to defense will be a difference maker on Saturday night. Whoever he guards, either Kuric or one of the Smith's, is going to struggle on the offensive end, and if UofL is going to win, both of those players must play extraordinarily well. Adding to MKG's value to the 'Cats, over his last two games Kidd-Gilchrist has scored 43-points on 14-of-25 shooting (1-2 3-pointers).
5) Rebound, rebound, rebound that basketball -- The 'Cats are going to own the boards, especially on the offensive end. With Davis, Jones, and MKG gathering in the Wildcat misses at a (predicted) 40-45 percent rate, UK's second chance points will dwarf what few put-backs the Cards are able to execute. Bolstering that thought: Jones, MKG, and Davis have combined for 108 rebounds in the tournament, with 33 offensive boards (11 apiece for each).
Quick Hits: Why Louisville Will Upset The Apple Cart
1) The game officials are all University of Louisville graduates, or attended UMass with Cardinal coach Rick Pitino.
2) Kentucky's Anthony Davis changes is LOI at the last minute, opting to "slum it" with the Cards.
3) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is implicated in the New Orleans Saints' "bounty-gate" and is forced to sit this one out.
4) Terrence Jones experiences Assembly Hall flashbacks.
5) Kyle Kuric scores an NCAA Final Four record 60 points.
That's all I have for the moment, 'Cat fans. Discuss and debate among yourselves.
Dave Kindred, one of the great sports writers of this or any generation, has written a simply outstanding article for Grantland about the simmering civil-war-like atmosphere here in the Bluegrass as we approach the UK vs. UofL Final Four showdown. In the piece, he quotes yours truly (only a line or two), which is a great thrill for me.
Thanks for reading and Go 'Cats, crush the Cards!