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Final Four 2012: Keys to Louisville Shocking Heavily Favored Kentucky

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 24:  Peyton Siva #3 of the Louisville Cardinals cuts down the net after defeating the Florida Gators 72-68 during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball West Regional Final at US Airways Center on March 24, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Eric BallFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2012

I’m sure you’ve read countless reasons why Kentucky is going to blow out Louisville in Part 2 of the Bluegrass rivalry, but what if things go wrong?

What if Anthony Davis’ knee gets re-injured? What if the ridiculous amount of freshmen shrivels up on the brightest stage? What if Rick Pitino flat-out out-coaches his bitter rival, John Calipari?

It’s not going to be pretty by any means, but here is how the Cardinals pull off what could very well be the upset of the tournament.

 

 Crank up the pressure

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 22:  Joe Sweeny #34 of the Michigan State Spartans holds onto the ball as Chris Smith #5 of the Louisville Cardinals attempts to steal it in the first half during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball West Regional Semifinal game at US Airway
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

One of the best qualities this Louisville team holds is its ability to create turnovers off the full-court press. The team has generated 51 turnovers in four tournament games thanks in large part to the pests up front in Peyton Siva and Chris Smith. Both have long arms and are ultra-quick with their hands.

Kentucky freshman Marquis Teague is coming off a four-turnover game against Baylor when the Bears' speedy backcourt really made him uncomfortable by bodying him up and getting physical.

If Louisville can keep up the pressure on Teague, it will be collecting plenty of scores off turnovers, a staple of the Cardinals offense.

 

LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 25:  Kyle Kuric #14 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball during the game against the Ohio Bobcats at KFC YUM! Center on November 25, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Get Kyle Kuric going early

The team’s leading scorer is averaging only nine points during the tournament while shooting an abysmal 35 percent from the floor.

He is the guy that spreads the floor and allows Siva to work his magic with the dribble-drive.

UK was masterful at staying at home on Kuric in Round 1, and this is the biggest adjustment the Cardinals will have to make. Louisville is 11-1 when Kuric connects on three or more three-pointers.

 

Trust Peyton Siva

LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 11:  Rick Pitino the Head Coach of the Louisville Cardinals gives instructions to Peyton Siva #3 during the exhibition game against the Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers  at the KFC Yum! Center on November 11, 2010 in Louisville, Kentuc
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The junior point guard is the most important player on the team and Pitino has to trust him. Allowing him to dictate the pace on offense and in transition is extremely important. It’s not a secret this isn’t a great offensive team, but the Cardinals thrive in transition, and that begins and ends with Siva.

Let him push the tempo and use the high pick-and-roll to create looks for his teammates. Remember, getting to the rim before Anthony Davis gets back on defense is paramount to any offensive success for the Cardinals.

Nobody is more important to this team than Siva.

 

Rattle Kentucky

The best chance Louisville has to win this game comes when Kentucky shoots itself in the foot.

The team is filled with freshmen that have never played on a game of this magnitude. Neither has Louisville, but it is a much more experienced as a team. The majority of the core has fought battles together for two years.

With the lights shining and the pressure rising, a bunch of ultra-talented 19-year-olds are more than capable of melting down.

It’s up to the tenacious defense and mental toughness of the Cardinals to rattle the Wildcats and secure a birth in the championship game in New Orleans.

They are the hottest team remaining, and now is not the time to step off the gas pedal.  

 

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