Final Four: Bold Predicitions for Both Massive Matchups

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Final Four: Bold Predicitions for Both Massive Matchups
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Jared Sullinger celebrates after Ohio State's 77-70 win over Syracuse to advance to the Final Four.

Well, I'm going to come right out and say it: Kentucky will not win the 2012 NCAA tournament.

Say all you want about how great the Wildcats have looked so far. Say how they have more potential lottery selections than a corner gas station. Tell me that they might have enough talent to compete with the bottom tier of the NBA. Tell me that Anthony Davis is going to have a block party in the paint.

The Wildcats have 10 freshmen and sophomores on their roster. Let's see how they respond when they get their cages rattled on the game's biggest stage. Louisville's Rick Pitino is one of college basketball's best in-game coaches, and he will be fired up for this matchup against coaching rival John Calipari.

 

First Semifinal: No. 4 Louisville (30-9) vs. No. 1 Kentucky (36-2), 6:09 ET

Key Matchup: This game includes a juicy point guard battle between Louisville's Peyton Siva and Kentucky's Marquis Teague. When these teams met on Dec. 31 this season (a 69-62 victory for the Wildcats), both players struggled. Siva was 2-of-13 from the field and finished with eight points and four assists.

Teague was 1-of-8 from the floor and had five points and five assists. Look for these guards to be the catalysts in which should be a fun battle on the perimeter. If Kentucky can force the turnover-prone Siva into making mistakes, the Wildcats could run away with this one.

Siva will have to effectively handle the toughest pressure he has faced all year if the Cardinals have any title aspirations.

 

Bold Prediction: Louisville will lead this game at halftime. This battle between bitter rivals is sure to be closer than most people think. With plenty of time to prepare, Pitino will have a solid game plan that should be effective for the first 20 minutes.

I believe that John Calipari and the Wildcats will make the necessary adjustments to turn the game around in the second half, but Kentucky will still win by less than five. Don't count out these red-hot Cardinals, who haven't been slowed down since before the Big East Tournament.

 

Winner: Kentucky

 

Second Semifinal: No. 2 Ohio State (31-7) vs. No. 2 Kansas (31-6), 8:49 ET 

Key Matchup: Sit back, relax and strap it down, folks. This game features two of the best big men in college basketball with the Buckeyes' Jared Sullinger and the Jayhawks' Thomas Robinson. The sophomore Sullinger did not play when these two teams met at Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 10, 2011.

Kansas won that game 78-67, and Robinson led KU with 21 points. The junior Robinson is one of the front runners for national player of the year, averaging 17.7 points per game and 11.8 rebounds. Sullinger averages 17.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

If Ohio State were to avenge its loss to Kansas from earlier this season, then it is going to need a big game from Sullinger.

 

Bold Prediction: OSU point guard Aaron Craft will hold KU point guard Tyshawn Taylor to under 10 points. Craft is the best on-ball defender we've seen in NCAA hoops in a while. In the Buckeyes' Sweet 16 win over Cincinnati, Craft took on an array of Bearcat challengers looking to beat him off the dribble. Craft responded by swiping six steals.

Taylor has proven to be a bad decision maker at times, particularly with his shot selection, and Craft's pesky defense will frustrate him for the entire game.

Winner: Ohio State

NCAA Championship Game Prediction: Ohio State 74, Kentucky 68

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