This isn't an ordinary match up and these aren't ordinary coaches.
These teams' universities are only 65 miles apart and yet have never met in the Final Four. This is Louisville Head Coach Rick Patino's sixth appearance in the Final Four, and Kentucky coach John Calipari's been here four times—although two of them were officially vacated. Although Calipari definitely has plenty of talent, Pitino will out coach him in the Final Four.
This Kentucky team is great. They have tons of talent and may be one of the deepest teams we have seen in college basketball in years. The team boasts several lottery picks and could see as many as six players in the NBA Draft at some point.
Louisville does not have the talent Kentucky brings to the table. What they do have are a bunch of young men who play well together as a team and are not threatened by Kentucky's talent. Their coach is savvy, smart and battle tested—Pitino out coached his pupil Billy Donovan to advance to the Final Four, when Louisville went on a 23-8 run to close out Florida in the regional final.
This is not the first time John Calipari has had the most talent on the court. In 1996, Naismith College Player of the Year Marcus Camby led a great UMass team that fell short.
Back in 2008, Memphis had the championship in their hands only to see it slip away. That team featured reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose but it was Kansas' Mario Chalmers who came through in the clutch.
Last year Kentucky was stacked but was still no match for little Kemba Walker and UConn.
Remember who Calipari and his UMass team lost to in 1996? The eventual National Champions led by one Rick Patino.
Who will win this weekend?
There is no question Calipari has the ability to recruit quality talent. He has done so his entire career. However, Pitino is the better basketball coach. Expect Pitino to play up the state rivalry angle leading up to the game with his players. He will also focus on the team aspect like he always has in his career. It has obviously worked thus far because his team has beaten the odds to make it this far.
There is no love lost between the two coaches but none of that will matter once the game starts. Instead it will come down to preparation, in-game adjustments and who wants it more. Calipari has always been a guy who has relied on talent, maybe to a fault.
These two teams met back on on New Year's Eve in Lexington where Kentucky won on the strength of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's big game. Since then Kidd-Gilchrist has fallen into the Calipari trend of one and done, along with star big man Anthony Davis. Patino has to prepare for the freshmen phenoms but Calipari has to make sure their heads are on straight going into the Final Four.
Calipari's toughest task will be making sure his players don't fall into the hype surrounding them. Pitino will have his team focused and ready to take on the role of David against Kentucky's Goliath.
When it comes down to a single game situation, talent doesn't always win out. Coaching is paramount. Just look at the two coaches' track records. When you do, you will see why Rick Patino is the coach to bet on.