Biggest Challenges Louisville Faces vs. Kentucky in Hyped Sweet 16 Matchup

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 26, 2014

Biggest Challenges Louisville Faces vs. Kentucky in Hyped Sweet 16 Matchup

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    The most hyped of the eight games being played in the Sweet 16 comes from Indianapolis, as No. 4 Louisville faces No. 8 Kentucky on Friday night at approximately 9:45 p.m. ET. 

    The game will be one of the most intense in the history of the rivalry, as an experienced Louisville side will take on a young Kentucky team with a spot in the Elite Eight on the line. 

    The two sides met on December 28, and it was Kentucky that pulled off the win at Rupp Arena. 

    For Louisville to avenge that loss and move one step closer to repeating as national champion, it will have to surpass these five challenges. 

Kentucky's Height

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    One of the reasons why Kentucky is one step closer to its 16th Final Four is its height advantage over other teams. 

    While only one big man, Julius Randle, had more than two rebounds in the win over Wichita State, the height of the other players in the Kentucky frontcourt affected many Wichita State shots on Sunday. 

    Willie Cauley-Stein, despite pulling down just two rebounds, used his wingspan to try and affect the Shockers' shooters in the final minutes of the game. 

    The last time Kentucky faced Louisville, the Wildcats out-rebounded their intrastate rival, 44-36, with Cauley-Stein pulling down 10 rebounds to lead the team. That game featured a Louisville team with Chane Behanan, who was later kicked off the team, which means Louisville is even smaller compared to Kentucky this time around. 

    Play in the paint will be a crucial factor that decides the victor on Friday night, and Louisville must contain the Kentucky bigs in order to move onto Sunday's regional final. 

Pitino Needs to Break Calipari's Hold on Rivalry

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    Since John Calipari entered the fray before the 2009-10 season, the Kentucky coach has owned the rivalry with Louisville. In six games played between the two sides since Calipari's hiring, he has won five of six meetings against Rick Pitino's Louisville. 

    This gives Calipari a small mental edge heading into Friday night because he has shown in the past that he knows how to beat a Pitino-coached team. 

    The only loss Calipari suffered at the hands of Pitino's Louisville came last season at the KFC Yum! Center. 

    As for the last time the two teams met in the postseason, Calipari's Wildcats defeated the Cardinals in New Orleans at the 2012 Final Four on their way to the national championship behind Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. 

    It is worth nothing that despite his failure to beat Calipari, Pitino is 11-0 in Sweet 16 games. 

The Harrison Twins

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    In the first meeting between the two sides this season, Aaron and Andrew Harrison led the Wildcats to a 73-66 victory. They combined for 28 points, eight rebounds and three assists on December 28 at Rupp Arena. 

    After hitting a rough patch during SEC play, the twins, especially Andrew, are heating up again at the right time. 

    Andrew was the top performer against Wichita State, as he shot 6-of-9 from the field on his way to 20 points. 

    Not to be outdone by his brother, Aaron Harrison scored 19 and hit 4-of-7 from three-point range.

    Containing the Harrison twins will be a big challenge for Russ Smith and the rest of the Louisville backcourt, but the Cardinals will have to do that to earn a shot to advance to the Final Four. 

Getting the Role Players to Step Up

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    Against Kentucky in December and in the first two NCAA tournament games, the Cardinals have relied on the play of Montrezl Harrell, Russ Smith and Luke Hancock. 

    As the Sweet 16 approaches, Louisville will have to see a role player step up in a similar fashion to what Kevin Ware did on the road to the national championship in 2013. 

    There is no doubt that the Big Three will show up for the Cardinals since they have done so in almost every big game during their careers, especially Smith and Hancock. 

    The key contribution to a potential victory on Friday will have to come from an unlikely source. 

    Whether it's Chris Jones, Wayne Blackshear or even Stephan Van Treese, the Cardinals need one more player to step up in the clutch in a game that has the potential to go down as one of the best in the history of the rivalry. 

Three-Point Shooting

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    Through the first two games of the NCAA tournament, Louisville is shooting 10-of-30 from three-point range.

    If you take away the shots attempted by Hancock from beyond the arc, the team is 4-of-13 from downtown. This statistic must improve against a Kentucky team that will cause trouble down low with its height. 

    If Smith and Jones can hit a few triples to supplement Hancock's contributions, Louisville could find itself one step away from returning to the Final Four. 


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