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The national championship has spent the past two seasons in the state (excuse me, the Commonwealth) of Kentucky. Two of the AP's top three teams are those national championship schools, even though one crashed out in the first round of the NIT last year.
Louisville's largest question still swirls around junior college point guard Chris Jones' ability to replace the leadership of the departed Peyton Siva. Jones isn't sweating it, though. At the Cardinals' media day before the Red-White scrimmage, he gave the Louisville Courier-Journal a succinct comparison of his game and Siva's:
“I can score more from outside. I can pass the same as him. He’s quicker than me, but we’re the same (speed). I can score better. I shoot better. I can do more stuff on the offensive end and the defensive end than I think he did. ... Really, I don’t have holes in my game.”
The Wildcats' largest advantage is that they are, in fact, large. Jones and All-American shooting guard Russ Smith both measure 6'0" if we're being generous. Meanwhile, UK counters with 6'6" twin titans Andrew and Aaron Harrison, along with similarly built wing James Young.
In the post, Wildcat sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein and freshman Dakari Johnson both stand 7'0", a major advantage over Cardinals post trio Montrezl Harrell (6'8"), Stephan Van Treese (6'9") and the currently suspended Chane Behanan (6'6").
Louisville's been in the spotlight and come out large, winning 16 straight games to end last season. Kentucky seniors Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood are the only scholarship 'Cats with any positive postseason experience.
The December 28 showdown at Rupp Arena could be a prelude to a later title fight. The in-state rivals met at the 2012 Final Four, and we shouldn't be surprised to see it happen again.
For more from Scott on college basketball, check out The Back Iron. Now playing: TBI's official Top 25 ballot.