The stakes couldn't be higher. Kentucky will play Louisville in the Final Four in a rematch of one of the best rivalries in college hoops. The Wildcats won the first game, 69-62, but this matchup has much more on the line.
In their first meeting on Dec. 31, Kentucky won after an abysmal offensive performance. Louisville thrives off of turnovers, and Kentucky turned the ball over 20 times. Shooting was not at a premium either, as the Wildcats were 17-of-57 (29.8 percent) from the floor.
One would assume that the streaking Wildcats would shoot over 30 percent in the upcoming matchup. The same can be said for Louisville, as the Cardinals went 20-of-62 from the field.
For the sake of college basketball fans everywhere, one could only hope that the abundance of misses on New Year's Eve will not carry over into the Final Four duel.
These predictions will look on the bright side of things for the Wildcats as they face Louisville in the Final Four.
The 80-point threshold has been trivial for the Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA tournament. The team that came closest to holding Kentucky to within 80 points was Western Kentucky.
In their previous meeting with Louisville, the Wildcats scored 69 points on the aforementioned 29.8 percent shooting display. In the NCAA tournament, the shooting statistics are much better: 55.6, 55.4, 48.4 and 53.3 percent.
Those defenses weren't pushovers, either. Louisville boasts one of the tougher defenses in college basketball, but they don't have the length of a squad like Baylor to alter shots.
Where Louisville thrives is on turnovers. With the continued maturation of Marquis Teague at the point, Kentucky should have more stability on offense.
This may be going out on a limb, considering Marquis Teague did not play well in the first meeting and Peyton Siva has been great down the stretch for Louisville.
However, Teague has played much better in the NCAA tournament compared to his performance on New Year's Eve.
Both guards will have to avoid foul trouble in the Final Four. Teague fouled out in the previous matchup between these rivals and Siva had four fouls. That can be attributed to the style that both guards play. Both are in-your-face defensively, and both are strong dribbling the ball.
With that being said, Teague has been playing up to his potential in recent games, something that Siva would be unable to match.
Regardless of how well each guard plays, it will be an exciting battle to watch.
Out on a limb? Not so much.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist steps up on the biggest stages. That should go without saying to Wildcat fans. In the past two games, MKG has a combined 43 points on 14-of-25 shooting, plus 15 rebounds. He's also perfect from the foul line through 14 attempts.
Against Louisville, Kidd-Gilchrist dropped a career-high 24 points and 19 rebounds. He willed a stagnant Kentucky offense to life and scored over one-third of Kentucky's 69 points.
Not too shabby.
There is no statistic that points to this being possible other than Kentucky's hot shooting and Louisville's comparably poor shooting during the NCAA tournament.
Terrence Jones has made a case to set the tone for the Wildcats early, and he's been one of the most important factors in the offensive dominance Kentucky has displayed. He scored the first five points against Indiana and had a team-high six assists against Baylor—all in the first half.
Kentucky should come out swinging, and if the shots connect, the first 20 minutes should be all Wildcats.
Kentucky vs. Louisville.
Final Four. New Orleans.
This is the most important game Calipari has ever coached as the leader of the Kentucky Wildcats. His roster is loaded with talent and he is playing a foe he has conquered before.
The stage is set for Calipari and the 2011-12 Kentucky Wildcats to advance to the 2012 NCAA Championship.