Louisville vs. Kentucky: Last-Minute Guide for Friday's Massive Sweet 16 Matchup

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2014

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 22:  Luke Hancock #11 and the Louisville Cardinals huddle before taking on the Saint Louis Billikens in the second half during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Amway Center on March 22, 2014 in Orlando, F
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

No Sweet 16 game is bigger than No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 8 Kentucky. The Cardinals and Wildcats have one of the best rivalries in college basketball, adding to what is already a huge game.

The two teams met earlier in the regular season, with the Wildcats winning 73-66 in Lexington back on Dec. 28.

A lot has changed since then, though.

Louisville is one of the hottest teams in the country, winning 14 of its last 15 games, while Kentucky's young talent has grown more experienced and united.

The Cardinals are the defending national champions, while the Wildcats have enough talent to win a title, if everything goes right.

What more could you ask for?


When: Friday, March 28 at 9:45 p.m. ET

Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

Watch: CBS

Live Stream: March Madness Live


Biggest Questions

Which Harrison Twins Will Show Up?

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 21: Head coach John Calipari speaks with Andrew Harrison #5 and Aaron Harrison #2 of the Kentucky Wildcats during the second round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Kansas State Wildcats at the Scottrade Center
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Few players have better symbolized Kentucky's on-court volatility than Aaron and Andrew Harrison. One game, they're great; in the next, they're terrible. You would be forgiven if you failed to realize what all the hype was about.

The Wildcats' win over Wichita State demonstrated exactly why the twin guards were so highly regarded coming out of high school.

Andrew led the team in scoring with 20 points, while Aaron was right behind with 19. Both have been playing well of late, and Bleacher Report's Jason King traces their recent surge to a meeting with their father Aaron a couple of weeks ago:

To his surprise, Andrew told him one of the biggest reasons for his inconsistent play was constant speculation surrounding his NBA draft status. He said the pressure to be a high first-round pick was getting the best of him on the court.

Aaron Sr. was quick to put Andrew’s mind at ease.

The elder Harrison wanted to let his sons know that it didn't matter if they enter the 2014 NBA draft or wait another year or two. He wanted them to simply focus on their Kentucky careers.

King writes: "Ever since that meeting with their father, the twins are carrying themselves in an entirely different manner. They’re looser now, teammates say. They smile a lot and are more prone to celebrating a teammates’ basket instead of lamenting their own miss."

With the Harrison twins at their best, Kentucky can be near unbeatable.

There's little doubt that UK's fortunes against the defending champions will depend on how well Andrew runs the point and if Aaron can provide scoring on the perimeter.


Will Kentucky's On-Court Cohesion Continue?

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 23:  Head coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats shouts to his team against the Wichita State Shockers during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Scottrade Center on March 23, 2014 in St Louis, Missou
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

An off-shoot of the Harrison's uptick in form has been the Wildcats' overall improvement in terms of chemistry and fluidity.

Earlier in the season, they played more like an All-Star team than one solid unit. That's the risk you take when you rely on mostly freshmen.

Before the game, head coach John Calipari commended his players for refusing to be rattled by all of the early-season criticism and instead becoming a more cohesive team, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com:

"They had to hear how bad they were as players, how selfish they were, they're not together, this isn't a team," Calipari said. "Instead of separating, they stuck together. They kept believing in the staff and wanted answers, 'How do we get this right?' and they accepted answers."

The defensive lapses that littered some of the Wildcats' early performances are gone, and offensively, they're looking for the best shot rather than playing hero ball.

If Kentucky is in a close game late, though, will the players revert to their old form?


Will Russ Smith Get Offensive Support?

Phelan M. Ebenhack

In Louisville's loss to Kentucky, Russ Smith scored 19 points. That's not all that bad until you consider he went 7-of-20 from the field, including 0-of-5 from downtown.

He is one of the best players in the country, but even he's not good enough to single-handedly carry the Cardinals against the Wildcats. He needs Montrezl Harrell and Luke Hancock to step up in a way they didn't against Kentucky back in December.

Look at Louisville's second-round win against Manhattan. Hancock's two three-pointers with less than two minutes left iced the game away.

Smith is the star for the Cardinals, but their fortunes hinge on the performances of Harrell and Hancock.